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Sheep Production.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 29 April 2010

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Ceisteanna (59, 60, 61, 62)

Ceist:

53 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the basis on which payments under the recently announced grassland sheep scheme will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16773/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

56 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his Department will be making payments under the recently announced grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16771/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ceist:

66 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when is the closing date for applications to be made for the new grassland sheep scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16774/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

80 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. [16772/10]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 56, 66 and 80 together.

As further evidence of my commitment to support the sheep sector, I recently announced the introduction of the Grassland Sheep Scheme. This is a three-year Scheme, with a total budget of €54 million. This funding, which comes from unused Single Payment funds, will provide a very important and timely boost to support incomes in the sheep sector over the next three years. I have deliberately kept the Scheme administratively simple, which will facilitate my Department making payments very shortly after the commencement date of 1 December 2010 (the commencement date for making payments under this Scheme in accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU Regulations). Farmers will find participating in the Scheme relatively easy, with three requirements, namely to:

maintain ewes;

complete the Sheep Census return; and

submit the SPS application form by the closing date of 17th May 2010.

The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2010 Scheme will be based on the numbers as declared in the 2009 Sheep Census. The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2009 and 2010 Sheep Census and the numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2010 and 2011 Sheep Census.

Applicants must maintain sheep on an ongoing basis to retain eligibility for the 2011 and 2012 Schemes, i.e. he or she has to have sheep to declare in their 2011 and 2012 Sheep Census Sheep Returns. Applicants must also submit an SPS application each year to be eligible for the Scheme. The rate payable per hectare will be based on the number of 2010 SPS eligible hectares declared or area deemed eligible for payment, whichever is the lower, using two stocking densities as follows:

2.5 ewes per hectare for Mountain Type Grazing Land (as defined under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme);

7 ewes per hectare for all other lands (including Most Severely, Less Severely Disadvantaged Area and non-Disadvantaged Areas).

The maximum area payable per Scheme-year is 84 hectares in respect of Mountain Type Grazing and 30 hectares for all other lands. The indicative rates of aid are as follows:

Mountain Areas (0 to 20 hectares) : €30 per hectare

Mountain Areas (20 to 84 hectares): €25 per hectare

Lowland Areas: €70 per hectare.

The maximum Mountain Area payment is €100 higher than for Lowland Areas in recognition of the difficulties facing hill sheep farming.

The Scheme will maintain production as the supply of lambs is a key and fundamental element underpinning the sheep and lamb processing industry. This is a hugely valuable export-oriented part of the Irish agri-food sector, supplying a high-value product to consumer markets throughout Europe. The industry is worth around €250 million annually to the Irish economy with two-thirds of the product destined for export.

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