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Sheep Production.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Questions (20)

Bobby Aylward


20 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funding that is allocated to the new grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11847/10]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

While the major farming enterprises in Ireland — dairying, beef, and cereals have been under pressure over the last two years, the sheep sector has been in decline over a longer period that those other sectors. With the introduction of the Single Farm Payment and full decoupling, the sheep sector has seen a significant decline in recent years by way of reduced sheep numbers and flocks. Consequently, there have been reductions in slaughterings and exports. In view of the continuing decline, it was decided that some form of income support measures should be introduced to assist sheep farmers and underpin an important economic activity.

Mindful of the particular difficulties being experienced by the Irish sheep sector, late last year I decided on a two-fold approach to address the situation. In the first instance, I decided to allocate approximately €7 million from the Single Payment National Reserve to 14,000 sheep farmers, the only funds to which I had access in 2009. Subject to a maximum payable area of 15 hectares, this Aid was payable to farmers who declared their sheep under the 2007 and 2008 Sheep Census, declared Mountain Type Grazing under the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and who were eligible for, and were in receipt of payment under, the 2009 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Payments began in December 2009 and, to date, payments worth almost €4.8 million have issued to 13,500 farmers.

Secondly, I decided to use €18 million of the €25 million in additional unused SPS funding, for each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, to which Ireland gained access following the agreement reached under the CAP Health Check, on a Grassland Scheme to support incomes in the sheep sector. The finer details of this €54 million scheme are currently being finalised and I expect shortly to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard.