Written Answers. - Extensification Premium.

Austin Deasy

Ceist:

211 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he will give the maximum fixed premium allowable under EU regulations for lowland ewes; when he will make a decision on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27423/01]

Seamus Healy

Ceist:

237 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the discussions or consultations he has had with his fellow EU Ministers in pursuance of the IFA national sheep committee campaign for a £25 ewe premium. [27846/01]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

239 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the discussions he has had with his EU counterparts to support the case for an enhanced fixed ewe premium for farmers; if he will name the colleagues with whom he has spoken, the dates and location of these discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27898/01]

I propose taking Questions Nos. 211, 237 and 239 together.

Throughout the discussions on the reform of the sheep meat regime, I have sought support for the fixed premium to be set at a level, which ensures a reasonable income for Irish sheep producers and bears some relationship with the premium payable in other sectors. I have also raised the question of the introduction of an extensification premium for sheep producers. My aim is to ensure that the best possible support regime is put in place for Irish sheep producers.

During 2001, I have also sought to convince Commissioner Fischler and my colleagues in the Council of the validity of Ireland's case both at meetings of the Agriculture Council and in the internal discussions with other ministers. In this context, I have discussed the reform of the sheep meat regime with the Swedish, Spanish, Belgian and UK ministers for agriculture. The dates and locations of these meetings were as follows. I met the Swedish Minister, Mr. Winberg, on 15 January 2001 in Dublin. I met the Spanish Minister, Mr. Arias Canete, on 6 February 2001 in Dublin. I met the Belgian Minister, Mr. Gabriels, on 26 June 2001 in Dublin. I met the British Minister, Margaret Beckett, on 18 October 2001 in London.

My officials have also had ongoing discussions on the issue with their EU counterparts.