Agriculture-related costs, in the form of funding to support various sectors impacted by Covid-19, have amounted to more than €61 million.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, recently outlined the various costs and payments made through his department since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, in a written response to a parliamentary question from deputy Peter Fitzpatrick.

Covid-19 impact on beef sector

The bulk of funding support was paid out at the end of 2020 to more than 15,000 farmers under the Beef Finisher Scheme, which came to €46.6 million.

This was a once-off, exchequer-funded, grant-aid scheme under the Covid-19 State Aid Temporary Framework, Minister McConalogue explained.

Seafood supports

The seafood sector received support in the form of two schemes aided by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

“The first of these, the EMFF Covid-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme, assisted in maintaining viable aquaculture enterprises that suffered an economic shock in 2020 arising from a significant reduction in production or sales as a consequence of the pandemic,” said Minister McConalogue.

A total of 152 successful applicants received funding totaling €1,234,976 to date. But as this scheme was co-funded with the EU at a rate of 50%, the Irish government contribution was €617,488, he explained.

The second scheme, the Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme aimed to reduce the input of fish to a “severely depressed” market due to the pandemic.

The scheme also helped to keep adequate vessels fishing to maintain a food supply, and to contribute to the fixed costs incurred by fishing vessels while tied-up.

A total of 92 successful applicants received funding of €194,100.

Covid-19 loan schemes

More than €11 million was incurred by small and medium-sized companies, and those with up to 500 employees under various loan schemes, within the sector.

“A total of €11,704,960 has been incurred on the SBCI Working Capital Scheme comprising the Brexit Loan Scheme and the Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme […] to provide funding support to eligible Irish businesses in the current period of economic disruption,” said the minister.

Construction works

Four payments were made, ex-gratia, to the tune of €855,565, for capital/construction works at fishery harbour centres that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) owns, operates and maintains (of which there are six).

Teagasc students

The DAFM also provided funding of €150,470 to students in Teagasc, Minister McConalogue explained:

“This was to provide support similar to the funding provided to other students in third level institutions by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.”

Other Covid-19 costs included:

  • DAFM laboratories in Backweston incurred expenditure of €152,000 on laboratory consumables and PPE for facilities and related activities specific to Covid-19 work;  
  • The DAFM implemented various workplace controls to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Where available, the DAFM availed of Office of Government Procurement (OGP) contracts in the procurement of Covid-19 related supplies and services. Total expenditure on these measures amounted to €434,478.