Dáil Éireann - Volume 360 - 02 July, 1985
Pigs and Bacon Regulations, 1985: Motion.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty) Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty)
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Hegarty): I move:
That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935 (Part II) (No. II) Regulations 1985, and Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act, 1930 (Exporters Licences) (Fees) Regulations, 1985,
copies of which were laid in draft before the Dáil on the 27th day of June, 1985.
The effect of the regulations would be to reduce from £1.10 to 75p the fees payable in respect of pigs presented for veterinary inspection under the Fresh Meat Acts and the Pigs and Bacon Acts. I would hope, with the approval of the House, to have the remission of these fees made effective from 1 April 1985.
The present veterinary inspection fee of £1.10 per pig was introduced on 1 January 1984. The bacon curers have, however, since May 1982 been refusing  to pay veterinary inspection fees on pigs. One of the main reasons for their refusal to pay was that they held that it was inequitable that they should have to observe a certain level of hygiene standards and costs in relation to their premises and products which did not apply to local pork slaughterers.
In December last the Government, therefore, authorised the drafting of a Bill providing that standards of veterinary control and hygiene at slaughtering premises catering solely for the home market should be brought into line with those applying at export factories, and that the fees for veterinary inspection be correspondingly in line. The preparation of this legislation is well advanced and I would hope to bring it before the Dáil as soon as possible.
In addition to their complaints about inequities vis-à-vis local pork slaughterers, the bacon curers also maintained that the level of the veterinary fee itself was too high, particularly in relation to the fees being charged by our main competitors on export markets. There was therefore a case for reducing the level of fee to improve the industry's export competitiveness, particularly in view of the difficulties which the industry has been experiencing in recent times.
For all of these reasons, the Government decided to reduce the present level of inspection fee and to come to an arrangement in relation to arrears of fees due.
After protracted negotiations we have recently come to an agreement with the industry that payment of veterinary inspection fees for pigs would be resumed at the reduced rate of 75p from 1 April 1985. In addition, a sum of 15p per pig towards arrears will be payable once the legislation harmonising inspection standards and costs between bacon curers and local pork slaughterers is enacted and implemented. These financial arrangements will, of course, be reviewed on an ongoing basis — and have been agreed with the industry.
I am conscious that the revenue from these arrangements will be short of what we estimated would be received if current  fees had been paid. The plain fact of the matter is, however, that if we had to go along the road of full recovery of fees this could give rise to serious difficulties in the industry. Many factories could have been faced with intolerable bills which, along with the other difficulties now faced by the industry, might have been too much and may have resulted in closures.
The important thing now is that the industry must set about the task of organising itself to meet the challenges that lie ahead on both the export and home markets.
Improved efficiency in marketing and processing is essential if we are to have an export industry. On the domestic market we will soon be faced with the challenge presented by the removal of our import derogations under EC law. It is vital that the industry be in a position to compete with possible imports. To do this effectively it will need to place a far greater emphasis on product quality and product diversification. Plant modernisation will be an integral part of this. Significant amounts of both EC and national aid have been made available for this purpose and are available to suitable applicants.
I hope that Deputies on all sides of the House will lend their support to the proposed regulations which are now before the House in draft form and will join with me in urging the pigmeat industry to set about the task of overcoming the challenges now facing it. We have shown a readiness to respond to their difficulties and we will be anxious to continue to help whenever we can.
Mr. J. Leonard Mr. J. Leonard
Mr. J. Leonard: We welcome any measures which will put an end to the conflict regarding arrears of veterinary fees. Since 1982 the bacon curers have been refusing on several grounds to pay. One of them was that their competitors were not faced with this type of charge and secondly the pork slaughters had no fee. We have discussed over the past few months the question of hygiene standards and the fact that many slaughtering houses do not have to comply with factory  regulations. It is regrettable that factories have not catered for this market.
The Minister also mentioned that in December 1984 the Minister for Agriculture sought and received the approval of the Government to introduce legislation which would provide for harmonisation of charges and standards in both kinds of slaughtering houses and the temporary introduction of a reduced inspection fee.
It is also very satisfying that the IBSC have agreed to the resumption of the payment of the proposed new fee of £75 per pig retrospective to 1 April. There will also be an addition of 15p per pig in respect of arrears. These measures will bring a semblance of regularity into the pig industry than many Members because we have one of the best factories in the country in County Monaghan which has made great strides in the development of markets abroad. It has given much needed employment and that must be continued. We would welcome anything that can be done to improve the standard generally, to improve hygiene and our position in the market. We had a great pork market for a couple of years but that is no longer the case and we will have to get into the American market if we want to develop the industry to its full potential.
Question put and agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 360 Pigs and Bacon Regulations, 1985: Motion.