Payments worth more than €14m under the 2013 Grassland Sheep Scheme will be issued to farmers tomorrow.

According to the Department of Agriculture, 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, it said.

The industry is worth around €250m to the Irish economy and more than two thirds of the product is exported.

“I am confident that this scheme, which focuses on those flocks with breeding ewes, continues to play a significant part in  maintaining the breeding flock and acts 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,” commented Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

Noting that Irish sheep farmers are facing significant production and demand pressures at present, the minister pointed to the need to arrest the decline in reducing flock numbers, income pressures and producers leaving the sector in order to maintain a viable industry.

“The Grassland Sheep Scheme is of particular importance in helping achieve these aims and will provide a much needed and very valuable income support to an important and vulnerable sector,” he added.

Concluding, Minister Coveney also confirmed that he has obtained an additional €1m in funding for the 2014 scheme.

“I am very pleased to confirm that the budget for the 2014 scheme will be increased to €15m, further evidence of my determination to assist the sector,” he said.