Irish egg producers are unlikely to receive any cash until next year, as more details emerge on the recently announced €16m (£13.8m) grant scheme for replacing conventional cages.

More than 60% of Irish producers are still using conventional cages which will be outlawed from 2012 under an EU Directive and the Irish Egg Association estimates that the conversion will cost the industry €40m (£34.5m).

The funding, announced last month by agriculture minister Brendan Smith, comes from a €113m (£98m) scheme targeted at productive on-farm investment. But according to Owen Brooks, secretary of the Irish Egg Association, producers are unlikely to see any of the money until late next year. “There’s still lots of work to be done and details to be filled in,” he said.

“For a start, the scheme has to be given the go-ahead by Brussels, though I understand that won’t be a problem. Then producers have to submit funding applications and have their projects approved, not just by the Department of Agriculture, but also by the planning authorities. All that will take time, and that’s before the actual construction work starts.”

The funding will not be applied retrospectively, but how it will be allocated has still to be decided, said Mr Brooks.

Welcoming the new funding, the chairman of the Irish Egg Association, John Mohan, called it “a vote of confidence from the minister” and said it would make a significant contribution to the modernisation of the sector. He added: “The industry faces significant funding challenges to meet the requirements of the new EU legislation and this allocation will help to secure its future.”