The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Mr Joe Walsh TD, has welcomed the start-up today of the National Sheep Identification System (NSIS). "This is a red letter day for all involved in Ireland's sheep sector, whether they are producers, processors or involved in marketing our sheepmeat," the Minister said. "The NSIS system which came into operation throughout the country this morning is a major, positive development which has the potential to deliver far-reaching benefits in the areas of disease monitoring and control, traceability and consumer assurance and marketing. In putting into place a system by which every sheep will be individually numbered and can be traced from farm of origin to finished carcass we have brought a new level of badly needed transparency and accountability to the sector. This will enable us to remedy many of the shortcomings which have existed for some time and which the FMD saga so graphically illustrated, and to deal effectively with those who might engage in abuses in relation to identification, importation or other areas. The NSIS system places Ireland to the fore within the EU in terms of sheep traceability systems and has established a basis on which we can build in many different ways as we move forward."