Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
42. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if new policy tools are being considered to address the double impact on the rural economy of difficulties in the food and the tourism sectors, which hang over 2021. [43185/20]
Agri-food and Tourism are two of our strongest indigenous enterprise sectors. They are built on the natural and human capital found in rural areas and support many thousands of jobs nationwide. Ireland’s agri-food sector exports to over 180 countries, and these exports had a value of almost €14.5 billion in 2019. Over the last number of years, the the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Hidden Heartlands campaigns have helped boost tourist numbers to our rural areas.
Both sectors have been amongst those most seriously impacted by COVID-19 and are also likely to face significant challenges following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Strategies to address these impacts are being developed in the relevant Government Departments with oversight of these sectors.
From my own perspective, my Department is currently finalising a new rural development policy for the period 2021–2025. This policy will build resilience in our rural economies and communities, including by dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the impact of Brexit. The policy will take a whole-of-Government approach to rural development and will reinforce relevant Government strategies and initiatives, including in the Agri-food and Tourism sectors.
Recognising the potential for further growth in tourism and outdoor recreation to support recovery and jobs in rural areas, my Department, through the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, provides funding in partnership with Fáilte Ireland for the development and/or enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas. The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund has also supported a number of ambitious projects that support rural tourism.
The assets developed through these schemes will play an important role in helping rural economies recover from the impact of COVID-19.