Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Pigmeat Sector

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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120. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the proposal by organisations (details supplied) to establish an enhanced pig stability fund to alleviate the financial pressure on pig farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16912/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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My Department is currently reviewing the proposal referred to in the Deputy's question, and is engaging with stakeholders in this context, and on the situation in the pig sector in general.

Our pig farmers have always been remarkably resilient but I am acutely aware of the unprecedented challenges that Irish pig farmers are facing at present. The continued development of the pigmeat sector is a priority for me given the pivotal role the industry plays in the national economic context. It is the third largest agri-food sector, and supports approximately 8,000 rural jobs.

Last month, I announced the Pig Exceptional Payment Scheme (PEPS), with a fund of up to €7 million, for commercial pig farmers. This is an urgent, short-term response to assist producers that would be viable but for the extreme current circumstances, and allow space for a more medium-term adjustment to market signals.

This scheme is a once off, exchequer funded scheme open to commercial pig undertakings which had produced more than 200 pigs in the period 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 inclusive. This includes pigs sent to slaughter, exported or sold commercially from a breeding herd.

The scheme was notified to the European Commission under the agriculture de minimis rules, which provide for a maximum payment per undertaking of €20,000.

Applications for the PEPS closed on 20 March 2022. The first tranche of payments was made last week, with the remaining applications due for processing as soon as possible. All information on the scheme can be found on my Department's website.

This scheme is part of a wider package of measures to support the pigmeat sector, including intensified efforts by Bord Bia to promote quality assured Irish pigmeat in the domestic and export markets with dedicated media advertising campaigns underway nationally, as well as EU-funded pigmeat promotion programmes running in key export markets.

Teagasc has also intensified its dedicated, ongoing advisory supports being provided to pig farmers and is actively engaging with pig farmers to explore the options potentially available to them.

There is also support for access to finance through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), particularly the Brexit Impact Loan Scheme and the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme. Both of these SBCI finance products, which are part-financed by my Department, can be used for working capital and include features which will assist the current financial needs of pig farmers.

Furthermore, the Department continues to engage at EU level to ensure a joined-up EU approach to the challenges arising from Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, including through the European Food Security Crisis preparedness response Mechanism (EFSCM). Last week the Commission announced the adoption of exceptional support measures across the agriculture sector, along with a communication on Food Security. In addition, the Commission in view of the particularly difficult situation in the pig meat sector has opened a new private storage aid scheme to assist in stabilising the sector.

The Department is currently examining the detailed requirements and conditionality attached to the exceptional aid allocation to Ireland of €15.8 million in EU funding.


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