Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 22 May, 2003

Written Answers. - Animal Identification Scheme.

  77. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to introduce electronic [734]tagging of animals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14002/03]

  Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): My Department is currently seeking contractors for the supply of cattle tags to farmers and has also asked the industry to quote a price for any electronic solution to cattle identification. Further consideration will be given to this issue on receipt of the responses from the industry and following consultations with the farming organisations. However, any solution in relation to the electronic tagging of bovine animals will require to be compatible with that which is determined generally in EU member states.

  I have no plans at present to introduce electronic tagging for other species but this option will be kept under review in the light, in particular, of future technological advances and cost developments. As part of its statutory role in promoting the development of Ireland's food and drink industry, Bord Bia is actively working with small food producers to develop this pioneering route to market. Consumer trends clearly indicate the growing importance of farmers' markets and Bord Bia's strategy is to maximise the potential financial return for small food producers in selling direct to consumers. Further scope for development of farmers' markets has been identified in the specialty-artisan food sector. The current market for speciality-artisan food in Europe is worth €33 billion with an estimated 9% being sold through a network of farmers' markets. These markets will have an important role to play in increasing sales of Irish speciality-artisan food sales currently estimated at €450 million. In 2002, Bord Bia staged Ireland's largest ever outdoor food market based on the farmers market style at the International Food Symposium in Kinsale. In excess of 110 small food producers marketed and sold their produce to over 200 national and international buyers and to the general public. Bord Bia also provides general advice and information to people who have an active interest in setting up farmers markets in urban and rural areas.