The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in Ireland says it is working closely with the Department of Health and with other Departments, as part of a whole of Government response to coronavirus.
"The Department will also be implementing its own business continuity plan to maintain essential services, the department said.
"This means that the Department is taking all of 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 is taking 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 will ensure 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 of its activities.
"Subject to this advice, the Department is committed to ensuring animal related matters 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.
"Similarly, in respect of agri businesses which depend on Departmental supervision, inspection, control and certification to operate, the department is committed to providing the necessary services, for example in meat and milk plants, marts, breeding establishments, feed manufacturers and suppliers, egg suppliers, suppliers of animal medicines and other agri products and in our fisheries harbours.
"The Department’s commitment extends to ensuring that the systems and infrastructure on which its sectors depend on a daily basis, are operating and functional, and that its laboratories are available for diagnostic services and regulatory functions.
"The Basic Payment Scheme application date will not be changed.
"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 will go ahead.
"Farmers will be updated as we proceed.
"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 Wednesday (11 March 2020) 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.
"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 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.
"The Minister has written to Commissioner Wojciechowski, following the announcement from President von der Leyen of a very significant economic package to respond to the crisis, seeking to ensure that the full range of market supports available under the Common Market Organisation Regulation are available for deployment in response to any emerging market disturbance.
"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/." ■