Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
247. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reasons he is superimposing a second layer of traceability on sheep farming; if he will address concerns that the technology for the new system will not be effective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10638/10]
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Brendan Smith): I presume that the Deputy is referring to EU requirements for the mandatory introduction of Electronic Identification (EID) in sheep.
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 less than 12 months are now permanently exempted from EID. This will result in EID being largely confined to replacement breeding stocks that are born after 31 December 2009. This means the vast majority of Irish sheep will be excluded from EID requirements, which will minimise costs for producers. In fact, EID will apply to no more than 18% of the national flock (450,000 — 550,000). Some 70% of flocks are 100 sheep or less and in these cases less than 20 animals will be affected.
The Deputy should note that farmers will not be required to purchase readers since, as is the case at present, an ear tag will continue to have a number on it that is readable to the human eye so there will be minimal change to current practice.
Our existing system has up until now provided adequate assurances in terms of animal identification and traceability. Indeed, it is partly with that in mind that I have decided to minimise the impact on farmers by confining electronic tagging to mainly breeding sheep. I am also striving however to minimise the change to the existing National Sheep Identification System (NSIS). My Department has circulated a technical document outlining the proposed changes to the NSIS to farm organisations and other stakeholders for comments. My officials are consulting them with a view to ensuring that whatever revisions are made to the existing NSIS best suit Irish conditions and minimise the burden on farmers within the parameters of the new legislation.
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