Written Answers. - Sheepmeat Sector.

Billy Timmins

Question:

96 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the steps, if any, he is taking to assist the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5028/00]

The sheepmeat forum, which I set up in 1998, identified a wide range of issues across all areas of the sector and agreed a comprehensive series of recommendations which, if implemented, would enable the industry to prepare for the challenges ahead. At the end of last year, I set up a monitoring committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Frank Crosby of UCD, to ensure that the maximum progress would be made on implementation of these recommendations. The committee is representative of all sectors of the industry and has already had a number of meetings, including with a consultant who is carrying out the review of the EU sheepmeat regime on behalf of the European Commission, where it outlined the concerns of the sheepmeat sector in relation to that regime. The committee will examine at future meetings the practical steps that can be taken by my Department, Teagasc, Bord Bia and the industry to put into effect the forum recommendations and place the industry on a secure footing for its future development.

At EU level, I have, over several years, sought improvements to the sheepmeat regime. I met the French Minister for Agriculture recently to secure his support for a favourable reform of the EU sheepmeat regime. I am committed to continuing to seek adjustments to that regime to ensure that it better reflects the needs of the Irish sheep sector.