The Department of Agriculture continues to facilitate live sheep exports, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has said.
He said his Department continues to play its part in facilitating live exports of sheep while ensuring that all the necessary veterinary conditions set by the EU are satisfied.
According to the Minister, Ireland has a ‘healthy’ live export trade that operates to a high standard and a significant infrastructural capacity of exports points, vehicles and vessels available, allied to a significant number of experienced live exporters, to facilitate the live export trade.
Commenting on the lamb market this week, he said after a good opening quarter to 2015, where Irish factory prices were up by an average of almost 11% over the corresponding quarter in 2014, prices fell back during the second quarter.
“However, at the end of June the average year to date price was running at approximately 4% ahead of the same period last year.
“Just this week, I understand that prices have started to rise again and that demand for sheep and lamb by factories is rising,” he said.
The Minster said prices during the second quarter have been affected by the combination of strong supplies, with a higher average carcass weight, and a reduction in demand on both the domestic market and in our key export markets.
He added that this may be attributable in part to the warm weather and a lower than normal increase in demand during Ramadan.
Supports for the Sector
At producer level, the Minister said he continues to put in place incentives to ensure that producers see a viable future in the sector.
The Sheep Technology Adoption Programme (STAP) has been continued for a third and final year in 2015. In committing funding of €3 million to the programme I am acknowledging the success of the scheme in 2013 and 2014 in which 4,000 producers participated.
Under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 -2020 the Minister said he has made provision for improving efficiency and profitability in sheep production under the Knowledge Transfer Groups measure, which has an overall budget of €100 million.
He said the experience in STAP has informed the development of this measure.
In addition to profitability, the emphasis will be on the key issues of business skills, environmental sustainability and herd health, with increased interaction between individual farmers and facilitators in order to customise information exchange, he said.
The Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) in the RDP will benefit sheep farmers and they will continue to be significant beneficiaries from the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme, according to the Minister.
Also, he said a series of capital investment schemes are being introduced under the TAMS II scheme, several of which will provide for sheep farmers.
Minister Coveney said the recently launched Food Wise 2025 report acknowledges the importance of the sheep sector and notes that growth in the sector will come from improved technical efficiencies, as well as growth opportunities from an increase in consumer demand and export market opportunities.
“On the export front, my Department continues to search for new markets in consultation with the meat industry, and in cooperation with Bord Bia and the Irish Embassies abroad.
“For example during my visit to China, leading a Trade Mission in November 2014, I was able to hand over the completed version of a sheep questionnaire which we had been asked to complete in connection with our efforts to gain access to the Chinese market for sheepmeat,” he said.
The Minister said this represents the first milestone on the road which will lead, he hopes, to Ireland gaining access to the Chinese market for sheep meat in the future.
Minister Coveney also says he raised the issue of access with his US counterpart Tom Vilsack when they last met in February of this year and progress here depends on the lifting by the US of its ban on sheep meat from the EU.