Written answers

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Department of Agriculture and Food

Food Industry

8:00 pm

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 188: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has satisfied herself regarding the future prospects on world markets for Irish dairy products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38639/05]

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Minister, Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs; Minister, Department of Agriculture and Food; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Exports of Irish dairy products amounted to €1.86 billion last year, representing some 24% of total Irish food and drink exports. This was an increase of some 6% over the previous year. With increasing global demand for dairy products forecast by the OECD of up to 2% per annum the future prospects for Irish dairy products on world markets remain positive.

The consistency with which the dairy sector has continued to prosper, driven by new investment, innovation and diversification, has been very impressive. Export dominated, the sector sells more than 80% of total output onto world markets across a broad category of products including butter, milk powders, cheese, infant formula, food ingredients and functional foods. New investment in research and development will continue the drive towards greater levels of innovation and diversity in product mix and will help maintain our competitiveness in the face of stiffer challenges ahead.

New intervention limits and reductions in institutional prices imposed by the Luxembourg Agreement has focused the industry on the need to become less reliant on commodity products and to increase the added value nature of output. With the ever-growing globalisation of world markets, it is vital that the period ahead is used by the Irish dairy industry to position itself to meet the demands of a more competitive marketplace. In the meantime, I will continue to exert pressure at EU level to ensure that all the market mechanisms available are deployed in an effective manner to ensure that the industry will continue to consolidate and grow its share of international markets.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question 189: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she continues to be satisfied regarding traceability, production, health and hygiene standards in regard to all meat and meat products imported here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38640/05]

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Minister, Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs; Minister, Department of Agriculture and Food; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Detailed EU legislation lays down the conditions that member states must apply to the production of and trade in products of animal origin, including meat and meat extracts, as well as to imports of these products from third countries.

Under harmonised legislation, a series of health and supervisory requirements are applied in the member states to ensure that animal products are produced to standards that guarantee the safety of food and the protection of human and animal health. The application of these standards in the member states is monitored by the Food and Veterinary Office, FVO, of the EU. It is a requirement that animal products imported from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, member states. All such imports must come from third countries or areas of third countries approved for export to the EU.

The FVO carries out inspections to ensure that only establishments that meet hygiene and health standards equivalent to those operating within the EU are approved. Where the FVO considers that public health requirements are not being met, an establishment may be removed from the EU approved list. If outbreaks of animal diseases occur in a third country, approval to export to the EU is suspended for the infected regions of the country, or the whole country, as appropriate, until the disease risk has been eliminated.

I support fully the policy that animal products imported into the EU from third countries meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between, EU member states. Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU directives on important matters including traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection.

In this context, I wrote to the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Markos Kyprianou, concerning the sanitary rules applying to the import of livestock products, especially beef, into the European Union. In his reply, the Commissioner outlined that, with respect to traceability and controls of residues of veterinary medicines, the purpose of EU legislation is not to impose on exporting third countries a system of guarantees that is equal to the EU system, but that the exporting country provides guarantees that are equivalent to the standards applied in the EU. The Commissioner indicated his service is committed to protect the health of European consumers and European livestock. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants.

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