Thursday, 15 July 2021

Questions (74)

Mairéad Farrell

Question:

74. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a support package for sheep farmers on animal welfare grounds. [38162/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very conscious of the important role that the sheep sector plays in the continued growth and development of our agri-food sector, and its valuable contribution to the rural economy.

The strong performance of the sector in 2020 has continued into 2021. Reductions in production globally and increased demand are expected to support continued strong performance throughout 2021. The current average price is €6.17 per kg, which is 21% above the same period last year.

The Sheep Welfare Scheme was introduced in December 2016 as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme, having been agreed with the European Commission. In the four years of the scheme to date, €66.9 million has been paid to 18,268 farmers. The Sheep Welfare scheme has been extended in 2021 as part of the transition arrangements prior to the next CAP.

With regard to the new CAP, as you are aware, at the end of June there was general agreement on the CAP Reform proposals by Agriculture Ministers. However, we are still some months away from the final legal texts.

Meanwhile, the Department is working closely with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to provide indicative funding for co-financing of the rural development aspects of the CAP Strategic Plan (CSP). I expect to be in a position in the coming weeks to bring a Memo on the matter to Government, and then to launch a public consultation on the draft interventions proposed for the CSP.

I will also be engaging in extensive discussions with stakeholders throughout the summer to hear their views. I will continue to consult on the content of the plan with the key stakeholders, through the Stakeholder Consultative Committee. The Deputy should note that full details of the development of the CSP to date, including consultation documentation, is available on gov.ie.

As part of CSP preparations, officials have been examining options to build on the existing Sheep Welfare scheme. However, it is important to note that any such scheme must operate on the basis of specific actions to enhance animal health and welfare being carried out, with funding on the basis of costs incurred and income foregone, as is the case with the current scheme. Officials are also drafting an EcoScheme as provided for under Pillar One and it is likely that there will be a specific welfare aspect to this for any farmers, including sheep farmers, who choose to take up that option.

I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to supporting the sustainable development of the sheep sector.