Seanad Éireann - Volume 140 - 11 May, 1994
Food Industry: Motion.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Fitzgerald) Acting Chairman (Mr. Fitzgerald)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Fitzgerald): The overall time for the debate is two hours. The Minister will have 15 minutes, the proposer of the motion will have 12 minutes, each other Senator will have eight minutes, and to reply, the proposer, or a Senator nominated by him, will have five minutes.
Mr. Calnan Mr. Calnan
Mr. Calnan: I move:
That Seanad Éireann welcomes the action being taken by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Expert Group on the Food Industry, in particular, the announcement that £7 million is to be provided for food research in 1994; and requests  that measures be taken to ensure that commitment to the Food Industry is maintained in the future.
I thank the expert group on the food industry for its report. The group was made up of representatives from all levels of this important industry. The group came up with an action plan. The motion refers to £7 million which is to be provided for food research in 1994. We welcome this provision because this money is essential for food research, particularly with regard to added value.
The food industry is the engine of growth of the indigenous sector of the economy. Although we continuously complain about our climate and, in particular, the rain, it is the climate that provides the necessary conditions for good quality food from the land and the sea.
The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a commitment to implement a development programme for the food industry following consideration of the expert group's recommendations. It also gives a commitment to put in place an operational programme for the food industry in the new Community Support Framework. The cost of the plan will be in the region of £720 million over five years. Money will come from the EU, the Exchequer and the industry.
The action programme would maintain existing employment levels and I refer, in particular, to the concept of added value. For too long the industry has been concentrating on the side of beef, the pound of butter, etc. However, we know from experience that if one is selling beef on the hoof, for example, it is not to the best advantage of the producing country. Many jobs in processing will be lost if we do not concentrate on the added value aspect of production.
We can look at supermarket shelves and see the way foreign products are presented. Before it is too late we will have to work out ways of gaining added value. This is the age of TV dinners and pre-packed foods and we will have to be prepared for that. Considering what has  happened in the agriculture sector with set aside and loss in the primary sector, we need to build up the jobs — 1,200 jobs per year would be needed — in the added value sector to maintain existing employment levels.
The programme will enable the food industry to develop in a world dominated by CAP, GATT and the Single Market and will enable the industry to identify and respond to market and consumer needs. Most importantly, it will greatly augment the value of the food industry involving a significant increase in employment. The central aim of the report of the expert group is to maximise the value of the food industry to the economy. We need competitiveness in the economy; this will encompass interest and exchange rates and transport and communication costs, all of which are central to the food industry.
The seasonality factor has bedevilled the food industry, particularly in beef cattle and milk production, and ways will have to be found to increase the added value of that production. Reduced seasonality would facilitate a significant switch from butter to cheese production and a major movement in the beef sectors toward vacuum-pak production. Specific targets are proposed for those areas and for the development of pig meat production. This would make the industry more market orientated. The expert group also sees the prime development possibilities as being in prepared consumer foods and food ingredients and in producing the staple products in more consumer ready form. Special targets are also set for these areas.
Investment aid should be concentrated mainly on those principal development areas, on the processing facilities necessary as a result of the seasonality change and an expansion of pig meat processing. Specific criteria to govern investment aids are suggested include aid to develop Irish brand products. Many of our products are being sold as coming from other countries; the goods originally came from Ireland but there was another step in their processing. We lose the identity and  the quality of our food because it is often sold as the product of another country. We need to have our brands on world markets and use our own good name in food production.
Significant additional resources are required for research and development in the food industry and greater co-ordination and focus are required in the training schemes available to the industry. We cannot make these changes overnight. We have to take high specialisation and health considerations into account in expanding the food industry. Quality standards should be rigidly enforced and membership of a recognised quality scheme should become a requirement for eligibility for national development aid. Co-ordination and the central direction of policy for the food industry is an essential prerequisite for the development of the industry and for maximising the benefit of the resources available to it.
The group also recommends a single operational programme for the food industry in the new EU Structural Funds and a new single food promotion agency incorporating the export, promotion and market development agencies, in conjunction with or replacing An Bord Tráchtála and Forbairt. Responsibility for the formulation of all policy for the industry and most of the operating policy will be with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
The group stressed the need to strengthen the Department's food function, particularly to define more clearly the critical role of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in the Department in ensuring the interests of the food industry are given prominence in relevant national or EU decisions. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry should have overall responsibility for the operational programme and Forbairt and IDA Ireland for the new food promotion agency and for providing the conditions in which the potential of the main growth area in the food sector could be achieved.
Coming from an area where the production of primary products is of the utmost importance, not only on the production side but also in the follow up  process, great work is being done in the co-operatives in County Cork, especially west Cork, and in the CPC processing operation not too far from my home where valuable employment involving indigenous primary products is being given. They are providing employment in areas affected by emigration and high unemployment.
I welcome the moneys allocated for research and development. The motion, which says that “measures should be taken to ensure that commitment to the food industry is maintained in the future”, is of the utmost importance not only for this country but also for the producers, farmers, horticulturists and the fishermen. Food will always be in constant demand. If we produce food of a proper quality, the market is there for it at home, in Britain, the EU and throughout the rest of the world. Money is needed to develop food research. The expert group on the food industry have done their job and the Seanad should fully back this motion.
Ms Kelly Ms Kelly
Ms Kelly: I second this motion. In doing so, I emphasise the importance of the food industry to our economy. The £7 million allocated to the food industry is a welcome step; I hope it will be the first of many. As Senator Calnan pointed out, food production is what we do best. No matter how well we can produce goods, what is important is how much we can sell. There is little sense, either on an economic or moral basis, in having our warehouses full of unwanted food at too high a price. Our food policy must be market oriented. As Senator Calnan said, it is a shame that much of our food products, especially powdered milk, is exported from this country and sold back here under a foreign brand name. We must sell an identifiable Irish product into the market. That costs money, because if one wants to get a brand name established in any market, a great deal of market research and promotion is required. Unless we are now prepared to put that money into market research and promotion, we will not be in the race,  but at the whim of multinational food producers.
In this respect there is a vital role to be played by our large co-operatives. There is little point in any Government Department taking this role on its own. It needs the co-operation from those who are expert in that field to ensure our goods are promoted at every level. It is sore to see in supermarkets rows of food products like yoghurt, for example, which are made in France, Belgium or the United Kingdom. These products can easily be made in this country. The leading brands hold the major share of the food shelves of our larger supermarkets. These spaces should be taken by Irish companies.
There is also a role for the smaller producer. Food centres, such as the one in Raheen in County Limerick, and advisory groups have been set up to facilitate and help the smaller producers so that goods can be produced to satisfy niches in the market. It does not have to be an elaborate or widely distributed product, maybe only a few people producing local farmhouse cheeses, yoghurts, jams or other food products. These small groups should be given every possible assistance to bring their products up to a standard of hygiene and quality that would be accepted under EU regulations, which are increasingly impinging on the production and display of food. In this I can also see a role for our larger co-operatives.
When Horace Plunkett set up the cooperative movement approximately a century ago, its aim was to help farmers come together. By operating as a mutual support to each other, they would help each other prosper. That idea should never be lost. The co-operatives have a duty to promote small businesses within their catchment area. People in County Limerick, for example, have complained that they are one of the largest milk producers, but there are few, if any, milk producing plants within the county boundaries; they are located outside. The large co-operatives have a duty to go back to the areas that produce food products such as milk, meat and fish and set up small units producing speciality goods.  Working with a product that is indigenous to that area is one of the few ways to stem rural depopulation. We cannot be forever looking for foreign industries to create employment but we must see where we can help ourselves. Some of the larger co-operatives — it makes economic sense — are tending to buy from outside the country. We need to look at how the smaller person can be helped in the production and manufacture of small niche products.
When one talks of food, it tends to be confined to inland food producers of milk, beef, poultry and pig products. Senator Gallagher said this morning that we have, over the generations neglected one of our biggest assets, the multitudinous seas around Ireland and the fish contained therein. Fish is caught off the shores of Castletownbere and loaded on trucks which then go to Rosslare. The products are then sold without any Irish hand being put on them until they arrive in Spain. It is a shame that so much of our fish produce, and our quality fish produce such as lobster and crayfish, are lifted from the sea and sold without an Irish hand being laid upon it and with no added value accruing to Ireland. It is an area that must be examined more closely and developed as much as possible.
Mr. Burke Mr. Burke
Mr. Burke: I welcome the Minister to the House. I am pleased that this motion is before the House because great value can come out of this area. It is an area where much work needs to be undertaken and where there is great scope for carrying out such work.
The policy proposals of the expert group on the food industry go in the right direction. They are based on a clear appreciation of the current state of the Irish food industry and an assessment of its needs and prospects. One of the most striking aspects of the report is its justifiable realism regarding job prospects. For once there is a realistic presentation which does not make extravagant forecasts of substantial extra employment. The truth is that an industry characterised by rapid developments in technology can  grow substantially without expanding employment. Another fact of this situation is that significant amounts of investment in production capacity is required to maintain output, and a substantial investment in research and development can be required to maintain market share.
Policies designed to expand production and market share, as contained in the proposals of the expert group on the food industry, require further increases in investment. As far as the further development of Irish branded food products are concerned, the group has, if anything, underestimated the investment required. There is no doubt, however, that this avenue of development must be rigorously pursued.
The development proposals made by the group deserve support. The Government must ensure that the policies and resources identified are rapidly put in place, especially in the context of decisions made regarding EU Structural Funds. If spent in this area, these funds will be fruitful in the long term.
Bureaucratic wrangles over which Government Department should have responsibility for An Bord Bia will only hinder development. The nucleus for a successful body to develop, promote and market Irish food now exists with CBF, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and An Bord Glas. The Minister for Agriculture should stop dithering, seize the initiative and get on with the job. Above all, he must not let this proposed new initiative be swallowed up in the appalling bureaucratic system established by the Fianna Fáil Party and the Labour Party in the Programme for a Partnership Government.
Having closely examined the recommendations by the expert group on the food industry, there is one serious criticism to be made in the area of the membership of the group. Having examined the names of those in the group, and taking into consideration that the three farming organisations — the IFA, ICMSA and Macra na Feirme — have their general secretaries on the group, the absence of any working farmers must  be questioned. Whether we like it or not, the raw material is very important to the processing side in the food industry and the absence of any working farmers on the group is a great mistake.
Taking existing policy approaches into consideration and in the light of the Single Market, the GATT and CAP reforms, there is a great need for change and for research and development at the farm gate level. Irrespective of the processing side of the industry, policy is important. It is important that we get high quality produce as the entire industry depends greatly on this. I must advise the Minister that there is a huge vacuum between processors and producers, a vacuum heretofore filled by the existence of county committees of agriculture. The disbanding of these committees was a great mistake.
When the present return from the food industry, as stated in the recommendations, is considered, a sum of £6 billion to £7 billion emerges. The cost of the county committees of agriculture, in comparison to the return from the agriculture industry, would be very small and the re-establishment of the committees of agriculture in each county is essential in order to fill the vacuum between processors and producers.
The overall objectives should be to continue to encourage competitiveness, innovation and added value. However, there should also be greater selectivity in the areas to be supported. The areas which have not been identified in these recommendations should be closely examined. The mushroom industry, which has been very successful and can compete with any in Europe, has further room for development and growth. In addition, the grass based industries, such as milk, beef and mutton, should be well supported at the farm gate level because it is proven beyond any doubt that in these industries we can compete not alone in the European but in world markets.
These are the areas which should be targeted for future development. It cannot be said that they have potential for growth because the beef, milk and  sheep industries have been capped by EU regulations. However, there is ample room to increase market share, especially in Europe.
The record of Fianna Fáil Governments on the food industry has been dismal down through the years. The House will recall announcements by the former Fianna Fáil Party Taoiseach regarding great plans for the food industry, especially in the west of Ireland and involving Mr. Larry Goodman. These announcements indicated that one man, and one man alone, would operate and expand the entire food industry. They created a situation where all other parties shelved their plans for research, development and investment, losing valuable time in respect of equipping and modernising in preparation for Europe.
I recall the time helicopters flew over my own County Mayo, where there were two bacon factories, one in Castlebar and the other in Claremorris. The then Fianna Fáil Government closed these factories. It was a disaster for Castlebar as the factory was one of its biggest industries.
Regarding the issue of Leader programmes, and a new programme is about to commence, these should be contrasted with county development teams or the new county enterprise boards. For example, a small butcher who needs to expand his business in processing, whether it be beef, pigs, sheep or whatever, will get grant aid up to £50,000 and will be able to take on extra staff under the Leader programme. Under the criteria laid down by the county enterprise boards he is not eligible for any grant aid.
This is an issue which the Government should examine because there is a great need for small industries to expand as they will be the lifeline to areas such as the west of Ireland, areas which could be depending completely on small industries. It is unfair that a person can be grant aided under one scheme but not another. The Minister will be aware that the county enterprise boards are made up of elected representative while there are no such representatives on the Leader programmes, which can provide money.  Politicians are answerable because they are answerable to the public. I request the Minister of State to ask the Minister to look at this seriously. This area has great scope for expansion. I will judge the progress of the Government on its commitment to and implementation of this report.
Mr. R. Kiely Mr. R. Kiely
Mr. R. Kiely: I support the motion tabled by the Labour Party. I congratulate Senator Calnan and my colleague from west Limerick, Senator Kelly, who seconded the motion. The Expert Group on the Food Industry, which included representatives from all levels of the industry, was established by the Minister in April 1992 and was charged with the task of drawing up an action programme. Since agriculture is Ireland's main industry and produces the country's food, we should exploit every opportunity to promote the food industry and market our food in other countries. The report emphasises the need to increase employment in this sector.
I remember when there were food processing plants, especially creameries, in every parish. Since we joined the EU rationalisation has changed the scene dramatically. There are no longer creameries in many parishes. In my own small parish a creamery employed ten or 12 people. However, it was closed as were creameries in other parishes. Limerick, which is a great dairy producing county, has no meat processing industry. Golden Vale in Charleville, is very near Limerick and provides a great deal of employment. There is a chicken processing plant in Castlemahon. Local people who rear and breed chickens create employment. Chicken processing is a great source of employment not just in Castlemahon and west Limerick but throughout the county.
The report referred to the need to reduce the seasonality factor in beef, cattle and milk production and the group suggested a number of policy changes to assist this. It is cheaper to produce milk in the summer when grass is available. Now that we have an increased urban  population, there is a greater demand for liquid milk. People may say that milk is liquid but milk powder is produced for the manufacture of cheese and other products. Milk for consumers is essential and must be produced every day. Dairy farmers who produce liquid milk must be encouraged to ensure this continuity of supply. Reducing the seasonality factor will result in more employment in the winter months. Statistics prove a great deal more milk is produced during the summer when the cattle can enjoy the natural green grass we are priviliged to have in Ireland.
Senator Burke referred to the membership of the expert group; I share his disappointment that nobody with practical experience of farming was a member of it. It is very important to avail of the advice of such people because they could explain the problems in the food industry, especially at producer level.
Senator Kelly mentioned the co-operative movement which was set up years ago by Horace Plunkett. This has been responsible for the development of agriculture to its present level. I live only five miles from Drumcollogher, where the first creamery was set up by Horace Plunkett. It is now preserved as a heritage centre. If the Minister or any Members are ever in the area they should visit it. It shows how cows were milked and how the people brought it to the creameries. Milking did not involve the pressing of a button; it was done the hard way. People used donkeys and carts to bring milk to the creameries. Big lorries did not collect milk from their doors. Today these lorries are blamed for the poor state of roads. Progress and our membership of the EU are probably the reasons for the present situation.
We should be proud of the success of our mushroom industry. Senator Burke argued that previous Governments, and one in particular, failed the horticulture industry. Fianna Fáil Governments have achieved great progress and made positive decisions in the promotion of the food industry, especially horticulture. Climatic conditions have a great impact on agriculture and people engaged in this  industry are at the mercy of the weather, which was particularly bad this year. The sowing of crops, including cereals, is late this year and this will have an adverse effect on production. I would like to ask Senator Quinn if it is easy for him to get Irish horticultural produce to sell in his supermarkets. Many imported horticultural products are on supermarket shelves. As we have a natural horticultural industry we should sell our own produce.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
Mr. Quinn: I welcome the Minister. I have much pleasure in supporting this motion in general terms and in particular insofar as it refers to increased funding for food research. The point I want to make about the research funding will come as no surprise to anybody who has read my almost notorious one page minority report from the expert group.
Research is the seed corn for all our future industry and the oxygen we need if we are to survive. How that research is directed is at least as important as producing the money for it. The funding will be largely wasted if it is not driven by the marketplace itself. In other words, the research must focus on existing or potential customer needs as its starting point. Everything else is secondary. Quality is essential, of course, as is safety, nutritional value and the environmental dimension. However, unless that research and the actions flowing from it are customer driven all the rest is a waste of time.
It is hardly surprising in view of the noise I have been making about this issue for over a year that the press release announcing the increased funding contains many mentions of the marketplace, customer focus and so on. However, in all honesty I am less than totally convinced that this need to be customer driven has been taken fully on board.
My doubt has been reinforced by the composition of the research committee which is going to drive the funding and set priorities for it. I welcome the setting up of the committee and wish it well in its work. However, I notice that of the ten members announced so far, only one  is from the market end of the food business. It was interesting to hear Senator Rory Kiely making a plea for representation of farmers. I suppose everyone will want to be represented. I am convinced that unless that committee is driven by people who are close the marketplace and customers, it will end up being production driven rather than market driven.
Senator Rory Kiely also asked me if we had difficulty getting horticultural products in my stores. I would not say it was difficult but we had to work very hard to do so. We have had to establish long-term relationships and develop suppliers. I am delighted to say that what used to be only a three or four month season for many horticultural products has now been stretched to seven, eight and nine months. This means that the length of time when we must import has been greatly reduced.
However, only one of the ten members of the research committee is from the marketplace; the rest are producers or representatives of Government agencies. With all due respect, this is not good enough. Only two members of the export group were from the marketplace, of whom I was one. We were two lonely voices crying in the wilderness, very much in minority of 14 or 15 people. It was only by making a constant nuisance of ourselves at meetings that I managed to ensure that the perspective of the marketplace was heard and responded to.
I am, however, encouraged to see that two further places on the research committee remain to be filled. I urge the Minister to ensure that both of those places are filled by people who represent the marketplace and can, together with the one member already appointed, ensure that the issue of focusing on customer needs is always effectively addressed in the deliberations of that committee. I hasten to add that I am not seeking a place on the board, I have more than enough on my plate at the moment. Anyway, I probably dirtied my bib after my minority report to the expert group.
The issue in that minority report becomes immediately relevant as soon as  we move on from research funding to the wider area mentioned in this motion. We have yet to see the full legislation setting up An Bord Bia, although I understand it is at an advanced stage. It will put An Bord Bia under the control of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. I have been very gratified by the widespread support I received in the past year for my argument that An Bord Bia should be anywhere but under the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
I do not want to rehash the argument in detail tonight but my central point has always been that if the development of our food industry is left in the hands of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry it will always be restricted by the horizons of the producers of agricultural products instead of being driven by the needs of those who consume food products in the marketplace.
For example, if the steel industry decided to make golf clubs to sell in the marketplace, I suggest that they would have great difficulty competing with golf clubs designed by Christy O'Connor. If the steel industry decided to design stethoscopes for doctors in the Mater Hospital, they would have very little chance of designing the stethoscopes which the doctors would design themselves. In other words, if it is coming from the steel producers rather than from the marketplace, it has much less chance of succeeding. The same applies to agricultural products. Let us make sure that agricultural production is driven by the consumers rather than the producers.
That is the fundamental issue facing An Bord Bia and the way it is addressed will dog that organisation throughout its life. My position remains: tying it in any form to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is sending it into battle with one hand tied behind its back. While I welcome what the Government has been doing and is about to do in relation to the report of the expert group, our national approach to food is not enough customer driven. Until it becomes fully customer driven we will never realise the  potential to create wealth and, through that, jobs.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: In supporting the motion, I agree with what has been said by previous Senators, particularly the point Senator Quinn just made that we need to reverse the direction of our thoughts; start with the market and work backwards to production instead of the other way around. However, that point is also supported by the expert group, the Culliton report and many other recent reports. Senator Quinn's points are being taken on board now and that is also the emphasis of the Minister and the Minister of State.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
Mr. Quinn: Only one member of the research committee is from the marketplace.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: The Senator said that there are still places to be allocated so we will hold our breath. It is essential that we look at this from that perspective.
I do my shopping once a week and I assume many other Members go into a supermarket from time to time and are aware of what is on the shelves. There have been many changes in that area, particularly in the amount of space given to different products. A large amount of space is taken up by frozen and processed foods rather than primary foods in their raw state. That is also true of many other European countries and the US. We must respond to that change.
Many other Senators made the point that we need to produce value added products. The section on the food industry in the NESC report of November 1993 entitled “A Strategy for Competitiveness, Growth and Employment” stated:
While the scale of Ireland's agricultural exports is such that commodities will continue to be a significant share of exports for the foreseeable future, it is only by pursuing a clear strategy of moving up the value chain that the contribution of the agri-food sector to the national economy  can be maximised and additional employment generated.
That is basically what we all want. It is only by pursuing a clear strategy of moving up the value chain that the contribution of the agri-food sector to the national economy can be maximised and additional employment generated.
We all want to generate additional wealth and employment from the food sector. In doing that we have to build on our strengths. Our most obvious strength is the image of Ireland as a beautiful green country that produces food in a relatively undamaged and untarnished atmosphere. We must build on that image and emphasise it when we market our products in this country and in other parts of the world.
We need to understand the difficulties in marketing. My experience when shopping in supermarkets and small shops while on holidays is that one sees very few Irish products on the shelves in other countries. There is a big market out there which we must tap into. We represent a very small percentage of the European population and we must get into those markets and develop marketing strategies outside this country. In doing that we need to understand how the marketing systems work in other countries and get into linkages and programmes to enable us to find a place to sell our products. That is crucial.
There are a number of value added products available in this country at present. This area is developing nicely but we still have a long way to go. Senator Kelly referred to the food centre outside Limerick in Raheen which is a good example of an emphasis on value added produce and processing. One has products such as mustards, sauces, garlic butter, smoked salmon and others which take a basic ingredient and make something of it. In the process jobs are created. Sauces in particular seem to have mushroomed — that is probably a mixed metaphor. I have certainly noticed an increase in the range of sauces available whether they are in jars or packets.  It is certainly an area of the market where there is much room for development.
We have very fine products. I was watching a food and drink programme on BBC recently which tested 23 different brands of rashers. The brand which came out on top is made in Limerick. We need to emphasise and develop our strengths.
Beef export figures show that in 1973, 39 per cent of beef was exported on the hoof whereas in 1991 it was only 8 per cent. This shows an improvement in processing and a reduction in live exports which obviously has a small spin off in terms of jobs. It is much better to export food which is at least frozen or processed in some way and which creates jobs in this country.
I noted a comparison with Denmark, where they have similar basic productivity. They have developed the value added side of the industry more than we have. Perhaps we can learn from our fellow European countries, particularly as we produce the same kind of products as they do.
The expert group to which we are referring in the motion recommended a number of specific ways forward. Senator Calnan has gone into some of those in detail but the two important areas are the development of new products and training in the food industry. Training is important because it is essential that people are up to date with developments. The food processing industry is one area that is always changing and there is a constant need to update people's knowledge and information.
Other Senators, particularly Senator Kiely, referred to the problem of seasonality. It has also been emphasised by the expert group. We need to focus on the problem of seasonality and supplying markets in accordance with that in Ireland and also lowering the cost of off season production. Product development is an essential aspect of this. It is also important that producers are paid for quality rather than quantity as this is an area where we fall down. We tend to pay according to the number of cattle or sheep or the weight rather than the quality.
 There is one other point in relation to the organic sector which has much potential. The results of interesting study conducted in northern Europe were published today. Admittedly it concerned a small sample but it suggested that the sperm count of men who ate organic food was twice that of those who did not. That may be an indication that the organic food sector is on the way up, particularly for one half of the population.
Mr. Kelleher Mr. Kelleher
Mr. Kelleher: That is a very appropriate word.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: Organic food is a developing market and one which suits our image abroad.
Mr. Farrelly Mr. Farrelly
Mr. Farrelly: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion, which compliments the Government for the implementation of a number of the recommendations of the expert group on the food industry, particularly the announcement that £7 million is to provided for food research in 1994. With all due respect, not much else has been done in this area.
There are many recommendations. Today the legislation to set up An Bord Bia was introduced in the other House. It is interesting to note that when it was proposed that this new board would take over the running of the food industry, the information supplied and the Bill itself indicate that many aspects of the proposal, in so far as the recommendations are concerned, are being left outside the group and there will be a number of tiers. CBF is being dismantled and a new livestock committee is to be established. The pros and cons of the operation of that committee remain to be seen.
I fear how this new organisation, which will be given powers by the Oireachtas, will work in reality. We may find a similar situation to that of the National Roads Authority, which affects all local authorities in the allocation of grants for major road works in national primary and secondary roads. We find information arriving on our desks at county  council level which states many of the ways in which funding was previously made available for staffing and projects no longer exist. Our county council will be £0.5 million short. A similar situation will arise when this new group is established. The present system, in so far as staffing is concerned, will be dismantled and many people will be left in a position where they can no longer be employed under the system. I hope the Government will make a real effort to implement the recommendations.
The beef sector is the second largest after the dairy industry. Seasonality was pinpointed as being a real problem in this sector. Factories do not have a continuous supply on a yearly basis to keep staff working. To date there is no proposal to deal with that problem. The group recommended that we should try to achieve 20 per cent of slaughtering in each of the first three quarters of the year. It is far from the truth and it is not happening. There is nothing in any of the proposals the Government have produced to date confront this issue. At present, the price of steers in factories is running at £1.21 or £1.22 per pound. If there was seasonality and an evenness of supply, the price would probably be in the region of £1.12 or £1.14.
The other aspect which has added to the confusion is the retention period which the Department of Agriculture and Food still insists on for farmers who apply for animals under the beef premium. This has collected a problem which is now far worse than it was heretofore. Major work is needed if something positive is to be achieved in this area.
The group highlighted the imbalances in the beef, milk production and other areas. I consider £7 million a small amount if one considers that approximately £50 million has been made available through grant aid from Europe; 85 per cent of that £50 million has been invested in fixed assets in the last 12-18 months. A substantial amount of money must be provided for the development of markets. Research and development is a major part of ensuring that improved  products continue to come onto the market for ever more demanding consumers.
Many people mentioned their areas and the excellent centres that are available around the country, although few remain. It would be remiss of me not to mention the excellent work in beef research and production in Grange, County Meath. It was almost an eleventh hour decision on the proposal to close that important venue. God be with the man who decided, while on his way to his office, that the farm should be bought and an agricultural research centre provided. That is how the purchase came about, when an elegant gentleman was the Minister for Agriculture a number of years ago.
I hope the developments which have commenced will go from strength to strength. However, not enough has been done to deal with the recommendations in the expert group's report on the agriculture and food industry. There is no point in experts producing such reports if years are spent implementing their recommendations. If we spend years implementing the recommendations of this report, the markets will have changed dramatically and we will still be behind. However, we have excellent brands and superb work is being done. I hope merger negotiations, that are due to take place across the country, are the way forward for the protection of many jobs and the improvement of products so that we can take advantage of the many extra markets that will be available throughout Europe and further afield.
Mr. McGowan Mr. McGowan
Mr. McGowan: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this motion and I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I agree with other Senators that this is a useful motion which gives us an opportunity to express our views regarding the food industry, past, present and future.
The people of County Donegal depend to a large extent on the food industry. Given our environment, we pride ourselves on our potential to increase the number of jobs across the board. We  have one of the highest levels of lamb production in the country. There is room for vast improvement in the beef, pork, poultry and mushroom areas, as has been mentioned. We had a niche in the market with Donegal Catch as a brand name for fish and we are doing reasonably well. The people of County Donegal have a particular interest in this motion and the provision that has been made for the food industry.
I welcome the provision of £7 million for research. However, I am concerned about how it will be allocated and spent because it is easy to waste expenditure in this area. Many of the organisations that carried out research work in the past did not provide good value for money. I hope the money that is being provided for research will be carefully monitored by the Minister and the Department and that interim reports can be expected. I hope the House will have an opportunity at a further date to express its views and comments in this regard.
County Donegal has one of the highest number of salmon farming businesses in the country. They make a significant contribution to jobs and to the wealth of the county. The sector has major potential and will benefit from market research, sales promotion and the general development of the food industry. I could list many other areas.
We have problems at present in so far as we are finding it difficult to satisfy the Germans that our beef is healthy and clean. However, this is more of a political problem. I listened to a programme recently and a senior veterinary inspector in Germany said that he had no difficulty with the health of Irish beef, rather that it was a matter for the Government and Cabinet Ministers to make a decision. I sense that there are political implications, in addition to the regulations, and this is important.
Senator Burke criticised the record of Fianna Fáil in Government regarding its support for the food industry. Everybody realises that Fianna Fáil in Government has no need to defend its stance in this regard. It supported the building up of co-operatives in this country to the point  where we are second to none and major players. I am pleased that the co-operatives are among the best in the world. They are already taking business interests in other countries, such as the United States of America. The Fianna Fáil Party in Government has played a major role.
I do not accept the criticism levelled at Larry Goodman. He has been worth his weight in gold to this country. He was a risk taker, although he did not always succeed or win. He was a salesman and one of the best people we had in marketing Irish products since we started to export food. I do not take kindly to those who make cheap jibes at Larry Goodman. He had financial difficulties. However, if he had not been a risk taker, he would not have experienced those difficulties. He could have sat back and been complacent but he was a major player on the world scene and did well. We should not criticise him. It is very easy to be a knocker.
Somebody said we are not doing enough for our fishing industry. The best example of what we are doing for this industry is Joey Murrin, the senior spokesman for the fishermen in Killybegs. He had been consistently critical of the fact that not enough was being done and most of his criticism was valid. Recently, however, he complimented the Minister, Deputy Andrews, on his support for the fishing industry. For the record, he is out campaigning for the Minister of State, Deputy Pat “The Cope” Gallagher because of the commitment and support Deputy Gallagher gave to the fishing industry in Donegal.
Mr. Farrelly Mr. Farrelly
Mr. Farrelly: Sounds like bribery.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: He would not support the other Gallagher, would he?
Mr. McGowan Mr. McGowan
Mr. McGowan: I do not take too kindly to people who scarcely know where killybegs is talking about support for the fishing industry in Donegal, but that is just a passing comment.
When Senator Quinn says he had to work hard to get Irish food products on  the shelves I have no difficulty in accepting his sincerity because he is committed to selling Irish products as far as he can. I would ask him, however, to work a bit harder because he is a major player in the retail food business. I compliment him on his success, his contribution, the quality of his shops and their presentation. The contribution he is making to the food industry is invaluable. He is one of the best people in the business but how can we justify importing Danish jam, Dutch potatoes and cheese, English apples, etc., when the Irish product can be bought at competitive prices?
The small producer must get help. I am not referring to Senator Feargal Quinn or his company but — and maybe I should not say this — the small producers are finding it difficult to get paid by major chain stores. Thirty days' credit is reasonable for a small producer but major players in the food industry were taking 60 days and more to pay. It came to point where the small producer could not compete unless he was paid within a reasonable time. Hopefully that situation has been rectified. I am not referring to Senator Quinn because he was not on the list to which I referred.
There is a lot of work still to be done. We are talking about one of our major industries. If we are to provide jobs for our young people we must have a professional approach to the food industry. There are many jobs with far better opportunities. We have an environment and a climate going for us. We want to educate our young people that an inferior product will not be accepted anywhere, but we can compete with the best. The provision of funding for research and the promotion of the food industry is very welcome.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. O'Shea) Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. O'Shea)
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. O'Shea): Tá áthas orm bheith ar ais sa Seanad chun labhairt ar an rún tábhachtach seo. Fáiltím roimh an rún agus tugaim lán-tacaíocht dó.
I welcome and support this motion. There is no doubt but that the food industry is one of the most important sectors  of Irish industry. It accounts for 22 per cent of total exports and about 20 per cent of all manufacturing jobs and consistently generates a positive trade balance. Output from the industry, which in 1992 was estimated at £7.6 billion, is based almost entirely on indigenous raw materials. The employment which it provides is relatively more important in Ireland than in any other EU member state.
The report of the expert group on the food industry is perhaps the most comprehensive review ever undertaken of the Irish food industry. The expert group was established in response to a recommendation in the Culliton report that such a group be set up to prepare a national food industry development plan.
It is a measure of the Government's confidence in the potential and ability of the food industry to create additional national wealth and employment that even before the expert group had submitted its recommendations a commitment was given, in the Programme for a Partnership Government, to implement a development programme for the food industry following consideration of these recommendations. That commitment was honoured less than six months later when, following consideration of the expert group's report, the Government accepted the broad thrust of its recommendations and gave approval for the preparation of a new national programme for the industry as well as legislation to set up a new food promotion and marketing development agency. A reaffirmation of that commitment was subsequently enshrined in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.
As I have already indicated, the expert group's report constitutes the most wide ranging and comprehensive study ever undertaken of the food industry. The group itself was representative of all sectors of the industry and in the course of its deliberations it examined all aspects of the food industry. These included the problem of seasonality of raw material supplies, over-reliance on intervention and commodity markets, investment aid  policy, the institutional framework within which the industry operates and the issue of research and technology as well as the external and domestic factors likely to influence the industry's future development.
At the conclusion of its examination the group made a substantial number of recommendations all of which had the same basic objective, that is, to promote within the food industry a sustained switch to a consumer oriented policy. The group also set targets against which progress in the achievement of that objective could be measured and it further recommended a more integrated approach towards the provision of development aid and other supports for the industry.
As I have already indicated, the Government's response to the expert group's report was to authorise the drawing up of a new national programme for the food industry based on the group's recommendations. I am happy to be able to tell this House that work on the preparation of that programme which has been undertaken under my supervision over the past few months is now complete.
The new programme which will cover the period up to 1999 will take the form of a special sub-programme in the next round of Structural Funds. The £7 million funding which I announced last week for institutional research and development, and which relates to one year only, represents but a small element of the total amount to be provided under the sub-programme. Pending finalisation of the negotiations with the EU Commission I am not in a position to say precisely what that total amount will be but I can assure the House that it will be substantial.
As recommended by the expert group, the food sub-programme will cover four main areas — capital investment, research and development, marketing and promotion and human resources. The capital investment measure will assist food companies to invest in new facilities for more diversified production and will enable them to expand, modernise and upgrade their existing facilities.  In any industry research is the key to successful development but in the food industry this is an area which in the past has not had sufficient emphasis nor a sufficiently focused approach. The food sub-programme has at its core a much greater commitment to research both in terms of public and private resources.
Two separate research and development measures are being provided for, one covering institutional research and development and the other in-company research and development. As is evident from the committee which I named last week, the sub-programme also aims to give the industry the predominant say in how public research resources are to be used. This is essential to ensure that while public food research is adequately catered for, its direction is clearly influenced by market requirement and consumer preferences.
Apart from the food sub-programme, the other main recommendation made by the expert group was that a new food promotion agency be established and that its activities be part funded by the Structural Funds. On that score, I have good news. First, the legislation to establish the new agency, An Bord Bia, was introduced in the Dáil yesterday. Secondly, provision is made in the sub-programme for the allocation of a significant level of funding to it.
The final element in the sub-programme is human resources and here the bulk of the expenditure will be on in-service training. As I said earlier, the legislation to set up An Bord Bia has been introduced in the Dáil. I hope it will not be too long before it arrives to this House. In line with the recommendations of the expert group the new agency will be formed by amalgamating CBF, the food marketing and promotion functions of ABT and the export market development functions of An Bord Glas in so far as these relate to edible horticultural produce. As the review of BIM's activities is currently taking place it has not been possible to reach a conclusion on the transfer of its export market development and promotion functions to the new  board. However, the Bill contains an enabling provision which will facilitate such transfer at a later date if this should be deemed appropriate.
The expert group recommended that funding for An Bord Bia should be provided through a combination of Structural Funds, State grant-in-aid, industry levies and client fees. Structural Funds money will be provided via the food sub-programme. Provision for the other funding elements is contained in the Bill.
Finally, the other significant feature of the Bill is that it provides for the establishment of subsidiary boards to deal with the main product sectors, including a subsidiary board specially designed to maintain the product focus and the linkages with producers and consumers in the meat and livestock sector that have worked well in CBF.
Apart from the food sub-programme and An Bord Bia, there are a number of other less obvious but nonetheless important recommendations in the expert group's report which are being implemented by my Department on an ongoing basis. I have established a group within the Department to monitor progress on the implementation of the report, liaison arrangements have been established with a number of other Departments and I hope to be in a position very shortly to announce the establishment of new working groups to deal specifically with the areas of food ingredients and prepared consumer foods.
The House will agree that the actions which I have just described represent not only satisfactory progress in the implementation of the expert group's recommendations but a very long term commitment indeed to the food industry. The Government is firmly set on maintaining that commitment to a sector which has already achieved a striking degree of development in recent years and which, provided it continues to develop its consumer orientation, has the potential to contribute greatly to the national economy in the future.
Professor Lee Professor Lee
Professor Lee: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire agus roimh an rún. I welcome the  motion. My only quibble with it is that it does not go far enough. It talks about maintaining commitment to the food industry and to research in the food industry. We need intensified or enhanced commitment over the five or six year period.
The Minister said that the £7 million funding for this year represents a small element of the total amount to be provided. I hope that will be the case. Even with £7 million, the level of investment in research in the food industry falls far below levels in comparable countries. It also falls below what its target figure ought to be in the context of the importance of the food industry in the industrial sector. In view of those criteria and in view of the relative backwardness of research, there is much ground to be recovered. I hope the opportunity to expand that funding programme will arise in due course.
It is true that Irish firms in the food industry are large by our standards. However, they are modest by international standards. Research funding within firms is also very low by international standards. While I accept the importance of the food industry in this country, there is much scope to improve its potential performance. In that context Appendix 3 of the report by the expert group on the food industry, which refers to research in agriculture and food, is excellent. It has not received much publicity but it is an admirable summary of the principles that ought to guide the deliberations of the group set up by the Minister. I hope that group will take cognisance of the criteria and principles articulated there.
Some disturbing points are made. The quality of research may be declining despite the undoubted quality of many of the individuals in the area. The decline may be due in part to the embargo on recruitment and the difficulty in getting gifted young people into that sector. I am told that the restrictions on recruitment — which are rigidly applied — have prevented Moorepark from undertaking contracts for which it was commissioned because it did not have the staff. If one  talks about this scale of investment in research one ought to ensure that the research institutions can recruit the best possible staff and that they can counter the ageing of research workers. Shortages of funding for recruitment is a problem for research in general. It also affects Teagasc and, to some extent, the universities. I hope that problem can be confronted and that the urgent need for the recruitment of relevant first class people will not be obstructed by general guidelines about recruitment to the public service.
It is also important, as Senator McGowan rightly stressed, that the allocation of the funding be rigorously controlled. It should be decided on the best possible criteria which are to be established by the research committee. In particular, the fragmentation which characterises so much research effort — not only in the food sector but in every other sector — in this country must, as far as possible, be minimised and overcome. There are references in the report to existing linkages — I am familiar with the Teagasc/UCC link — which are striving to do this. Progress is being made in that regard.
This work, in which barriers are broken down between institutions with different cultures and different “turfs” to protect, is unspectacular but very important. We are far too small to fritter away the research resources at our disposal on turf wars. I am not referring to the bureaucratic brawling at governmental level, which is an independent turf war. There is also research brawling and academic brawling at research level. I am told that is being overcome and that distinct progress is being made. That would be very important to the effective implementation of this programme. It is possible for substantial moneys to be frittered away on duplication or on people pursuing hobby horses which do not have the market impact about which Senator Quinn spoke so eloquently.
I hope those points are taken on board by the expert committee. I hope the Department — I have heard good reports of its commitment in this area — will be  involved actively with the research group and that co-operation, which is crucial, will be fostered and sustained.
The appendix to the report states that research gaps should be identified in priority areas and that we should build on existing strengths by using interdisciplinary teams to achieve critical mass in selected sectors of the research effort. The language is rather abstract but it refers to something crucial: that the most substantial value possible be secured for the research effort and it should not be once again frittered away.
That will involve turning down applications. We are reluctant to say no as a result of our historical experience, original sin, our genes or something of that order. However, we must learn to say no, as must this committee. It cannot dole out money for ideas, however intrinsically interesting they may appear to their proposers around the country. The committee must focus on research projects which will succeed in the marketplace within a reasonable length of time.
I support Senator Quinn's remarks on this subject. He said we must cater for existing and potential market needs, but I would lay more stress on anticipating market needs. One possible strength we have not fully exploited is to anticipate market needs. We should allow some funding for this purpose so that we are not lagging behind and imitating others but are sometimes pioneering.
I wish the project well. It has had a good beginning. The members of the research committee are well chosen and I look forward with a great deal of optimism to the committee producing effective results in the medium term future.
Mr. Kelleher Mr. Kelleher
Mr. Kelleher: A few weeks ago we discussed a report on small businesses. Reports are well and good but funding must be allocated and they must be expeditiously implemented. From this point of view, £7 million for research is a modest sum when one considers the overall context of agriculture and its contribution  to the economy; but it constitutes an acknowledgement and a start.
For far too long we have concentrated on marketing, which is important, but one can only rely on it to a certain extent. We need new products and we need to be innovative, to anticipate markets and look for potential markets. We have been falling behind in this work. We have successfully marketed products but they have had a short shelf life, in that a market changes just as we achieve maximum market potential. I welcome the setting up of the expert group and their recommendations.
Agriculture has contributed a great deal to the Irish economy. The Minister said it accounted for 20 per cent of our exports, but we must also look on it from the point of view of net value. Agricultural products contribute a large amount as raw natural materials mainly produced within the state. This is an important factor which is sometimes overlooked.
We can market and research as much as we like but we must face other vital issues. Germany is currently contemplating banning British beef from its market. If this happens it will be a sad day for the EU. However, should it happen, Ireland should also put up its barriers to safeguard its disease-free status. If the Germans breach regulations, we should defend our natural resources. Our present disease-free status is important to the country. Live exports have made a large contribution towards building up markets and breaking into markets in vacuum packed meats, etc.
As mentioned by the Opposition — I am not terming the Independents as the Opposition tonight——
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
Mr. Quinn: We live in hope.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
Dr. Henry: Three friendly faces sitting here, independent are we.
Mr. Kelleher Mr. Kelleher
Mr. Kelleher: It has been said that this Government and previous Governments have not contributed to agriculture, which is a farcical suggestion. CAP reform and the GATT deal have been  successfully negotiated by Ireland. Farmers and people involved in food processing will agree that the status quo could not have continued and changes had to happen. It must be stressed that this year and the previous year have been successful for dairy and beef farmers, and for tillage farmers to a lesser extent.
Apart from peat, Ireland's only natural resources are our population, agriculture, and our ability to adapt. If we research and adapt, agriculture and food processing will have an important part to play in our economy in the future and will make a great contribution to employment. Agriculture has been seen for too long as a poor relation in terms of providing employment. Multinationals were brought in but ultimately small producers and small holdings contribute more. As with small businesses, we are getting back to basics in this area.
When the senior Minister, Deputy Walsh, goes to Cabinet before the next budget, I hope this allocation is greatly increased, because this is one area where Ireland can be extremely successful in international markets.
Mr. Cotter Mr. Cotter
Mr. Cotter: Guím fáilte chuig an Aire. This debate gives us a useful opportunity and I welcome the motion. I am not fully informed on all the terms of the motion and I noticed the Minister said the £7 million was available for institutional research. I assume this means the official State institutions will receive this funding, or can the Minister say if this is also available to the private sector?
Mr. O'Shea Mr. O'Shea
Mr. O'Shea: Essentially that means providing funding for the universities, third level institutions and the Teagasc food research institutions. The private sector is separate and it will be eligible for funding from Forbairt.
Mr. Cotter Mr. Cotter
Mr. Cotter: I thank the Minister. I assumed that was the position but I wanted to have it verified and I am glad that is the case.
When Senator Lee was speaking I was reminded of his book, Ireland: 1912-1985, which I had the pleasure of reading.  In the book he made strong points in his analysis of the development of the Irish economy from the early days of the State and criticised the lack of research carried out by institutions at a critical time in our history. This evening he said the amount of money given towards research in Ireland today is minimal compared to the amount given in countries against which we are competing. It is good that institutions are now beginning to develop that strength.
We were slow to join the food processing industry. We were amateurs in the mid-1970s and it is only in recent years that we have developed expertise in this area. Twenty years ago we were happy to produce food in commodity form for the world markets. One reason for that is the structure of our population — the home market is so small it is difficult to raise money in Ireland to increase our sophistication. I am glad to see this injection of funds into our institutions so we can get programmes running.
My county is much involved in the food industry, particularly in poultry, mushrooms and dairying. It has always been my fear that medium sized Irish companies were not willing to invest in people with an expertise in research. For too long they were content to take the amateur approach. Since we were so late into the field, our competitors, such as Denmark, had come up with sophisticated developments 30 years before we started thinking about this area and companies who delayed suffered as a result.
We need to put a lot of money into the development of sophisticated products and we need to push hard in the area of research, development and marketing of goods. A sum of £7 million is a small amount of money in the context of the food industry. We are not talking about using a large percentage of the industry's gross product in research and development. I agree with Senator Lee that we are not putting enough money into this area. In addition, our marketing strength has not been supported by sufficient cash. We do not make serious efforts in this regard. I do not know what the problems  are but our priorities are blurred. We lag behind other countries which use their resources in this area. We have aspirations but they are never backed up by serious efforts. This money will have a substantial input and the Minister wants this to continue.
We have many worries at present. The poultry, bacon and pork industries have been under stress for a long time. The pork and bacon industries are experiencing difficulties because there is oversupply in Europe and the structure of Irish industry makes this more difficult. The smaller producers are finding it difficult to survive because there is a lack of economies of scale. Many people will leave this industry and it would be no harm to establish economies of scale. Because I live in an area where many producers are suffering, I cannot forget the human element.
The poultry sector is experiencing the same problem. There is a war going on between the processor and the producer. Processors are trying to reduce the amount they pay to the primary producers. The cost of feed is a problem for them. Perhaps the Minister could examine this area in detail and introduce a subsidy because we are paying £20 a tonne more for feed than our competitors. This is an enormous disadvantage and there is a danger that if we cannot supply the home market with our chickens, they will be imported from England and Northern Ireland. Our difficulties should not be understated. I ask the Minister to consider introducing a subsidy. I am sure the officials in Brussels would not object to an examination of this area because it involves cost penalties.
We are small exporters of chicken. I know of one company which exports heavier chickens to England but this is uneconomical. No other company will do this because there is little profit to be made. If these industries were damaged, my constituency would suffer greatly because many people are involved in the poultry, pork and bacon sectors. We would welcome a subsidy which would  allow the poultry industry to continue at its current level of production. It would also give us a breathing space because restructuring must take place. We must continue to improve efficiency and costs and we must restructure the industry. I hope the Minister will consider this issue.
There are duck and quail industries in County Monaghan. Perhaps the Minister would also consider the possibility of designating some part of the county as a food park because of our success in this area. We should play to our strengths and a food park around Lough Egish would be an excellent and wise development.
I am sure we will have other opportunities to debate this issue. Many good ideas have been put forward and I hope our efforts will be successful.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
Dr. Henry: It is great to debate a motion on which we all agree. It would be impossible to be against food research. I welcome the Minister's statement and his commitment to research in the food industry and I support what Senator Lee said. We must be careful, as I said in relation to medical research, not to apply the sprinkler approach, to think that if we sprinkle money around different areas we will get something out of it. The products and methods of production must be carefully considered and we must back possible winners. Some people must accept the fact that their pet projects will not get backing while others will. This is an expensive area to get into and products which might be successful must be supported.
I support Senator Quinn's comments about the consumer and his needs. This is very important when it comes to food research. It is ridiculous to have a product if you cannot sell it. I urge the Minister to involve more consumers in what he is doing.
We talked about producing for the export market. We have had import substitution, but has anyone considered how we can change the market in a way which would not only help the food industry but may also improve the health of the population? Yesterday I received a copy  of the “Happy Heart National Survey”. This survey looked at men and women between 30 and 70 years of age and at the important areas which cause heart disease. As I said before, we have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease than other countries, apart from Scotland and Finland, and we would like to change this statistic.
While our eating habits have improved, this improvement has taken place in areas where effort has been made in educating people about healthier products and in making these products more readily available. Until recently it was difficult to get good vegetables in many towns. I know that sounds ridiculous but I was told it was more simple to get first class products in Dublin than in the smaller towns.
We have a serious problem with the way we cook our food. People often cook food to make it more tasty. Under EU food regulations, flavour is No. 8 on the list, while the shelf life is No. 1. Surely the flavour is the most important? For example, 60 per cent of people eat boiled or baked potatoes, which are better for them; however, 35 per cent eat chips or roast potatoes. One does not need good quality potatoes for chips or roasting, but they do for boiling or baking. Those who have boiled or baked potatoes know what I mean. It is sad that 46 per cent of the people surveyed do not eat salads. These must be readily available and of good quality before one will eat them. A half dead lettuce is not appetising. It is a question of making these goods available.
Home grown vegetables have undergone a dramatic change and we should praise An Bord Glas in this regard. We should be able to manage without imported vegetables at any time of the year. Senator Quinn spoke about seasons being extended from three to four months to seven months. Excellent vegetables produced in this country are now available.
Another area mentioned this evening was the meat industry. I do not want Senator McGowan's friend, Mr. Larry Goodman, coming after me. However, a  change to chicken and fish would be useful. Some 25 per cent of the population do not eat fish. An improvement in this area would not only benefit the fishing industry, which was discussed this evening, but also our general health. If more people ate chicken, it would improve the home market because at present a lot of chicken is imported from Northern Ireland. Many chicken products which I have bought have come from there. We should encourage this area.
When improving the home market, we should also take note of another report on food supplements and health foods which was sent to the Minister's Department and the Department of Health. Senator O'Sullivan spoke about organic foods, which are normal health foods. However, we should be careful about some foods described as health products which are not regulated. Some of these foods contain vitamins and minerals which exceed the recommended daily dose of what is considered suitable. There is little legislation covering this area and this should be looked at. Some of these vitamins and minerals may be toxic if too high a dosage is taken. The labelling and packaging requirements of these products are vague and are not regulated by anyone.
A section of the report discusses dietary fads and extravagant claims of a medicinal nature made by health foods. The report contains a long list, including bee pollen, which is a source of youth and health and is an energy pill for athletes. Does anyone really know what bee pollen does? It lists germanium as an essential nutrition, while alfalfa tablets are used for the treatment of arthritis. These products are listed as medicinal; yet if medicinal recommendations are given, should these products not be looked at by the National Drugs Advisory Board, because some may have toxic effects? Herbal tea is also mentioned.
Many of these products have been withdrawn in America because some have carcinogenic effects if taken in large enough amounts. When research is being done, I hope regulations will be considered in regard to the extravagant  claims of these products and the possibility of toxicity. Various South American teas sold here are described as being good for candida, yet there is no anti-candidal activity in them and they are highly cytotoxic. I suggest the research team could look at exotic products being offered, while at the same time encourage the consumption of our organic products which Senator O'Sullivan discussed.
Mr. Calnan Mr. Calnan
Mr. Calnan: It is easy to sum up this motion. The Minister mentioned points made at the outset and he dealt with them comprehensively. Everyone in the House appreciates the importance of the food industry in regard to farming, horticulture, the glasshouse sector, poultry production and fishing. These indigenous industries are important and everyone welcomes research in this area.
Work done by the expert group was welcomed by Senators and its recommendations have been taken seriously by Government, the Department of Agriculture and the Minister with responsibility for food.
The importance of jobs has been stressed. Because of set-aside and other quota regulations, jobs may be lost in the primary sector. These jobs must be substituted with others in the manufacturing sector. The importance of added value has also been stressed. In the past it was sufficient for the agricultural industry to export the side of beef and the lump of butter, but that is no longer the case. We need to properly market, package and  promote our produce. I glad the Minister said these matters will be considered.
I refer to the county enterprise partnership boards and their role in job creation. Many small enterprises may be assisted as they are not primary producers. Because they play a secondary role, moneys and assistance may be provided by the county enterprise partnership boards to help them develop. I hope the county enterprise partnership boards are doing this work throughout the country. I know this happening in my area.
We will be able to discuss other matters relating to this motion when legislation regarding An Bord Bia comes before the House in the near future. An important point made related to seasonality. Many industries are geared towards a certain time of the year. It is important that these industries become perennial rather than seasonal because they then would provide continuity of work and those laid off would not need to depend on social welfare schemes to survive. If the seasonality factor was removed and year round jobs were provided, it would be better for the development of the economy.
I commend this motion to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?
Mr. Mullooly Mr. Mullooly
Mr. Mullooly: At 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 May 1994.
The Seanad adjourned at 8 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 May 1994.
Seanad Éireann 140 Food Industry: Motion.