COVENEY ANNOUNCES NEW INVESTIGATIONS DIVISION INTHE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND THE MARINE

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD has today announced a restructuring of the investigations capability of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of an on-going modernisation of the structures of his Department and as part of the wider public service reform process .

 

Speaking on the announcement the Minister said “following a recent review of the governance structure around the conduct of all investigations by my Department which began earlier this year, I decided there was a need for the establishment of a new Investigations Division”.

 

Minister Coveney added “I was determined to have in place a strong, cohesive, consolidated and effective investigation capability to ensure and protect the reputation of the expanding Agri-food industry and indeed public funds”.

 

The new arrangement brings all investigation capability, both internal and external, into one Division.  It is headed by a Senior Superintending Veterinary Officer, supported by a team of investigators, some of whom are core members of the team and others to be drawn from areas where their expertise will be beneficial to the conduct of particular types of investigations.

 

The new Investigations Division reports to an Investigations Steering Group chaired by the Assistant Secretary General responsible for Corporate Affairs and will comprise the Chief Veterinary Officer, the Assistant Secretary General with responsibility for direct payments, and the Heads of Legal Services, Internal Audit and HR.

 

This group will, in all new cases, determine whether matters should be referred back to the relevant inspection areas of the Department for follow through, whether an investigation is warranted and if so, whether this should be conducted by the Investigations Division or referred to the Garda Siochana. Where investigations are being conducted internally, the Steering Group will oversee the conduct of investigations and, in conjunction with the Head of the Division, determine whether the submission of cases for prosecution is warranted.  This new Investigations Division includes the functions previously undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit.

 

My Department seeks to promote the highest levels of legal compliance to protect the health of consumers and to promote and sustain a vibrant Agri-food industry in Ireland. This is vital to Ireland’s reputation internationally. In altering the inspection capability in the manner outlined I am in fact enhancing our capacity to protect Ireland’s international reputation whilst also providing for enhanced governance arrangements in respect of when and how investigations are carried out”  the Minister added.

 

Concluding, the Minister said, “I want to formally acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the staff of my Department who carry out investigations in sometimes very challenging circumstances, a fact I experienced first-hand last year when dealing with the equine DNA investigation which was conducted by my officers in a highly pressurised environment where their focus and sense of purpose was highly visible and extremely successful”.

COVENEY LAUNCHES MILESTONES FOR SUCCESS 2014

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has launched Milestones for Success 2014 to highlight the headline growth and achievements of the Food Harvest 2020 report. This report reviews the progress achieved over the past four years and provides facts, figures, analysis and examples to illustrate how the overall agri-food sector has moved from a downward spiral in 2009 to its current position as a key driver of economic growth.

At the launch, Minister Coveney said, “This is a growth sector with ambition and promise and more importantly promise on which it is delivering.  We set ourselves stretch targets, to grow the value of our exports and value-added production by 40% by 2020.  We are well on our way, as since Food Harvest was published in 2010, their value has risen by 24% and 23% respectively”.

Presenting Milestones for Success 2014, the Minister pointed out that the agri-food industry is enjoying a period of strong success. Food and drink companies currently account for a 30% share of the ISEQ index and achieved exports sales of €10.3 billion in 2013, up from the baseline figure of €6.05 billion.  The value of primary output has also risen sharply and at the end of 2013 was €6.183 billion, which means it has virtually reached the 33% target set by Food Harvest.

“This sector’s ambition is fueling investment, employment and success”. Industry leaders, assisted by Ministerial trade missions, and state enterprise agencies, have been making strategic capital and capability investments in growth areas such as dairy, whiskey and processed foods.   In the dairy and whiskey industries alone, investment plans of up to €600 million are being actively pursued by industry leaders, while in 2013, Enterprise Ireland invested €203 million in capacity, innovation and equity ventures to allow agri-food companies become more agile in order to secure export sales on global markets.

Speaking on global markets, Minister Coveney reiterated “I have strong personal experience of the impact which Trade and Investment Missions make in extending market reach and in marketing Ireland as a responsive, sustainable producer of quality food products which appeal to consumers”. Milestones for Success 2014 devotes a section to this aspect and illustrates how the focused inter-agency approach to reaching out to strategic markets and building valuable networks and contacts in these countries, is reaping dividends, “China is now our 6th largest export market, agri-food exports to China have trebled in the past three years while significant capacity is being built in the Middle East”

The Minister noted the tremendous turnaround in employment levels, particularly in the food sector. In the decade leading up to Food Harvest, employment in that sector fell by 1,500 but the last four years has seen the number of jobs generated rise by about 4,000.  As emphasised by the series of Action Plans for Jobs, “employment growth is this Government’s top priority and I’m heartened that the implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, which my Department, along with the relevant state agencies is actively leading, is assisting more and more of our citizens to gain and maintain jobs.  That remains a key focus for me.

The clear evidence is that Food Harvest 2020 vision has been a notable success for both the sector and the economy. That being said, I am aware that we are on the cusp of a step change in the industry and that there will be many challenges to be met, on beef and elsewhere, as we deal with the constantly changing policy environment.  However, I am very confident that the capability, confidence and determination, consistently shown by the sector, will help provide effective solutions to issues arising”.

The thematic focus of Food Harvest 2020 revolved around Smart, Green, Growth.  This current progress report takes up these key themes again and uses case studies and other examples to illustrate how Government, State Agencies, industry, farmers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders are actively collaborating on improving competitiveness, extending market reach, developing innovative products and processes and on delivering growth and enterprise solutions to realise the aspirations, visions and targets of Food Harvest 2020.

Coveney Welcomes Industry Vision for Prepared Consumer Foods – sector key to generating value and jobs up to 2025

 

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Speaking yesterday evening at the launch of a 10 Year vision document for the  prepared consumer foods sector , Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, stated that this key manufacturing  sector had the potential to deliver added value and jobs, resulting in valuable home market sales and increased exports.

 

Prepared consumer foods are value added food and beverage products selling domestically or internationally to retail, food service or other food companies. The sector already provides employment for more than 20,000 people in the Irish economy, and the industry vision document targets the creation of an additional 7,500 jobs over the next decade.

 

Speaking at the launch, Minister Coveney commended the members of the group, who represented large medium and small food companies, on devising a shared vision for the development of this critically important sector:

“Prepared consumer foods are a key value added sector and earlier this year I asked the industry to identify its strengths and needs, and how, in a very competitive and fast moving marketplace, companies could best be facilitated to deliver sustained growth. The potential of value added sectors to deliver growth and jobs had been identified in Food Harvest 2020. I am delighted that operators in this diverse sector have collaborated to develop a focused strategy and I commend Frank Ryan’s Group for delivering a vision for growth and development in this critically important sector.”

 

The document  has  been prepared as part of the overall Food Harvest strategy by an industry led group established by the Minister under the chairmanship of Frank Ryan , the former CEO of Enterprise Ireland.

 

The Minister added that the report was very significant in the context of developing the added value piece under FH 2020 and building its job creation potential.  It profiles the diversity of the sector in company size, product mix and growth stage and builds on this analysis to set out a 10 year Vision for development. It also recommends a range of actions, including increased research innovation and upskilling, appropriate regulation and improvements in competitiveness, which would assist companies at different stages of their development.

Concluding, Minister Coveney indicated that his Department and the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation would work with industry and relevant Government agencies to develop the sector:

“This vision statement is an excellent example of the collaborative spirit that has informed the Government’s Food Harvest strategy for the development of the agri food sector to date. It also provides a vehicle for positive engagement between industry and my Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and relevant state agencies to work towards building a policy framework that can help this employment rich sector to develop to its potential. “ 

 

 

ENDS

Notice of Public Consultation – Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Draft Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has prepared a Draft Forestry Programme for the period 2014-2020.  The preparation of the draft programme has already involved consultation with a broad range of stakeholders and a consultation paper, summarising the proposed measures, was published in March 2013.

In accordance with EU Directive 2001/42/EC and the European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programme) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 435 of 2004, as amended) the Department is now undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Draft Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020.

A period of public consultation is now being carried out as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process.  Submissions are invited from members of the public and interested organisations. Submissions should be sent by e-mail to forestryprogram2014-2020@agriculture.gov.ie or by post to: Forestry Programme 2014-2020, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford

The Draft Forestry Programme, Natura Impact Statement and the accompanying SEA Environmental Report are available at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/publicconsultation/newforestryprogramme2014-2020/

Copies of these reports may also be inspected at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford during office hours Monday to Friday for a period of four weeks from the date of this Notice.

Please note that it is intended to publish all submissions received on the Department’s website.  Submissions received are also subject to the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 and may be released on foot of third party applications.

The closing date for receipt of submissions is 5.00pm on Monday 13th October 2014.

COVENEY GIVES UPDATE ON COMMONAGES

 

 

Speaking today in advance of a meeting between the Commonage Implementation Committee and the farm bodies, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, announced that a number of important decisions had been reached in relation to commonages.

 

Minister Coveney said “I believe that a lot of progress has been made and the forthcoming series of meetings will help to reassure Commonage farmers and provide the clarity they have been seeking”.

 

With respect to Pillar 1, the Basic Payment Scheme, the Minister said that there will be a maintenance grazing requirement for marginal lands.  This will be equivalent to one ewe per 1.5 hectares, to be met by all claimants by end December 2015. A lower level will apply where this can be justified on environmental grounds. Above that maintenance level, the management of the grazing requirement is a matter for the individual claimants, provided that the commonage is kept in good condition and meets all the requirements for the Basic Payment Scheme.

 

For Pillar 2, the Minister repeated that the only requirement for commonage farmers joining was that 50% of the active farmers would sign up to a GLAS commonage plan or sufficient farmers to bring in at least 50% of the land.  He also said that small commonages of less than ten hectares in size would not be subject to any minimum participation requirement.  Farmers on these commonages would be able to apply for GLAS in their own right.

 

In a significant development, the Minister announced that there would be no imposition of minimum or maximum stocking densities for commonages. Instead, the Department would provide these figures as a guidance to help frame the new GLAS Plans. It will be open to the shareholders through their planner to propose different stocking densities in their Plans, if they believe these can be sustained. There would be substantial flexibility granted to the shareholders joining GLAS as regards the management of the grazing requirement.  Provided an individual minimum grazing requirement is met by each of the participants, it will be open to the shareholders, acting together, to manage any additional grazing needs themselves. Over the course of the GLAS plan, there would be a gradual progression towards meeting the optimal grazing level for the commonage.

 

For those farmers operating under a GLAS Commonage Management Plan, the Minister stated that where non-compliance could be clearly attributed to an individual participant, penalties would be applied to that person only.  The rate of aid for commonage under GLAS remains at €120 per hectare. Commonage farmers with more than one priority asset will be eligible for the increased GLAS+ payment of up to €7,000.

 

The Minister also announced that in the coming weeks there will be a series of regional Information meetings for commonage farmers in a number of key locations, including Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo and Wicklow. The Department will also be hosting National Workshops for the benefit of planners, outlining details of eligibility requirements for both the new Basic Payment Scheme and GLAS, including commonages.  These will be followed up with specific GLAS training sessions for planners.

 

Minister Coveney welcomes the opening of the market IN VIETNAM to exports of PIGMEAT from Ireland

 

 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today welcomed the agreement reached with the veterinary authorities in Vietnam to allow for the importation of fresh and frozen pork meat from Ireland.

 

The Minister commented “this agreement provides the Irish pigmeat sector with a vital foothold in this key market. Vietnam is an important market in South East Asia with a growing population and there are good prospects for Irish meat exports both in the short and long term. I am hopeful that the decision of the Vietnamese authorities will also have a positive effect on our efforts to gain access to other markets in the region”.

 

The Minister concluded that “this announcement marks an important measure of success in our strategy to open third country markets for Irish food. Just as with the agreement reached with the Philippines last month, it is important that Irish industry has alternative outlets for its produce, along with the real potential for expansion. In circumstances where there have been difficulties with the Russian market since the start of the year, it is vital that Irish companies have access to as many markets worldwide as possible. My Department is of course continuing to work closely with European partners to try to restore the trade in pigmeat with Russia. In the meantime we will continue to prioritise the opening of new third country markets for Irish agri food products, working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Bord Bia to provide new market opportunities for Irish companies. .”

 

Access to the Vietnamese market has been identified as a priority target by the Irish pigmeat industry. The Minister confirmed that this agreement was concluded after a concerted technical and diplomatic effort by his department, in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Vietnam and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the National Agro-Forestry Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD). The agreement means that a total of five Irish pig processing establishments have been accredited to produce pork for export to Vietnam, while another establishment has been approved for cutting. A veterinary health certificates has also been agreed.

 

 

 

 

ENDS

 

 

Minister Coveney welcomes the opening of the market IN THE PHILIPPINES to exports of BEEF, PIGMEAT AND SHEEPMEAT from ireland

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today welcomed the agreement which has been reached with the veterinary authorities in the Republic of the Philippines which will allow for the importation of beef, sheepmeat and pigmeat from Ireland.

 

The Minister explained that this agreement was concluded by my Department with the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines. This followed a successful systems audit inspection visit to Ireland by a veterinary delegation from the Philippines.

 

The Minister added that “I am firmly of the view that it is vital that Irish companies have access to as many markets worldwide as possible and my Department and I will continue to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Bord Bia to this end.”

 

The agreement means that a total of 43 Irish beef processing establishments have been accredited to export to the Philippines until 23rd August 2015, with a further 39 pig processing establishments and 29 sheep processing establishments. Veterinary health certificates have also been agreed for beef, pigmeat and sheepmeat between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Agriculture of the Republic of the Philippines.

 

The Minister pointed out that the Philippines is a key market in South East Asia and there are good prospects for Irish meat exports both in the short term and in the long term. Also, there is every reason to hope that the decision of the Filipino authorities will have a positive effect on our efforts to gain access to other markets in the region.

 

 

ENDS

 

STATEMENT FROM MINISTER SIMON COVENEY TD – Regarding Russian Trade Sanctions

 

Responding to a Russian announcement of trade sanctions against EU and other countries in the agri-food sector, Minister Simon Coveney TD said that “this move is obviously unwelcome from an Irish and broader EU perspective, but we cannot say it was totally unanticipated, given the recent evolution of events.  My Department are currently working to clarify the specific details of the ban. The impact on Ireland will depend both on the products covered by the ban and any knock-on effects on international market prices as banned product seeks replacement markets.

 

Whilst Ireland’s agri-food export trade with Russia represents less than 2.5% of total agri-food export, this very much belies the importance of this market in terms of its future potential. The obvious preference is for a normalisation of trade relations but these issues cannot be viewed without taking into account the overall political context. ”

 

To assist companies exporting to Russia, I have asked Bord Bia to establish an advice line, which will make the most up to date information available to these companies” the Minister said.  Bord Bia’s dedicated support unit will assist companies with regard to the trading situation with Russia and help in progressing such opportunities . The dedicated  unit may be contacted on 01 6142 292.

 

While work is continuing to determine exactly what products are covered by the ban, the Minister noted that initial indications were that casein, infant formula and tea extract are not being banned.  Casein accounted for €11.3 m of Ireland’s €17.8m dairy exports to Russia in 2013.  Russia’s ban, as announced, will have a duration of one year and will cover imports into Russia of meat, fish, milk and milk products, fruit and vegetables from the European Union. Other countries affected include the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

 

“My Department will maintain an ongoing assessment of the situation, where intensive engagement is already ongoing with Russian authorities regarding agri-trade issues including temporary restrictions already in place on certain exports in specific sectors.” the Minister concluded.

 

 

 

ENDS

 

Coveney Meets Key US Retailer on Irish Quality Food Oportunity

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COVENEY MEETS KEY US RETAILER ON IRISH QUALITY FOOD OPPORTUNITY

“Wegmans central to Irish Food Story in the US”

 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Simon Coveney, has met with top managers from Wegmans Supermarket Chain, in the US.  Headquartered in Rochester, New York,  Wegmans  is a leading US grocery retailer,  operating 83 stores on the East Coast with 45,000 employees and annual sales of US $7billion.

 

Wegmans is known for its premium product offering and its focus on customer service. Achieving a listing in Wegmans underscores a supplier’s ability to produce a product that meets the company’s high standards and the tastes of its discerning customers. It is a target account for all quality food and drink suppliers, both from US and overseas.

 

Wegmans already stocks a range of Irish products including Kerrygold Irish butter and cheese, a range of Irish farmhouse cheeses, Irish fresh and smoked salmon, Irish Oatmeal, as well as Irish whiskeys, cream liqueurs, beers, jams, relishes and other products.

 

Speaking after today’s meeting, Minister Coveney outlined the scope of the discussion with Wegmans:

“Today was an important opportunity to develop the narrative behind the Irish food story with key US influencers of consumer values and choices.

Wegmans already has a very positive relationship with Irish food business operators and I see this developing further in the future. It is clear from our meeting today that the characteristics of  the Irish food and drink production model,  from clean environment to high animal welfare standards to passionate family farm producers,  is a strong fit with Wegmans’ own sustainability mission and its sourcing criteria.  

 

The Minister used the opportunity of the meeting with Wegmans to update them on the significant progress in gaining access for Irish beef to the US market:

“As a retailer with a long and well-established commitment to sustainability and high animal welfare standards, it was important to highlight Ireland’s Origin Green sustainability programme and in particular, the unique features of Irish grass fed beef, which I hope will be  available on US supermarket shelves later this year. The list of Irish products on the shelves of Wegmans’ stores attests to the quality and reliability of Irish supply and confidence in Ireland as a source of food and drink products”.

 

Concluding, Minister Coveney said that he was confident that Wegmans would continue to be a central part of the Irish food story in the US.

 

 

 

ENDS

COVENEY LEADS TRADE AND INVESTMENT MISSION TO US

“Visit Builds on Momentum of US Agriculture Secretary to Ireland”

 

 

On Sunday next Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, leads a four day trade and investment mission to the US.

 

The US mission follows hard on the heels of visits to Ireland this week by US Secretary of State for Agriculture, Mr. Tom Vilsack, in which discussions on bilateral trade, beef access and the development of a sustainable Irish food industry featured heavily.

 

Building on this trade agenda, Minister Coveney’s visit will involve 16 meetings in 3 cities over 4 days. The Mission will take in meetings with major multinational investors and potential investors in Ireland and with a major US premium retail outlet, with trade in high quality Irish food products, including beef, firmly on the agenda. There is also a significant political agenda, with the Washington leg including meetings with the Deputy Secretary of State for Agriculture, Krysta Harden, and a number of key influencers in the US Senate on agriculture and trade issues, and key negotiators in the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment talks.

 

Speaking before his departure to USA, Minister Coveney said that the development of a positive profile for Ireland as a centre of excellence for food, fish and beverages production, and as a potential location for foreign direct investment, remained a matter of the highest priority for him: “Over the past two years, Ireland has succeeded in positioning itself as an important global player when it comes to the production of high quality food and drink. This success story is built on a foundation of sustainable, climate smart, agricultural production, and state of the art research and technology.   We have also succeeded in restoring Ireland’s reputation as the best location in the world for inward investment. This mission is about building the kind of key linkages, both political and commercial, that can further that agenda.”

 

Minister Coveney also referred to his meeting earlier this week with US Secretary of State Tom Vilsack, who met with him and visited Irish beef and dairy farms as part of a visit to Ireland last Thursday.  “We have already had a firm indication, that subject to a positive US audit in the near future, Irish beef could be on US retail shelves later this year.  In addition there is now a sense of momentum behind efforts to develop a transatlantic trade alliance between the EU and the United States.  I feel strongly that a balanced agreement can benefit both sides. It can also help to build the kind of global consensus that will be essential if we are to meet the twin challenges of climate change and global food security in a world in which demand for food will increase by 50% by 2050. Of course there are many sensitivities on both sides, in particular in the agri-food area, including beef.  I am convinced that preparing the ground by building positive relationships with key political influencers and negotiators, can be of immense assistance in terms of developing a common understanding on these sensitive areas, and will ultimately lead to a more constructive negotiation and a more balanced deal.” 

 

The US mission will also provide an opportunity to promote Ireland’s “Origin Green” project, for the development of a world leading, environmentally sustainable agri food production and processing sector, and to increase the profile of Ireland as a centre of excellence for agri food research, technology and food safety.  This would be particularly important as a way of preparing the ground for marketing of Irish beef once the ban is removed, and based on the meetings with and US Secretary of State for Agriculture, Mr. Tom Vilsack this week, this should take place in the near future.

 

Of course Irish companies in the agri food sector are also significant employers in the US, and Minister Coveney will be using the opportunity afforded by his visit to build a platform for such companies to increase their profile in the US.

 

The Minister departs for New York on Sunday 22nd June.