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Volume 974: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will circulate in the Official Report a table showing production, imports, exports and consumption of sheepmeat in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Irish Republic, Greece and other EEC countries, respectively, for each year from 1972 to date.

The information requested is as follows:

1,000 tonnes
SheepmeatWest GermanyFranceItalyNetherlandsBelgium/LuxembourgUnited KingdomIrish RepublicDenmarkGreece
Indigenous production141302911422545165
Indigenous production141283210423543170
Indigenous production161333216325444174
Indigenous production201313218226447176
Indigenous production21147341722493779
Indigenous production19144361822283779
Indigenous production2014719184237401na
* Not separately distinguished.


For European Community: European Commission.

For Greece: OECD and United Nations Trade Statistics

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will circulate in the Official Report a table showing the price per ton of live sheepmeat at the farmgate, and for home-produced sheepmeat carcases sold wholesale, the landed price of Irish and New Zealand sheepmeat carcases, respectively, the wholesale price of Irish and New Zealand carcases, and an index or representative retails price for home-produced, Irish and New Zealand sheepmeat, in each of the years 1968 to 1978 and the current year to date;

(2) if he will circulate in the Official Report a table showing the retail price of sheepmeat from 1968 to the present date in the form of an index based on 1970 equalling 100; and how this compares with the movement in the retail price index excluding foodstuffs and the corresponding consumption of sheepmeat in the United Kingdom.

The information available is as follows:

January to September average
UNTIED KINGDOM196819691970197119721973197419751976197719781979
Average market price £/tonne (i)3514023743945237066467551,0391,2451,3741,514
Wholesale price £/tonne (ii)
Home produced3383763783965126586907769581,1541,2901,527
New Zealand2743033033194105836176748819991,1771,131
Landed price £/tonne (iii)
Irish Republic3283353233464105534995527601,0009501,500
New Zealand*267298312314380557599597719863962993
Retail price index (iv) 1970=100
All items excluding foodstuffs9094100109116124143178205236256285
Consumption per head of mutton and lamb (v)
* Including allowance for 20 per cent. GATT tariff.
January-June only
(i) Average market price under fat sheep guarantee scheme (estimated dressed carcase weight based on live weight auction prices).
(ii) Smithfield prices. Reuters quotations.
(iii) United Kingdom Trade Statistics.
(iv) Retail Price Index, Department of Employment.
(v) National Food Survey.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will circulate in the Official Report information showing how much is spent by his Department in direct and indirect support to sheepmeat producers; whether the amount spent would be increased or reduced as a result of the proposals put forward by the European Commission and by how much; and what would be the additional cost to (a) United Kingdom consumers in terms of retail prices in pence per pound and (b) the United Kingdom taxpayer in terms of an increased charge to the EEC budget of these proposals if implemented.

Support is available to all sheep producers under the fat sheep guarantee scheme and to hill sheep producers under the less favoured areas directive in the form of hill livestock compensatory allowances. In addition the British Wool Marketing Board operates stabilisation arrangements to minimise the immediate effects on producers of unstable world markets in wool.Expenditure under the fat sheep guarantee depends in any year on the extent to which market prices fall below the guaranteed level. In 1978–79 expenditure under this guarantee was £0·1 million and nil in respect of the wool stabilisation arrangements. Expenditure in 1979 on the hill livestock allowances for sheep was £31 million.Sheepmeat producers also benefit from general support to the farming industry such as farm capital grants and research.The only item of expenditure likely to be affected by the proposals put forward by the European Commission is the fat sheep guarantee. The extent of any change in expenditure in the United Kingdom resulting from the replacement of the guarantee by a Community regime as proposed and the effect upon retail prices would depend upon the form and level of support adopted.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how the support price put forward by the European Commission in its proposals for sheepmeat compares with the landed price of New Zealand sheepmeat in 1978 and 1979 to date; and what the proposed wholesale and likely retail price would be in the absence of a monetary compensation amount, in pence per pound.

The Commission's proposals for the sheepmeat regime set out in document R/769/78 do not include an estimate of the support or "basic" price for the first year of a regime. The Commission has, however, indicated that it proposes to set this so that it does not provide support at above the equilibrium level. In discussion on possible modifications to these proposals my right hon. Friend has made clear his support for this principle.The landed price for New Zealand sheepmeat, including the 20 per cent. GATT bound tariff, was on average £962 per tonne in 1978 and £993 per tonne in January to September 1979.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the European Commission is proposing any restrictions on the importation of New Zealand sheepmeat into the United Kingdom; and if so, whether he will circulate in the Official Report information as to the nature of those restrictions in terms of price and volume.

The Commission is proposing no new restrictions on imports of sheepmeat from New Zealand, which will continue to be allowed free access to the United Kingdom market subject to the Community's GATT bound tariff of 20 per cent. The Commission is, however, considering the possibility of voluntary agreements with third country suppliers, under which they would agree to limit their imports into the EEC to recent levels in exchange for a reduction in the tariff. My right hon. Friend has said that he can agree to such an arrangement for New Zealand if it is freely agreed by New Zealand, provides adequate supplies to the United Kingdom market and does not involve minimum import prices. In recent years New Zealand sendings of sheepmeat to the EEC and the United Kingdom have been as follows:

'000 tonnes
EEC (a)223221232(b)
United Kingdom (c)210213214
(a) Source: European Commission
(b) Provisional
(c) Source: UK Trade Statistics

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish in the Official Report the estimated cost of the sheepmeat proposals put forward by the European Commission, its advantages and disadvantages to each participating country, including New Zealand, and his estimate of the additional cost to the Community budget.

The Commission's proposals set out in document R/769/78 were estimated in that document to cost 81–118 million EUA—£55 million to £80 million. In discussion, other ideas have been suggested by the Commission and various member States but none have been formalised: their cost implications would depend upon the level of support adopted as well as market developments.We are not seeking a common organisation for sheepmeat, but if there is to be one, and this is provided for in the EEC Treaty, it is in the United Kingdom's interest that it should involve a light, market-related regime. The Commission proposals provide for a regime of this form and we have accepted them as a basis for negotiation while making it clear that we will not agree to any arrangements which fail to meet the needs of the United Kingdom as the largest producer and consumer of sheepmeat in the Community.It is for the Governments of other participating countries to judge the advantages and disadvantages to them of the Commission's proposals. As far as New Zealand is concerned, we are not prepared to accept any common measures affecting third country trade which are not freely negotiated with New Zealand and which do not provide continuing access for our supplies of New Zealand lamb.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the effects of the EEC Commission proposals for a sheep-meat regime on the cost and consumption of lamb in the United Kingdom.

The Commission's proposals in document R/769/78 appear unlikely to have any significant effect on the cost and consumption of lamb in the United Kingdom. However, the precise effect of whatever sheepmeat regime may be finally agreed will depend on the form and level of support for Community production which is provided for within the regime.