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The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith confirmed that payments under the new three-year €54m Grassland Sheep Scheme would begin to be issued from February 1.  The value of the scheme for 2010 was €18m. The funding comes from unused Single Payment funds.

The supply of lambs is a key and fundamental element underpinning the sheep and lamb processing industry.  This is a valuable export-orientated part of the Irish agri-food sector. The industry is worth around €250m to the Irish economy and over two thirds of the lambs are exported.

To maintain a viable industry the decline in reducing flock numbers, income pressures and producers leaving the sector should be arrested.  Minister Smith stated “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”.