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Coronavirus COVID-19

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working closely with the Department of Health and with other Departments, as part of a whole of Government response to Covid-19. This means that the Department is taking all the precautions necessary to protect its staff and its clients, consistent with HSE advice, but is remaining open for business, prioritising the delivery of essential services to farmers, fishermen and the food and forestry sectors. 

The Department has taken the necessary steps to ensure:

  • that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open
  • that the Department can operate as effectively as possible during the current pandemic.

Keeping food and other processing facilities operational, ensuring that payments and commercial activities that are necessary to protect farm incomes can continue and that fishermen can continue to land fish and place them on the market are among the critical priorities for the Department. In many instances these activities depend on the Department’s ability to carry out its regulatory and inspection functions.

In this regard, the Department is sensitive to the understandable concerns that all citizens will have at this time. It is ensuring that its staff operate in accordance with protocols that follow HSE advice. This advice will evolve, and the Department will ensure that it continues to observe best practice in all its activities.

The Department’s public offices will remain open for the present. However, The Department has a range of on-line facilities and can provide information to clients over the phone or by e mail. These services should be used where possible, and unnecessary visits to public offices should be avoided.

As always, farmers should remember to observe basic biosecurity protocols and safety rules when working on the farm.

The Department’s commitment extends to ensuring that the systems and infrastructure on which its sectors depend daily, are operating and functional, and that its laboratories are available for diagnostic services and regulatory functions.

The closing date for submission of Basic Payment Scheme applications remains 15 May. Any delay in inspections or change to the application date may lead to delays in payments later in the year and we are anxious to avoid this at all costs. The updating of the LPIS is a rolling process which is continuing. Farmers will be updated as we proceed.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., engaged by teleconference with the leaders of the farming organisations on 24 March,  to discuss contingency planning for the agri-food sector, as part of the whole of Government response to Covid-19 with positive engagement and a very strong commitment by all to encourage compliance with public health guidance from the Department of Health and the HSE.

Minister Creed and Department officials continue to engage with the leaders of the farming organisations and other stakeholders, to ensure that essential services such as payment processing, TB testing, animal welfare inspections, animal identification and passport issuing, BVD testing, controls at livestock marts and animal export certification can continue to enable the business of farming to operate.

The Minister assured the farm leaders that the Department and its agencies would be working hard to keep services to farmers and the agri-food sector as a whole going in this difficult time. Against this background it is critically important that the regulatory and administrative services necessary to protect processing and production are maintained.  It is acknowledged that the temporary closure of livestock marts is an unfortunate but necessary measure, and the Department will work with stakeholders on contingency measures, to ensure that, as far as possible, livestock sales are facilitated.

In relation to necessary on-farm inspections, the Minister explained that Department officials are operating under a revised protocol to ensure compliance with the latest HSE guidelines, and for the duration of this national emergency will engage with the farmer by phone before any inspection takes place.  

The critical role that farm bodies fulfil in their communities was acknowledged, and the Minister stressed the need to be particularly vigilant in relation to farm safety, at a time when more children are on farm than is typical for this time of year.

This meeting followed a series of engagements with stakeholders across the sector.  Minister Creed and Minister of State Andrew Doyle, and their Department, will continue that very close engagement as the situation evolves.

Senior officials are in constant contact with the relevant stakeholders.

There is no reason for consumers to be concerned about continuity of supply of Irish food and drinks.  Senior Department officials met Food Drink Ireland on the 11th March, to discuss contingency planning for the food processing sector.  Food processors, along with all other businesses and employers, are implementing business continuity plans to deal with possible disruption. There are no food safety implications arising from Covid-19, and there is no evidence that the virus can be spread through food products.

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D.  and the Minister of State in that Department, Andrew Doyle, have also held meetings with key stakeholders and Agencies across the agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors this week as part of the implementation of the Government’s Action Plan on Covid-19. The meetings focussed specifically on maintenance of key supply chains across all sectors.

Senior officials are in constant contact with the relevant stakeholders.

On 19 March, Minister Creed chaired teleconferences with dairy and meat industry CEOS and representative organisations to discuss contingency planning and priorities.

Participants were briefed on the ‘whole of Government’ response to Covid-19 and more specifically on the measures put in place by DAFM to try to ensure the continuity of vital services to the sector. Challenges faced by Industry in the short and longer terms were discussed and the existing strong co-operation both within the sectors and with DAFM was stressed. All parties committed to continuing to work together to protect the essential food supply chain.

Minister Michael Creed thanked the sectors for their constructive approach to the challenges faced and said, “My Department and agencies are implementing business continuity plans to provide the essential services necessary so that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open”.

Senior officials are in constant contact with the relevant stakeholders.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, chaired a special meeting of the Food Wise High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC) on Wednesday 18 March, to discuss the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for the agri-food sector.  Participants in the tele-conference included senior leadership from  the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Enterprise Ireland; Teagasc; Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM); and Bord Bia.

The Committee discussed the whole of Government response to Covid-19; the continuity of vital services to the sector; and the potential long term impacts for the sector.

Minister Michael Creed stated, “Faced with this global public health crisis, it has become clear how important our food production system is to our everyday lives and our wellbeing. Food production and the proper functioning of the food supply chain is essential through this difficult period.

The work that our farmers, our fishers and those who work in processing, retail and distribution continue to do is particularly important at this critical time. Of course, the work they do is made possible by staff in my Department and its agencies, who dedicate themselves to ensuring our food is safe and of the highest quality. My Department and agencies are implementing business continuity plans to provide the essential services necessary so that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open.”

Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia CEO, said, “Bord Bia, as part of a whole of Government response to Covid-19, is maintaining essential services both in Ireland and across our 14 international offices during this time, while following Department of Health and HSE advice in order to protect staff and clients.

With regard to the auditing of Quality Assurance Schemes, we have made the decision to postpone audits for two months, and to extend the validity of current certificates where applicable for an initial period of 60 days. Such an extension scenario is already provided for within the standard. This decision prioritises the health and welfare of farmers and auditors, while ensuring that the reputation and integrity of the Quality Assurance Schemes are maintained.

Our international Bord Bia teams continue to collect local market insights and data, charting customer demand and consumer consumption patterns in real time, as well as tracking logistics and supply chain patterns, so that we can provide Irish food, drink and horticulture producers with the best information and guidance in the coming days and weeks.”

Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, stated “All Teagasc advisory offices will remain open but farmers are invited to conduct as much business as possible by telephone.  Office and farm visits, where absolutely necessary, will be facilitated through appointment and appropriate protocols are in place to ensure the safety of our clients and staff”.

Jim O’Toole, BIM CEO, said, “Everyone in BIM is fully deployed, working with the seafood sector at all levels and with the Department, to assist in dealing with the unprecedented circumstances that we are facing so that the necessary supports can be put in place to sustain the sector”.

Minister Creed also held tele-conferences on 18 March with the heads of agri-lending in the main banks regarding the liquidity and financing needs of farmers and agri-food businesses and will liaise with his colleague Minister Donohoe in this regard. “I have stressed the need for the banks to support and work with their customers through the challenging period ahead. It is equally important that farmers and food businesses should engage with their bank in order to flag any emerging cashflow problems”.

Minister Doyle held a conference call with the Forestry Industry Ireland Council which comprises the CEOs of the main forestry companies. The discussion focussed primarily on licencing for the sector and the important role which the sector can play in maintaining employment in the rural economy at the moment. There was also engagement with Coillte on the role which their forest parks can play as a valuable recreation resource for people in the current circumstances. Commenting the Minister said “It was a good constructive engagement with the sector and they have an essential role to play in supply chains and in maintaining our rural economy at the current time.  They also bring a very valuable resource in the current circumstances which is our national forest parks.  I would encourage people and families, subject to public health notices, to take advantage of these sites and get out and about for much needed recreation at this difficult time”.

 Minister Creed and Minister of State Andrew Doyle, along with Department officials, will continue to engage with stakeholders on a sector by sector basis in the coming days.

Minister Creed has also met representatives from the seafood sector to discuss and understand the situation on the ground and to consider possible measures that would allow fishing to continue so that this important source of food would contribute to keeping food on the tables of our citizens, keeping those working in the sector in their jobs and sustaining, where possible, economic activity within the sector. The measures examined included finding additional means to bring Irish whitefish to the Irish market and the potential to use temporary storage of fish.

Minister Creed wrote to Commissioner Sinkevičius on 16 March seeking changes in EU regulation that would support the sector during this crisis. The EU Commission has been considering this.   Minister Creed held a tele-conference with Commissioner Sinkevičius on 24 March outlining the difficulties experienced by the Irish fishing industry and the need for EU support. He also reiterated the importance of maintaining EU food supply chains at all times.

In the longer term, there may be significant economic impacts for Irish business, including the agri-food sector, arising from reduced demand in key markets around the world. A range of supports for businesses have already been announced by the Government and is available at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/ , including the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme, which is co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This loan scheme will make working capital available to impacted SMEs, including food businesses. Farmers and fishermen, along with other workers who are required to self-isolate, or are diagnosed with Covid-19, will be eligible for social welfare support. See: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/973806-covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-employers-and-employees/

On 25 March at the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers, which took place by video conference, Minister Creed urged the Commission to be ready to introduce a range of measures, as required, including:

  • the full range of market support measures provided for in the Common Market Organisation Regulation (Regulation 1308 of 2013), including specific sectoral supports and exceptional measures;
  • flexibility for Member States in the implementation of some CAP measures, for example in relation to on-the-spot controls, advance payments and the application of force majeure, or exceptional circumstances, provisions; and
  • for the fisheries sector, the making of the necessary legal changes to allow the introduction of Storage Aid without previous quantity restrictions, as well as the provision of additional financial support for the temporary cessation of fishing activity. He also sought flexibility for Member States to fast track delivery of these financial supports.

 

In the longer term, there may be significant economic impacts for Irish business, including the agri-food sector, arising from reduced demand in key markets around the world. A range of supports for businesses have already been announced by the Government and is available at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/, including the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme, which is co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This loan scheme will make working capital available to impacted SMEs, including food businesses.

Farmers and fishermen, along with other workers who are required to self-isolate, or are diagnosed with Covid-19, will be eligible for social welfare support.

See: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/973806-covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-employers-and-employees

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will continue to monitor the situation and is following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and the HSE in relation to COVID-19. We would remind stakeholders that they should continue to follow the advice being given by the HSE. In particular: wash your hands regularly; cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you cough and sneeze; keep a social distance etc. Please keep up-to-date with the HSE website

https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html for further information.

The Department’s public offices will remain open for the present. However, The Department has a range of on-line facilities and can provide information to clients over the phone or by e mail. These services should be used where possible, and unnecessary visits to public offices should be avoided.

Office

Section Name

Email

Phone

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Calf Investment

cis@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 67

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - Approvals - Afforestation & Forest Road Licences

forestryappenq@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 65

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - Felling Section

forestservice@agriculture.gov.iexxxxx

0761 06 44 65

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - First Grant & First Premium

1stGrant@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 37

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - General Information

forestryinfo@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 65

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - Second Instalment Grants

ForestService2ndGrant@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 37

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Forestry - Subsequent Premiums

Forestservicepremiums@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 37

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

GLAS

glas@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 51

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

GLAS Advisor

GlasAdvisor@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 51

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

GLAS Appeals

GlasAppeals@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 51

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

GLAS Commonages

GlasCommonages@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 51

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Import Licensing

licences@agriculture.gov.ie

053 91 63400

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

Organics

Organic@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 51

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

TAMS

tams@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 67

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

TAMS Business IDs

Tamsrole@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 67

Johnstown Castle, Wexford

TAMS Contractors

tamscontractors@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 67

Portlaoise

Beef Schemes

Beefschemes@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 23

Portlaoise

Direct Payments

N/A

0761 06 44 20

Portlaoise

Inheritance Enquiry Unit

Inheritance@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 28

Portlaoise

Knowledge Transfer

ktinformation@agriculture.gov.ie

0761 06 44 57

 

For more information, here are some helpful links:

Q&A Regarding COVID-19 for Animal Owners

World Health Organisation (WHO):

Health Service Executive (HSE):

Health Protection Surveillance Centre:

Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine statement 13/03/20

Taoiseach's National Address 17/03/20:

Department PR on Meeting with Stakeholders from Fishing Industry

Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine Covid-19 Contingencies