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The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food released the following statement:

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, has welcomed the significant improvement in the number and value of farm scheme payments, particularly those under the Single Payment, Disadvantaged Area and Grassland Sheep Schemes.

Minister Smith said that he “fully appreciated the importance not only of the payments themselves, but their timing. These schemes continue to form an essential part of farm incomes, despite a welcome improvement in farm incomes in 2010. Since last September, I have made it clear that my commitment has been to have the maximum number and value of payments made as quickly as possible and every effort has been made by my Department to ensure that that has been the case.”

The Minister said that he was “particularly pleased, therefore, that the current position is that over 99 per cent of all Single Payment Scheme applicants have now been paid and the total value of payments made under the scheme is now in excess of €1.217 billion. Furthermore, 99 per cent of Disadvantaged Area Scheme applicants have now been paid, with the value of those payments exceeding €216 million. I can also confirm that in excess of a further 2,500 farmers will receive their final balancing DAS payments within the next few weeks.”

Referring to the new Grassland Sheep Scheme, Minister Smith confirmed that almost €15 million of the €18 million available for the first year of the scheme has now been paid to over 22,000 applicants. The Minister described the scheme as “a particularly important scheme, which assists a sector which has experienced particular difficulties in recent years. This is a new  important stream of income for a sector which is of considerable value to Irish agriculture and the agri-food industry. The industry is worth an estimated €250 million annually, with over two-thirds of output exported.”

The Minister said he acknowledged that 2010 has been “a particularly challenging year which saw the Department processing an unprecedented number of maps, increasing from an average of 22,000 in recent years to nearly 80,000 last year. Notwithstanding the challenge posed, the Department maintained its enviable record of being among the most efficient paying agencies anywhere in Europe in 2010.”