Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

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Agriculture, Fisheries and Food questions

Posted November 1st, 2012

Genetically Modified Crop Trials – 12th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there are any genetically modified crop trials taking place here; if his attention has been drawn to Round Up, a freely available pesticide contains a hormone disrupter called glyphosate, which is highly prevalent in cases of breast cancer.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney):

Responsibility for the approval for the undertaking of field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the State rests with my colleague the Minister for Environment and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan TD, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In July 2012, the EPA granted consent to Teagasc to carry out a field trial with GM blight resistant potatoes in Carlow over a four year period from 2012 to 2016 inclusive. The field trial was granted subject to conditions and will be subject to ongoing inspections and reporting requirements.

Apart from this GM potato trial, there are currently no other GM crops cultivated in Ireland either for field trial or commercial purposes.

Round Up and variants of Round Up (each containing the active ingredient glyphosate) have been available on the European market since the mid 1970’s. Glyphosate has been scientifically reviewed previously by the EU and a number of OECD countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia etc. Reviews in each of these countries have established that products containing Glyphosate can be used safely and without deleterious health effects on humans or the environment.

Glyphosate is currently being reviewed again to determine its continued use in the EU in light of the most up-to-date evidence and analysis techniques. This review will encompass and involve all data currently available on the chemical and will involve all EU Member States and the European Food Safety Authority.

Plans to sell harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has concerns that the plans to sell harvesting rights of the Coillte estate to private commercial interests will lead to the imposition of restrictions on access to our forests in the part of the private owners in view of the fact that the open access policy operating under Coillte management may conflict with their aim of maximising return on investment.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Simon Coveney):

Further to the Government decision that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be considered for sale, NewERA have been actively engaged in recent months with Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department to examine the financial and other implications of developing the potential of Coillte’s forest assets.

The process is at an advanced stage and, aside from the identification and valuation of the forestry assets, a number of issues have been identified in relation to the possible harvesting rights concession. Public access to recreational land is one of the issues so identified. I am aware that Coillte provide a range of recreational opportunities for the general public continuing the long tradition of open access to the State owned forests and land.  All of the issues, and the measures, if necessary, to address them, require detailed consideration. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its conclusion and no decision has been taken, as yet.

Employment practices in the civil service - 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised..

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Simon Coveney):

One Assistant Secretary General was re-engaged by my Department on a contract basis which is due to expire 28 June 2013.   His current contract, which will expire at the end of the EU Presidency, involves a total cost of €63,553.50. This is calculated at half the rate of the normal Assistant Secretary General salary.  His duties involve policy matters relating to the meat and dairy sectors including EU Presidency related functions.

A retired Principal Officer has been re-engaged for a single limited period contract to work on specific matters related to the Irish Presidency of the EU.  The cost from October 2012 to date is €3,557.64.

One Senior Research Officer who retired on 29 February 2012 is currently engaged on a contract for services basis for a limited period carrying out replacement SRO work.  His contract is due to expire on 1 March 2013 and will not be renewed. Since his engagement on 12 March 2012 the cost to my Department was €34,956.73.

In addition, one Clerical Officer recruited by the Public Appointment Service is in receipt of a Public Service pension.  The annual cost to my Department in this case is €21,283.

Normal pension abatement rules have been applied in these cases.

State subsidy to the Irish Greyhound Board – 5th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount the State subsidy to the Irish Greyhound Board is worth; the person who oversees its spend; what it is designated for; if it is performance linked and his views on whether the allocation is value for money.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Simon Coveney):

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established on 28th May 1958 under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  The Board has wide powers to regulate all aspects of greyhound racing in the Republic of Ireland.

The Board of Bord na gCon, comprising of seven members – a Chairman and six ordinary members, is responsible for leading and directing the activities of the organisation. Bord na gCon is required to act in accordance with it’s statutory obligations, the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and any other directives issued by Government or by my Department. The Board is obliged to produce the annual report and accounts of Bord na gCon in accordance with legislation, in addition the Chairman of Bord na gCon provides me with a separate comprehensive report covering the Group in accordance with the requirements set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. Officials from my Department meet with Bord na gCon bi-annually to consider issues of mutual interest. Bord na gCon is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It also has an Internal Auditor and an Internal Audit Committee.

Bord na gCon has estimated approximately 10,500 people derive employment, directly and indirectly, from the greyhound industry in Ireland and the industry’s contribution to the economy is estimated to be in excess of €500m.

Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (the Fund), which was established under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 (the Act). The Fund indirectly supports the greyhound breeding and training industry which generates very substantial economic activity and makes a vital contribution to the rural economy including farm incomes. The industry attracts significant inward investment into the country. The funding has also contributed significantly to an investment program which has delivered the improved facilities now available at greyhound tracks around Ireland. Bord na gCon received €11.26m from the Fund in 2012 and is due to receive €11m from the Fund in 2013. This represents 28% reduction since 2008.

BNG is funded, principally, by:

·a turnover charge on the on-course bookmaker betting,

·a percentage deduction from totalisator pools (BNG operates Tote facilities at all greyhound tracks in the State)

·gate receipts, programme sales and catering income

·exchequer funding (the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund)

BNG applies it’s income in the following ways:

·Organisation and administration of the industry, including a system of regulation.

·Operation of a national drug testing laboratory

·Supplementing prize money at all levels of greyhound racing.

·Providing development loans and grants to greyhound tracks in order to enable them to improve their facilities.

·Advertising and marketing the industry on both a national and international level.

·Developing and improving greyhound stadiums nationwide.

Public Sector Rostering – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney):

Some 32 staff of my Department engaged in information technology and border/port inspection duties are employed on a roster basis.  My Department has no plans to remove these employees from their roster systems.

Public Sector Staff Numbers – 12th June 2012

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries..

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney):

The 2012 salaries allocation for my Department is €184.552m.  The apportionment of this allocation under the four high level goals was published in my Department’s revised estimate for 2012 and is outlined in the table below.

Programme

High Level Goal

2012 Staff Numbers (Full-time Equivalent)

2012 Pay Allocation €m

Agri-Food Policy, Development & Trade

To progress, in collaboration with State Bodies, the further development of agri-food sector including the Food Harvest 2020 targets

258

17.638

Food Safety, Animal Health and Welfare and Plant Health

Ensure the highest standards of food safety, consumer protection and animal and plant health

1,907

104.067

Rural Economy, Environment & Structural Changes

To promote environmentally sustainable farming and fishing while supporting the rural and coastal economy

743

€39.047

Direct Payments

To provide effective and responsive delivery of schemes and service in support of farm incomes and market supports

519

€23.8

Total

3,427

184.552


The Management of Coillte – 29th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views that Coillte is being managed in a sustainable way and not focussing too much on the sale of land for raising revenue to the detriment of other potentially profitable uses.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney):

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private company under the Forestry Act, 1988, and its Board of Directors is collectively responsible for leading and directing the company’s activities, including monitoring the activities and effectiveness of management.

In accordance with Section 39 of the Forestry Act, 1988, the bulk of the State’s forestry estate was vested in Coillte upon its establishment.  In the years following its establishment, the company acquired land for afforestation thereby increasing the estate.  Since it’s establishment, it has also sold lands, some of which was for infrastructural purposes.  I understand that the properties sold are those considered by the company not to be of strategic importance to the company’s forestry business and that the net effect is that the area of land currently being managed by Coillte is in excess of that vested in the company upon its establishment in 1989.

The company’s performance, and the activities engaged in by the company, is outlined in the Coillte Annual Report 2010, which is accessible on the company’s website.  Copies are also available in the Oireachtas Library.  As the Deputy will note, Coillte raises revenue from a number of sources; in addition to its core forestry business and the manufacture and export of panel products, the company is also engaged in the provision of telecommunications infrastructure and the renewable energy area.

Consultancy Fees in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – 6th October 2011

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Simon Coveney):

I engaged three consultancy firms on a pro bono basis earlier this year as part of the Departments Comprehensive Expenditure Review.

Consultants are not generally engaged on value for money exercises as the Department has trained staff capable of performing these exercises as required.

All Member States of the EU including Ireland are working to promote better animal welfare internationally and in this regard Ireland has introduced national legislation giving effect to Regulation (EC) No. 1523/2007 of the European Parliament and Council dated 11 December 2007 banning the marketing, import to or export from, the Community of cat and dog fur and products containing such fur. The commitment of this Government to animal welfare in general is beyond doubt and is reflected among the priorities in the Programme for Government.

A Ministerial visit to China – 7th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he intends to visit China this year following the visit by the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture Mr Niu Dun in May of this year.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: (Simon Coveney)

Since taking office, I have focused on developing and deepening our trade links and levels of cooperation with China, which is  the world’s fourth largest food importer and the fifth largest exporter of agriculture produce.  With a population of 1.3 billion and with increasing urbanisation and affluence, China offers the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector enormous potential in the future and is already a significant destination for exports of Irish agri-food and seafood products.  Last year, Ireland exported over €107 million in food, seafood, beverages, forestry products and wool to China, as well as a further €95 million worth to Hong Kong. China can play a key role in fulfilling the ambitions of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy in terms of increasing export value in the agri-food sector.

The recent visit in May this year of the Chinese Vice Minister , Mr Niu Dun was a very successful one, which culminated in the signing of an Action Plan between the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the Irish Department of Fisheries and Food on mutual co-operation between the two countries in the agri-food and fisheries sectors.   The visit and the Action Plan, has led to the deepening of relationships between both countries, between Vice Minister Niu Dun and myself and Minister Mc Entee and between our respective officials. Ultimately, I would envisage that this would result in a greater understanding of, and confidence in, the integrity of our respective food safety and veterinary control systems, through the proposed sharing of expertise in areas of food safety, veterinary health, animal husbandry and the seafood sector. As part of the Action Plan, it is also proposed that there would be an exchange of specialist personnel between our respective administrations and that Chinese officials could also undertake specialist courses in Ireland in food safety, veterinary public health and animal husbandry.

During the visit of the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun to Ireland, he kindly extended an invitation to me to visit China. I would hope to be able to visit China before the end of the year but this will of course be contingent on agreeing a date that is mutually convenient and of course having regard to any national demands at that time.

Irish greyhounds in China - 3rd May 2011,

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Irish Greyhound Board is considering sending Irish greyhounds to China; and his views on same.

Reply

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Simon Coveney):

Bord na gCon is a commercial State Body responsible for the greyhound industry. The Board of Bord na gCon is responsible for leading and directing the activities of the Company. My Department is aware that Bord na gCon is exploring possible business opportunities in China and has been in contact with my Department is in this regard.  My Department is considering the Bord na gCon proposal and will form a view based on the case presented to it. Bord na gCon has repeatedly confirmed its commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare in the greyhound industry and in considering the proposal the need to ensure the welfare of animals will be taken into account by my Department.

Any proposal to export greyhounds from Ireland to China would require the establishment and agreement of export health certification protocols with the Chinese authorities, and appropriate transport arrangements would have to be put in place to ensure the welfare of the animals in transit. My Department endeavours to ensure that all exporters comply with Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations.