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Agriculture; Food and the Marine | Pig sector supports

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which the pig meat sector is adequately supported in a highly-competitive environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have provided significant support to the pig sector this year as all pig producers have had to deal with enormous pressures in recent months.
As the Deputy will be aware, on the 23rd March 2022, the EU Commission announced the provision of exceptional adjustment aid to producers in agricultural sectors which have been impacted by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The exceptional aid allocation to Ireland was €15.8 million in EU funding and there are detailed requirements and conditionality attached to this allocation set out in Commission Delegated Regulation 2022/467 of 23rd March 2022.
The Government approved my proposal to allocate €13 million of this EU funding to support to the  pig sector and the EU Commission was notified to this effect.
A total fund of €13 million was made available for the Pig Exceptional Payment Scheme 2 (PEPS2), a voluntary scheme for pig farmers, to support the viability of this important sector.  The scheme opened for applications on 13th June 2022 and closed for applications on 11th July 2022. This scheme provided for a payment of up to €100,000 per farmer. All eligible applicants have now been paid.
The PEP2 scheme was in addition to the Pig Exceptional Payment Scheme which I announced in February, funded by the Exchequer and notified under the agriculture de minimis state aid provisions, to support commercial pig farmers. This scheme provided for a payment of up to €20,000 per farmer. All payments have now been processed under that scheme.

In addition to the two support packages detailed above, I have had ongoing discussions with the main banks to discuss the current challenges in the pigmeat sector and the importance of their ongoing support through the current downturn in the business cycle.  The key message to farmers experiencing cashflow difficulties is to engage with the banks as soon as possible to discuss options and  the banks remain committed to supporting their customers in the period ahead.  I have also met with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to discuss the finance schemes financed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.  These finance schemes can be used for working capital finance and include features which address the current financial needs of pig farmers and provides additional valuable support.
Teagasc has also intensified its dedicated, ongoing advisory supports being provided to pig farmers and is actively engaging with pig farmers to explore the options available to them.
My Department continues to monitor the market situation closely and engage at EU level to ensure a joined-up EU approach to the challenges arising from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
In terms of ongoing stakeholder engagement my colleague, Minister of State Heydon, chairs quarterly meetings of the Pig Roundtable.  Including representatives from the farming and processing sectors, Teagasc, Bord Bia, and Department officials, the Roundtable’s overarching objective is to serve as a vehicle for constructive discussion in driving forward the development of the sector as well as taking a high level approach to guiding the actions for the sector set out in Food Vision 2030.  
Both Minister Heydon and I want to ensure the long term viability of the sector given its huge importance.

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