Wednesday, 8 May 2013
I congratulate the Minister on his swift action. He was present with me when the first load of fodder came into the country. We discussed the matter at length. It was the Minister’s idea to pay for the transport. He was completely on top of his game. The arrival of the first load was a glad day for many farmers but it was also a very sad and poignant day. It is sad that Ireland, which aspires to reach a target of feeding 50 million people, had to import fodder for cattle in an emergency.
We have stocking rate and slurry storage requirements but we probably need to consider our fodder storage requirement. What occurred cannot be allowed to happen again. It displays the need for the tillage sector, which provides the indigenous fodder that reduces our exposure to imports. I have been conscious of this for a long time.
Let me remind the House of a few figures while tempering my remarks a little. I remind the House of the 1 million tonnes of sugar beet and 200,000 tonnes of sugar that Fianna Fáil threw away. While the party supports the reintroduction of sugar beet farming, it must realise it got rid of it. The fodder crisis displays the stark loss of the sugar industry. We lost 30,000 tonnes of beet pulp nuts. We lost wet pulp, pressed pulp and the tops and tails that went to the west. The Fianna Fáil Members should ask any of their constituents about this. I am tired of telling people that the fodder that was given out by the sugar industry was vital to our economy. Nobody knew that the crisis would happen so dramatically until now. I hope the great injustice represented by the closure of the sugar industry will be addressed next year. The Minister has done fabulous work in coming to an agreement which, I hope, will result in the reintroduction of the sugar quotas in 2017. This point cannot be ignored. It is timely for Fianna Fáil to make an apology for closing the sugar industry. It would be very welcome because the closure caused considerable financial distress, hardship and worry among the many beet farmers across the country.
I commend Dairygold, especially Jim Woulfe and Gerry O’Sullivan, on its tireless work in bringing in load upon load of hay, amounting to almost 400 loads thus far. The company worked closely with the Minister. The investment made was the best €1 million spent by this country in a long time.