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'Rural Ireland to be One of the Main Drivers for the Economy for the Next Five Years' - Coveney

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has described the Government's Jobs Initiative as "just one instalment in a rolling agenda of job creation and economic stimulus that this Government will introduce".

Speaking on the new initiative, Minister Coveney said that "one of the main drivers for the economy in the next five years will come from rural Ireland, in particular through the hundreds of indigenous food companies across the country. Food exports grew last year by 11 per cent and were valued at almost €8 billion. The Government's target is to grow this figure to €12 billion by 2020, which means continuous growth between now and then".

The Minister said that "this Government's priority is job creation and putting structures around our economy that will allow jobs to be created in the private sector. Our plan for the food sector is another example of a jobs initiative that will be rolled out over time. We plan to increase the volume of food production in Ireland by one third by 2020 and we intend to add value to that food product by approximately 40 per cent by 2020. For counties such as Waterford, Wexford and Cork, this will probably involve doubling milk production so we can meet a national target of increasing milk production in volume terms by 50 per cent".

Referring to the agri-food and fisheries sector, Minister Coveney said "this is an exciting story to tell, whether it is the potential growth of aquaculture, fish processing in towns such as Killybegs or the traditional higher volume food sector in which Ireland is the best in the world at exploiting the potential in such areas as beef, dairy and lamb".

In terms of the Government's Jobs Initiative, the Minister said he was "unapologetic" about prioritising the tourism sector above others for preferential tax treatment, stating that "one of the easiest ways of getting stimulus into an economy is to bring people here to spend money." In that regard, Minister Coveney instanced the "cruise ships coming into Cork harbour, of which there will be 58 this year, with an average of 3,000 passengers per ship." He also said that the tourism strategy is "about building passenger numbers in a proactive way through Dublin, Cork, Shannon and other airports".

Minister Coveney concluded by saying that the Jobs Initiative was "being paid for by a very small levy on pension funds which have been very generously supported by tax breaks by previous Governments. Now we are recouping some of that money in order to reallocate it in a way that can inject some stimulus at an early stage in the lifetime of this Government. We will follow that by a series of constructive and positive measures that will keep the momentum going".

Date Released: 12 May 2011