Department of Agriculture appoints new chief economist

Following a recruitment campaign carried out by the Public Appointments Service, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has appointed Sean Bell to the role of chief economist.

According to a department spokesperson, the chief economist is responsible for leading a multi-disciplinary team focused on economics, statistics and strategic policy planning to support Government policies for the agri-food sector.

This team must also contribute effectively to cross-Government policy and international agricultural policy and development co-operation, the spokesperson added.

Department ready to up fodder support budget

In other department news, the budget for the Fodder Import Support Measure will be increased if necessary, the Minister of Agriculture, Michael Creed, confirmed yesterday.

While addressing a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine – which met this afternoon to discuss the fodder crisis – the minister explained that the original €1.5 million budget announced was just a “guesstimate”.

He added that €1 million was originally allocated to the 2013 fodder import scheme – which was demand-led. This budget ended up stretching to approximately €2.6 million by the time the issue was resolved, he said.

Commenting on the initial allocation for this year, Minister Creed said: “This is an initial guesstimate of what it would take to get us out of this situation; but, it is obviously demand-led. Until we are out of it, the department will stick with it.

The €1.5 million is what we estimated would be required to cover 20,000t at rates commensurate to what was broadly supported in 2013 per tonne.

“We have always said from the offset that if the crisis continues further, the level of support would continue beyond the €1.5 million.

“But, it is our estimate that – weather permitting – the end of April should see us out of this,” he added.