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Minister Smith Announces Commencement of Payments Under the New €54 Million Grassland Sheep Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today confirmed that payments under the new, three-year, €54 million Grassland Sheep Scheme would begin issuing to the farmers concerned as and from Tuesday, 1st February.  Minister Smith said that this funding, which comes from the unused Single Payment funds, would "provide a very important and timely boost to support incomes in the sheep sector over the next three years".

Minister Smith explained that, while it had been intended to make these payments in early December, as the EU Commission raised some technical questions regarding the Scheme, these had to be resolved before payments could commence.  "I am pleased to say that agreement has now been reached with the EU authorities, thereby allowing these payments to now be made.  I am confident that this Scheme, which focuses exclusively on those flocks with breeding ewes, will maintain the breeding flock and will act as a real incentive to farmers anxious to maintain their production levels, which are essential for the future of a viable sheep industry in this country".

The supply of lambs is a key and fundamental element underpinning the sheep and lamb processing industry.  This is a hugely valuable export-orientated part of the Irish agri-food sector, supplying a high-value product to consumer markets throughout Europe.  The industry is worth around €250 million to the Irish economy and over two thirds of the product is exported.

Irish sheep farmers are facing significant production and demand pressures at present, though Ireland is not alone in this regard.  To maintain a viable industry, we must arrest the decline in reducing flock numbers, income pressures and producers leaving the sector.  "I believe that this Grassland Sheep Scheme will achieve these aims and will provide a much needed and very valuable income support to an important and vulnerable sector" the Minister said.

Payment of the €18 million available under the 2010 Scheme will commence, as already stated,  on 1 February to all ewe flock owners, whose applications are fully processed and clear for payment. Payments will continue on an ongoing basis to other farmers as their applications are cleared.

Photo for PR 11/11 - 24.01.2011
Brian Kerr (Farmer) and Minister Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

Date Released: 24 January 2011