Chinese factory inspection fast-track welcomed
It is hoped that Irish exports to China could double if more meat plants get approval.

The head of Meat Industry Ireland (MII), Cormac Healy, has welcomed the news that the Chinese authorities will fast-track the inspection process for Irish beef and sheep plants.

“We acknowledge the efforts of the Minister and DAFM officials on China access and stress that meat processing companies have invested significant time and resources to achieve greater access for Irish meat to China,” Healy said.

August inspection

However, he added that the August inspection date could add delays to exports.

“It would have been preferable had they granted pre-registration/approval immediately,” he said. “The delay in getting additional processing plants approved limits the ability of the sector to grow exports of Irish beef to China and also to take advantage of current meat protein shortages in that market.”

Sheepmeat

The head of MII also said that the inclusion of the inspection process to cover sheepmeat processing plants was very welcome. Currently there are seven Irish beef plants approved for export of frozen beef to China, as well as five pigmeat plants.

A further 12 factories applied for export approval in November 2018, but are still waiting.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that he hopes if additional plants are approved that Irish meat exports to China could double.

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Weekly weather: Unsettled conditions to give way to warmer spell
There will be unsettled weather early in the week with cooler and fresher conditions. However, there are tentative signs for warmer weather later in the week.

Monday

Today, Monday, will be cool, breezy and showery. Met Éireann are predicting showers to become widespread through the late morning and continue through the day. Temperatures will reach 14°C to 17°C and the higher temperatures will be in the southeast of the country.

Monday night will be cool with a few passing showers still around and overnight lows of 4°Cto 7°C.

Tuesday

Many areas will stay fully dry with some good sunny spells and just isolated showers on Tuesday. The southwest will be affected by the odd heavy shower. Feeling fresh across the northern half of the country in moderate northerly breezes. Afternoon highs of 11°C to 15°C.

Tuesday night will be chilly with overnight lows of 3°C to 6°C. Under clear and calm conditions some grass frost may set in.

Wednesday

It will start out largely dry on Wednesday with light southwest breezes and good sunshine across the eastern half of the country. However, it will soon cloud over with patchy outbreaks of drizzle moving in off the Atlantic and more general falls of rain later in the afternoon. There will be some prolonged or heavy falls across the north and west later in the evening. Highest temperatures of 13°C to 16°C.

Wednesday night is forecast to be cloudy with further outbreaks of rain. Lows of 6°C to 12°C.

Thursday

Thursday will see scattered falls of rain through the day, heaviest across the west to begin and later across the northern half of the country, where it may turn persistent. Highest temperatures will range 13°C to 19°C, mildest, driest and brightest across southeast Munster and south Leinster.

Friday

Early indications are that Friday will see a few well scattered showers, but overall dry with sunny spells and moderate southwest breezes. Feeling very mild or even warm with highs of 16°C to 21°C.

Farming forecast

Rain

Over the past seven days rainfall amounts were well below average across the country. For the most parts amounts were below 20% of average. However, across the north rainfall totals came in higher with 30% to 70% of the usual rainfall recorded here.

With an Atlantic regime dominating the next seven days, rainfall amounts are expected to be above average in most places, with parts of the northwest expecting around 30mm. Amounts will be below average along southern and eastern coasts.

Temperatures

Mean temperatures have ranged close to the seasonal norm over the last week with just the northern coast a little below average. This equates to a mean temperature of between 10°C and 12°C degrees.

From Sunday, temperatures will dip below average for the first half of the week but warmer weather is indicated for later in the week.

Sunshine

For the past week, sunshine amounts were above near or just above average in Munster, ranging from 100% to 120%. It was also sunnier than normal in the north of Ulster. However, it was duller than normal in most other areas, especially across north Leinster with just 50% to 60% of the usual sunshine here.

Drying and Spraying Conditions

Drying conditions will vary over the coming week and will be poor at times. Spraying opportunities will be moderate or limited with mixed conditions.

Field Conditions

Soil moisture deficits are above 40mm to 55mm over parts of Munster and Connaught. Elsewhere soil moisture deficits are around 30mm to 35mm. Over the next week, they will decrease somewhat as the weather becomes more changeable.

Taoiseach ‘cannot rule out’ general election
Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin have both addressed the issue of a general election as counting in the local and European elections continues.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when questioned by RTÉ on Sunday evening, said he could not rule out a general election, but he would not be seeking to dissolve the Dáil in the next few days or weeks.

He cited the need to have a stable government in light of Brexit, which he said would continue for a long time, as well as the autumn budget and potentially by-elections at the same time.

While the Taoiseach said that “others could pull the plug on the Government”, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin indicated that his party would continued with the current confidence and supply agreement.

He said it was prepared to “work constructively in terms of framing a Budget because of the prospect of a no-deal Brexit".

Local elections

By midnight on Sunday, some 820 of the 949 seats have been filled nationwide, with Fianna Fáil taking 26.9% of first preference votes and Fine Gael taking 25.2%.

Independent candidates claimed 19.6% of first preference votes, while Sinn Fein took 9.5%, Labour took 5.8% and the Green Party took 5.6%.

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Waterford start-up VirtualVet helping farmers to track animal drug usage
Waterford firm VirtualVet is an international company that tracks drug usage in animals associated with the human food chain.

VirtualVet is one of the agricultural finalists at this year’s National Enterprise Awards, which is taking place on 29 May.

The Waterford start-up formed three years ago and now has five members of staff.

VirtualVet tracks and works to change drug usage in the food chain.

VirtualVet serves three markets:

  • Farmers who must record usage under compliance.
  • Agri-food and animal health industries.
  • Governments monitoring drug usage in the food chain.
  • Services provided

    Speaking with co-founder and managing director of VirtualVet Sinead Quealy, we learned how the company works and gathers the useful drug-usage data.

    “We provide a free service to farmers gathering information on a farm level about their drug usage on animals, which benefits them, as it covers their compliance,” Sinead said.

    “VirtualVet then gets paid for this data by other companies interested in analysing drug usage in the food chain, such as ABP.

    "Pharmaceutical companies also have recently begun requesting this data.”

    “At the moment, 100% of our work is focused on the agriculture sector, but there is potential for movement into drug usage in humans and harnessing the useful data.”

    Assessments

    On reaching the National Enterprise Awards final, Sinead said: “By arriving to this point in the competition, we have gotten the chance to make assessments of the company that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.

    "By preparing ourselves for judging and presentation to the external public, we have been able to make significant improvements to the company.”

    VirtualVet was the winners of this year’s Waterford Local Enterprise Awards and is hoping for success on the national stage this year.

    Awards

    The National Enterprise Awards celebrate small businesses from across the country, focusing on start-ups, innovation and exports, with the finals taking place on 29 May at the Mansion House, Dublin.

    There is over €40,000 in prizes to be won, with the overall winner taking home €10,000.

    Terra NutriTech was last year’s winners, an ag-tech company that specialises in precision liquid supplementation for livestock.

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