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Oireachtas Committee launches report on Agri-Food Sector by Arthur Morgan

28 September, 2010

Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan, as part of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, launched a report in Leinster House today on what is required to expand employment in the agri-food sector.

Deputy Morgan was the rapporteur for the report launched today by the Committee and which contains 51 recommendations that would boost the sector and create jobs.

Speaking at the launch in Leinster House, 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.

“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.

“Given the regional spread of the agri-food sector, it plays a significant role in the spatial distribution of development and employment across the country. Unlike other sectors of the economy, the agri-food sector is multi-faceted with growers, producers and farmers at farm level complemented by primary processing and added-value ancillary services and industries.

“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 critical need to place more emphasis on the indigenous economy.

“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.” ENDS

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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