Written answers

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture Industry

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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472. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total production in the dairy sector here in each of the past five years to date; the degree to which action has been taken to minimise greenhouse gases associated with the sector in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38949/21]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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474. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which beef production has fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38951/21]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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475. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the poultry production sector here continues to maintain production and sustainability throughout the poultry sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38952/21]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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477. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which sustainable production levels continue to be maintained in the beef, dairy, poultry, pig meat and lamb sectors; the potential for growth in the future; the extent to which measures continue to be taken to limit the growth of greenhouse gases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38956/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 472, 474, 475 and 477 together.

I am very aware of the contribution of the meat and dairy sectors to Irish agri-food as a whole, supporting significant levels of direct employment as well as their role in supporting rural economies and the wider national economy. The Department and I continue to prioritise supporting the sustainable development of these sectors including through targeted supports aimed at supporting primary producers to increase the environmental and economic efficiency of their operations.

Despite a challenging macro environment which presented ongoing market disturbances through 2020, Ireland exported dairy products to 143 countries with a value exceeding €5.1 billion. CSO figures for 2020 indicate a -0.7% volume decline and a 0.4% value increase compared to the same period in 2019. Irish milk production reached 8.2 billion litres in 2020 which represented approximately 5% of total EU milk production. The average price paid to farmers in 2020 was 35.43c/l (yearly average including VAT and bonuses paid), up 4.5% from 2019.

The table below shows the number of litres produced, the value of dairy exports (in €billion) and the number of dairy cows over the last six years.

Year Number of litres (billion) Value of dairy exports (€bn) Number of dairy cows ,000
June CSO survey
2014 5.651 3.0 1,226.4
2015 6,395 3.9 1,295.8
2016 6,653 4.0 1,397.9
2017 7,262 4.7 1,432.7
2018 7,588 4.7 1,480.9
2019 7.986 5.0 1,504.8
2020 8.291 5.1 1,567.7

The use of technologies such as the economic breeding index, genomics in breeding decisions and milk recording, as well as efficiencies in pasture and manure management are all important tools currently used in the management of greenhouse gas emissions in dairy production.

Over the five years from 2016 - 2020, annual beef production averaged 1.73 million head with a coefficient of variation of 0.03 during that period indicating very stable production levels. Beef worth over €2.3 billion and just short of 518,000 tonnes was exported in 2020, this represented a decrease in both value and volume of 2% on the previous year.Slaughter reached almost 1.8 million head in 2020 which was a 2.6% increase on 2019 figures. The average price for R3 Steers in 2020 was 362.73c/kg (excl VAT), which represented a 1% increase on the previous year.

Sheepmeat export values increased by 11.5% on the previous year values to reach almost €354 million, while volumes rose by 3% to almost 64,000 tonnes.Slaughtering increased by 3% in 2020 to just under 2.9 million head. The national average price in 2020 was €519.92/100Kg, a 13% increase on the previous year.

Pigmeat exports increased by 0.21% in value terms on 2019, totalling just over €893 million. Over the past two years the value of pigmeat exports have grown by 7.9%. The average price for 2020 was 2.9% higher than 2019.

Irish poultry production hit record levels in 2020, with a total of 111m birds slaughtered, representing an increase of 33.8% (just over 28 million birds) in the past five-year period.

The OECD long term forecast to 2030 predicts an increase in the consumption of poultry meat over the forecast period, but a reduction in beef consumption and a stabilization of the consumption of other meats. While EU consumption is projected to continue this downward trajectory, international demand for beef is increasing. However, competition is high and EU beef prices are expected to follow world price developments. The EU long term outlook for dairy is positive and it is predicted that by 2030, the EU could command up to 35% of the global market share, particularly for value added products. However, remaining global risks include higher stocks, slow return of foodservice, and the impact of weaker economic growth on currency and buying power.

Global trade conditions will be crucial in determining the outlook for the Irish meat and dairy sectors over the medium to longer term. While the outlook for the sector remains broadly positive, the sector continues to face challenges including the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring the continued operation of Irish food supply chains and the pursuit and development of new markets remains a key priority for my Department.

The need to respond to evolving consumer expectations on welfare and sustainability as well as global demand are key to the continued sustainable development of the sector. The transition to become carbon neutral by 2050 is going to require significant investment, innovation and R&D. For this reason, I am heartened to see that these are also at the core of the draft 2030 Strategy. It is also worth noting that support will be available in the new Common Agricultural Policy which has a significantly increased environmental ambition. This will involve a change in the way farmers receive support, with the emphasis shifting much more definitively to a focus on better environmental outcomes, delivered through the green architecture. This green architecture combines greater environmental and climate ambition with Pillar 1 payments with further environmental achievement through Pillar 2 schemes.

All of the evidence suggests that the long term fundamentals for dairy and meat are generally positive. The Department and I will continue to monitor the sectors closely and support their ongoing sustainable development.

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