The Junior Minister for Agriculture, Andrew Doyle said he is hopeful that the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme will reopen for applications in 2017.

Speaking in Tullamore at the IFA’s ‘Beef Challenges 2017’ event, the Wicklow-based TD said he believes the Genomics scheme is one of the most important schemes introduced for Irish farmers.

He said the scheme, as is, will help to improve the profitability within the farm gate and it also adds to Ireland’s selling power under the Origin Green banner.

This comes following an announcement from the Department of Agriculture earlier this week, when it was announced that it would commence Genomics payments worth €36m to some 19,500 farmers.

“I honestly believe that the future of beef will be built around genomics and knowledge transfer schemes and the round table agreements made between farm bodies and meat processors,” he said.

Minister Doyle added that the Department is fully aware of the importance of supporting the beef industry and it has tailored made schemes such as Genomics and TAMS to provide such support.

“The programmes combined with the direct payments are designed to support farmers incomes,” he said.

However, Minister Doyle added that the Irish agri-food sector is facing a number of challenges, many of which are political.

On the issue of Brexit, Minister Doyle said Ireland’s mushroom and beef sectors have been caught in the eye-of-a-storm since the UK electorate made the decision to leave the EU.

Also speaking at the event, IFA President Joe Healy said beef farmers have been forced to carry the can through loss making autumn prices.

The IFA leader said that based on market returns and the recent positive changes to the Sterling exchange rate, there is scope to for factories to increase prices.

The change in Sterling from 89p back to 84p in recent weeks, he said, is worth an additional 25c/kg in returns and all of this must be passed back to winter finishers.

He added that factories were quick to inflict price cuts when Sterling weakened following the Brexit vote last summer.