Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Apr 1989

Vol. 389 No. 2

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Ewe Premium Payments.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the total value of the ewe premium payable to Ireland in each of the years (i) 1985 (ii) 1986 (iii) 1987 and (iv) 1988; and the number of producers in each year.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the European Commission has agreed to accept revised statistics for the number of ewes eligible for premium in this country; the way in which this affects the total payments to Ireland; the estimated value of the total ewe premium payments to Ireland in 1989; and the way in which the rate of premium payable in Ireland compares with that in other member states.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 36 together.

The ewe premium payable in Ireland for each of the years 1985 to 1988 is as follows: 1985, IR£42.39 million to 38,300 producers; 1986, IR£55.96 million to 39,700 producers; 1987, IR£63.89 million to 43,200 producers; 1988, IR£64.38 million to 47,000 producers.

I welcome these increases which have given a significant boost to sheep farmers' incomes and have also been of major benefit to our processing industry.

The revised statistics for ewe numbers in Ireland have been approved by the EC Statistics Bureau — Eurostat — and have been accepted at my request by the Commission of the European Community.

It is expected that total payments under the ewe premium scheme in 1989 in Ireland will amount to some IR£65 million.

The amount of ewe premium fixed for Ireland for 1988 and payable this year is 20.966 ECUs or IR£17.40 per ewe which is the highest rate of ewe premium in the Community.

Deputy Hyland.

A Cheann Comhairle——

I must call the Deputy who tabled the question.

The Minister's reply indicated the success of the Department's sheep development programme. Would the Minister not agree that apart from dairying the only other viable enterprise for small farmers is sheep production? Given the increasing numbers of sheep, which generally results in the depressing of prices in the market, can the Minister tell us if there are any steps his Department can take to protect the sheep industry with a view to protecting the incomes of small farmers? I ask this question because of the continuing importation of New Zealand lamb into the Community.

The Deputy will be aware from the figures I have given that the sheep industry is in a vigorous and vibrant state, which is very different from the position of a few years ago. Secondly, the level of income for sheep farmers is much better than it has ever been. Let me also assure the Deputy that I will continue to take whatever action I can in respect of ewe premium and headage payments in disadvantaged areas and elsewhere. In relation to the importation of New Zealand lamb, I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to adopt a strong and vigorous position, with some of my colleagues on the Council of Ministers, in resisting the applications which have been made. We have been successful so far, but in the final analysis these are matters for international negotiation. I am confident that the Deputy's concerns will be fully met.

I thank the Minister for giving a very comprehensive reply to my question. I have long felt that we are doing very nicely in this very important sector vis-à-vis other member states which is of vital importance to my own constituency of Wicklow, and it is great to get confirmation of this now. If I am in order I would like to ask the Minister if he has the projected figures for the next couple of years and if we will continue to move in that progressive direction in that sector?

I am very happy to give the Deputy that assurance. The present indications are that the graph will continue upwards. Such has been our success I had to seek special permission from the Commission to revise the basis on which sheep numbers in Ireland are calculated. They agreed to do this. I hope I will have to go back to them next year and the following year to ask for a further revision upwards.

Is the Minister aware of the number of people who have failed to qualify for ewe premium payments as a result of their not having enough sheep on the farm on the arrival of the Department's inspector? Many people view this as a very stupid rule. Many farmers, particularly smaller farmers, do not qualify for a grant even though they may be only one or two short of the required number. Has the Minister any proposal to change the regulation?

We are fortunate enough to have the European Community pay 100 per cent, not 70 per cent or 75 per cent, of the cost of ewe premium grants and because of this it is they who lay down the conditions for the payment of the premium. They insist that the number of sheep as stated on the application must be exactly the same as the number of sheep on the farm on the date of inspection. There would have to be exceptional circumstances before they would be prepared to depart from this condition. Obviously if there are exceptional circumstances we would be glad to examine the case but it is in the interests of the owners themselves to ensure that they adhere to the regulations as set down by the European Community.

Would the Minister consider extending the deadline of 16 March for the receipt of applications because the St. Patrick's Day and Easter bank holidays——

I have done it before and I will consider it again.

I am anxious to dispose of Deputy Kenny's question. He has been waiting for some time now.