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Sheep Production.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ceisteanna (54, 55)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

45 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he is taking to support the sheep industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11806/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ceist:

50 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the supports that he plans putting in place to support the sheep sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11849/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 50 together.

The sheep sector is a valuable part of the overall agri-food sector and its future depends on its ability to meet the needs of the market. My Department already provides significant support to the sector through the Single Farm Payment, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and REPS. In addition this year Bord Bia will spend up to €1 million on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad, and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research.

Last year, I assigned €7 million from the 2009 Single Farm Payment National Reserve to 13,000 hill sheep farmers, under the Uplands Sheep Payment Scheme. I also took the needs of the sheep sector into account in deciding how to use unspent CAP funds for the next three years. Of the €25 million or so available annually from this year, I decided to allocate €18 million per year to sheep farmers, under a new Grassland Scheme. I will be announcing details of this Scheme shortly. Also, under the proposed amendments to the Rural Development Programme, Ireland 2007 -2013, an indicative figure of €8 million has been allocated for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities to assist sheep farmers in reducing labour input.

All of these supports complement the work being undertaken by my Department, its state agencies and the industry, on foot of the recommendations of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group — "the Malone Report". I believe this report provides a clear framework for progress. While the responsibility for implementing most of the group's recommendations fall on the industry itself, a number are within the remit of my Department and the state agencies under its aegis, who have made significant progress in implementing them.

‘Sheep Ireland' has been established to take over the Department's current breed improvement programme and develop a new one. An interim Sheep Board, comprising representatives of farming organisations and breeders will oversee this process, with the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) providing the technical and professional service required.

The Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme was established in 2007. This Scheme is operated by Bord Bia and now has approximately 7,500 participants.

Bord Bia has also intensified its efforts to promote lamb on the home and export markets. Together with its UK and French counterparts, it is part of a generic promotion campaign on the important French market.

Teagasc has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its sheep support services, including a Better Farm Programme for sheep, which aims to establish focal points for the on-farm implementation, development and evaluation of technology that is relevant to the sheep sector. This approach provides an opportunity to engage with sheep farmers on the use of the latest management practices and to identify research and development needs.

I am confident that every effort is being made to support this sector and that it will benefit considerably from all of these initiatives.

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