Dáil Éireann - Volume 570 - 03 July, 2003

Written Answers. - Agricultural Production.

  28. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the value of agricultural output for 2001 and 2002 as per CSO figures; his plans to improve this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18940/03]

  Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): The CSO figures for agricultural output released last week estimated that the value of agricultural output at producer prices fell by €381 million or 7.7% from 2001 to 2002. The reduction in the value of output was primarily in the cattle and milk sectors. This was caused by a combination of wet weather, a drop in livestock slaughterings from their high levels in 2001 and lower prices, especially for dairy products. The drop in livestock output is partly a reflection of the fact that 2001 was a particularly good year as the FMD crisis in the UK removed much of their beef and sheep production from the market place which indirectly benefited Irish producers.

  These output figures do not include the value of direct payments which increased by 19% in 2002 to more than €1.6 billion. The payment increases were agreed under Agenda 2000 to compensate for reductions in market support mechanisms. With the reduction of traditional [1042] market supports such as intervention and export subsidies the main challenge for the agri-food sector will be to add maximum value to the volume of primary production. This can be done by meeting consumer demands and by being competitive on both EU and international markets. The national development plan, which allocated €4.9 billion to the agri-food sectors, contains a range of measures to promote market orientation, productivity and innovation in agriculture and food.

  My Department implements a range of schemes and legislation to ensure the safety and traceability of food. As well as protecting consumers this helps maintain our clean green image abroad which is an important selling point in the marketing and promoting of Irish produce which is undertaken by An Bord Bia and An Bord Glas with the support of the Department.