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Minister Coughlan welcomes Report of Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group

Speaking today at the launch of the report of the Sheep Industry Development Strategy, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., said "the report is very timely coming as it does at a time of great change in the sheep sector and represents a blueprint for the development of all aspects of the industry".

The report deals with the whole sector from breeding and production to processing, marketing and sales. The document sets out 37 clear recommendations that need to be followed to ensure that this important sector in the Irish agricultural economy positions itself to make good use of our natural advantages to produce and sell a quality product in a very competitive commercial environment.

Minister Coughlan commended all those who contributed to this report and called on these stakeholders "to come together again and give their full commitment to ensuring the implementation of the report". The Minister said that "while the report is important in itself insofar as it sets out the way forward, it is now critical that the necessary decisions and actions are taken at all levels to guarantee the future viability of the sector with the necessary rewards for effort and investment of both time and resources".

The Minister highlighted important issues relating to carcase specification, market signalling, improvements in quality, pricing structures and sheep presentation at factories, in respect of which, processors and farmers would have to reach agreement. Achieving the targets set out for increased productivity at farm level will be central to improving producer margins. She indicated her full support for initiatives on breed improvement programmes including the role envisaged for ICBF and promised to examine the provision of aid for handling facilities and fencing. Minister Coughlan also endorsed the increased level of activity in relation to this sector which the report foresees for Teagasc and Bord Bia.

The industry will need to follow closely developments on mechanical grading and take measures to extend shelf life, improve eating quality and product innovation. Quality Assurance, supported by all industry stakeholders, promotion and labelling will all have to form part of the new package to ensure a wider and deeper penetration on home and EU markets in particular.

The Minister added that she would now set up a defined implementation structure, in association with the main stakeholders, that will drive and monitor progress on the implementation of this timely, well focussed report on the sheep industry. A Strategy Implementation Group, chaired by an independent chairman and supported by a dedicated executive resource will be appointed shortly.

1 June 2006

Date Released: 01 June 2006