Dáil Éireann - Volume 420 - 28 May, 1992

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Deer Farming.

2. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans, if any, he has to assist those involved in deer farming and, in particular, if headage payments will be allowed in respect of deer; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Deer farming has been one of the enterprises eligible for aid under the alternative enterprises scheme, which forms part of the Operational Programme for Rural Development. The scheme provides for grant aid, at the rate of 50 per cent of the approved cost of fencing, housing and handling facilities to deer farmers in less favoured areas and 40 per cent elsewhere subject to a maximum investment ceiling of £20,000 per applicant over the period of the programme.

The scheme also provides for grants towards the cost of female breeding stock required to establish a new herd or expand an existing herd subject to a maximum grant of £4,000 per application. To date a total of £438,000 has [1041] been paid to about 100 applicants under the scheme.

However, there has been an exceptionally high interest in the grant scheme for alternative enterprises and the moneys provided for this measure out of the EC Structural Funds allocated to Ireland in 1989 have now been fully committed. Further grant approvals are, therefore, not being made. I will be seeking a much increased allocation for these schemes when the priorities for the new round of Structural Funds are being considered.

The EC regulation under which the compensatory allowance scheme operates does not allow for the payment of headage on deer.

Mr. Deasy: Does the Minister agree that it would be a great incentive to deer farmers if headage was paid for deer? Is the Minister prepared to make a case for the payment of headage for deer?

Mr. Walsh: I take the Deputy's point. Deer farming is becoming an important alternative enterprise. If we could get the processing and marketing elements right it would be a suitable enterprise on many farms where there are quotas and where farmers cannot make an adequate income. In 1989 we sought Community funds for headage but our request was turned down on that occasion. I will be happy to pursue the matter again to see if it can be included in Community funding because most other quadrupeds qualify for headage payments.

Mr. Deasy: I thank the Minister for his reply and hope he will be successful in getting headage payments for deer. Has the Minister's Department or CBF carried out a study as regards the export potential of venison, if there is a shortfall in this product in the EC and, if so, can we play a substantial role in filling that shortfall?

Mr. Walsh: I asked CBF to look at the export potential of venison because the deer herd has been expanded and it would not do deer farming or the people [1042] involved in that enterprise any good to end up with no market for this product. CBF are considering the inclusion of venison under the Act. A few outstanding issues — the payment of a levy by deer producers or an increase in the Exchequer grant aid to CBF — have yet to be resolved and are being actively considered.