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Oireachtas backed report on the agri-food sector highlights the potential of the sector for job creation - Morgan

23 September, 2010

Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan today launched a report on what is required to expand employment in the agri-food sector at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, County Kildare. The report, which has been endorsed by the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation puts forward 50 recommendations that would boost the sector and create jobs.

Speaking at the launch at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co. Kildare, Deputy Morgan said he was delighted to have been able to present the report to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee and to have received endorsement for the range of measures outlined in it that he believes are necessary not only to secure the future of the sector, but to create badly needed jobs.

Deputy Morgan said:

“The creation of new employment opportunities using indigenous resources should be the main focus of this Government, including actions to develop new rural enterprises and promote the development of new products and processes.

“All in all, government strategy looks likely to try and cut its way out of economic recession. But where is the planning, where are the initiatives to get Ireland back to work, to stop the haemorrhaging of jobs and indigenous enterprises from rural areas, to promote rural regeneration and to revitalise the indigenous agri-food sector?

“We need to make the agri-food sector a real option for employment and job creation. The agri-food industry is indigenous in nature, has a regional focus and is international in orientation. The reality is that we need to grow our way out of recession and we need to prime the economy.

“This report is the product, not only of extensive background research, but of a broad consultation process with a wide range of people and groups involved in the agri-food sector.  The adoption of this report by the Committee is particularly important in the context of the current economic situation and the opportunities as well as the problems facing the agri-food sector. Indeed one of the key themes running through the questionnaire and submissions that formed the basis for this report and its recommendations is that there is a critical need to place more emphasis on the indigenous economy.”

The Louth TD also pointed out that although the report was extremely critical of Government policy and indeed the overall manner in which it has stunted the growth and viability of the sector, the report was adopted by all members of the committee, recognising the monumental challenges posed to the sector:

 “I am delighted that the committee adopted this report and recognised that there are substantial hurdles to overcome in terms of labelling, retailers and regulation.”

Deputy Morgan concluded:

“This report presents practical solutions to the crippling unemployment that faces this country. It is time Ireland embraced the natural resources bestowed upon us to realise our competitive advantages internationally and this agri-food report positions us to do that.”

Some of the main recommendations of the report:

  • The establishment of a regulatory impact analysis process for the agri-food sector that looks at the burdens being placed on enterprises by excessive regulation, with a view to creating efficiencies within the regulatory system
  • The need to press for the inclusion of a requirement to indicate the origin of primary ingredients in finished food products.
  • A set of guidelines, rooted in legislation, needs to be established so that terms like “Irish food” can only be used after specific criteria are satisfied.
  • The tariff nomenclature needs to be extended to distinguish agri-food products subject to “substantial transformation”.
  • Co-operation, partnerships and network formation among producers and other related and supporting groups should be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities in terms of enhanced knowledge and contacts, easier access to markets, reduced costs, increased bargaining power and greater competitive advantage.
  • Promote regional networking, partnerships and branding across the whole country.
  • A network/association of suppliers/producers should be set up to negotiate a fair trading regime on behalf of suppliers.
  • An export credit insurance state-supported scheme should be introduced by Government.
  • Development of a comprehensive programme for preferential assistance to micro-enterprises (those with those than less that 10 employees) and small enterprises (those with between 10 and 49 employees).
  • Government should deploy funding to set up and support central production hubs for SMEs involved in the agri-food sector, so that they have access to advice, support and most importantly infrastructure and equipment perhaps not available to early stage start-ups.

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