Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
729. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the resources, financial and otherwise that will be made available to fishermen and farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31364/19]
I have introduced a number of supports to assist the agrifood sector in preparing to address the challenges posed by Brexit. These include:- the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme for Brexit-impacted SMEs and mid-cap businesses. The funding arrangements ensure that at least 40% of the fund is available to food businesses. Up to 14 June 2019, 585 applications have been approved. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 141, with a total value of €30.6m, of which 29, with a value of €8.2m, relate to food businesses;
- a market prioritisation exercise undertaken by Bord Bia to identify priority markets across all food and drinks categories;
- tailored supports and analysis are being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer;
- an intensified series of trade missions to develop and grow new markets;
- the recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will bring up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agrifood & seafood sectors. The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40%, or some €25 million, has been provided by my Department. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.
I also have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. The Commission have already made €50m available to Irish beef farmers as a response to market pressures, and this can be matched by national funding. I expect to be rolling out a support scheme with this funding in the very near future. I have also stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a further range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agrifood and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.
And, of course, our practical preparations for all potential scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit, continue to be progressed and refined through the whole-of-Government coordination structures that have been in place for some time.
690. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding funding for the agriculture sector (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30488/19]
I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agrifood and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.
I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.
The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission. The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.
This exceptional aid provision will be given effect through a Commission Implementing Regulation. While Member States were invited to give an opinion on the draft Regulation through the Commission’s Common Market Organisation (CMO) Management Committee, the Regulation is within the Commission’s own legal competence, and was not for negotiation with Ireland or indeed other Member States, in terms of its content. The regulation was passed by the CMO committee last month and will now be enacted. Ireland must now notify the Commission, no later than 31 July 2019, of the measures to be taken in accordance with the Regulation.
Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.