Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture Industry

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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136. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the engagement that his Department has had on import substitution of particular agriculture produce impacted by the Russian war on Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16820/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The current situation facing our sector as a result of the illegal invasion Ukraine is the number one priority for me and the Department.

I am meeting with the key agri-food and marine sector stakeholders on an ongoing basis to discuss the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Irish agri-food supply chains, particularly in terms of the viability of farmers and fishers as primary producers.

At farm level, the crisis is likely to have serious impacts on the price of animal feed and fertiliser, as well as fuel, which are all vital farm inputs.

The food industry largely relies on natural gas for its energy supply, so costs will escalate. These factors, and others, are likely to result in increases in price for consumer staples at wholesale and retail level.

The effect of these impacts is being felt most sharply in the intensive pig and poultry sectors, where feed costs represent a very significant portion of overall productions costs. Teagasc is providing bespoke advice to pig farmers.

The Department is in contact with the main banks on an ongoing basis in relation to the challenge facing pig farmers; the finance instruments funded by my Department through SBCI offer an important source of flexible low-cost finance.

I established an emergency aid scheme for pig farmers of €7 million which opened for applications on 7th March. This will provide commercial pig farmers a payment of up to €20,000 each. The first payments to pig farmers under this scheme began to issue last week.

I established the National Fodder and Food Security Committee and tasked it with preparing an industry response to the emerging crisis in feed, fodder, fertiliser and other inputs, and to develop contingency plans and advice to assist farmers in managing their farm enterprises. I am committed to supporting the work of the Committee in the weeks ahead.

Within my Department, I established a Rapid Response Team, chaired by the Secretary General, to actively monitor the impacts on agri-food supply chains and to contribute to the whole of Government response to this crisis.

I have been assured that there is a sufficient supply of animal feedstuffs and fertiliser in the country, although at elevated prices, for the next number of months. My Department is in regular contact with feed merchants and fertiliser importers to ensure any disruption to supply chains is kept to a minimum.

At EU level I continue to work with colleagues through the Agri-Fish Council to respond to the impacts of the crisis on the sector across Europe.

On 23rd March, the European Commission announced a communication on food security, and a package of measures to assist the sector including a €500 million package to support farmers most affected. This includes an allocation of €15.8 million for Ireland, which can be topped up by national funding. I will be examining ways to best mobilise this support as soon as possible, taking account of the detailed requirements and conditionality attached to this exceptional aid provision.

The EU package also includes plans to deploy market safety net measures to support specific markets, including private storage aid for pigmeat.

By working collectively and collaboratively, I am determined to ensure that the sector is insulated against the worst of what might come from supply chain disruptions.

I am taking a proactive approach to supporting our farm families and their businesses throughout this period. It is one of the biggest challenges our sector has faced in recent years and I am committed to supporting our farm families throughout this period.


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