Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
623. Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will delay the introduction of the new sheep tagging system, mandatory electronic identification, for two years as recommended by the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in order to allow the sheep industry to recover in tough economic times; his views on whether the system will impose a burden on an already struggling sector and that there is already a viable working tagging and identification mechanism in place here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5116/10]
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Brendan Smith): The introduction of EID for sheep was agreed at EU level in late 2003. At that time, it was agreed to defer the implementation date until January 2008. The Council of Agriculture Ministers revisited this issue in December 2007 when it was agreed that the deadline for the compulsory introduction of EID should be set for 31 December 2009, six years after the original decision was taken. Regretfully, there is not sufficient support among other Member States and none from the European Commission for any further rollback in relation to the date for the mandatory introduction of EID.
The prevailing view at EU level is that Member States should proceed with implementation and other Member States have proceeded with implementation of EID on a mandatory basis. I, therefore, have no discretion as regards the date of implementation for electronic identification and in these circumstances, we now must proceed with its introduction.
The current National Sheep Identification System (NSIS) provides robust assurances in relation to animal identification and traceability and it is for that reason that I intend to build on the current system in the move to the introduction of EID in line with EU rules. Within that framework, I have secured major concessions in relation to EID in discussions with the European Commission. These concessions include a slaughter derogation which means that all lambs intended for slaughter and under 12 months old can now be exempted from EID. This will result in EID being largely confined to replacement breeding stock that are born after 31 December 2009. This means the vast majority of Irish sheep will be excluded from EID requirements, which will keep costs for producers to an absolute minimum and limit the burden on farmers.
Furthermore, where lambs identified under the slaughter derogation are subsequently retained for breeding purposes they can then be tagged with an EID device at the second holding. This is a major breakthrough in facilitating existing trade practice in the sector and addresses concerns raised by Irish farming organisations that the new EID system would eliminate the sale of breeding sheep at marts, which would otherwise have an adverse effect on competitiveness in the industry.
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