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Volume 116: debated on Monday 11 May 1987

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Government have taken since 1979 to support British sheepmeat producers.

[pursuant to his reply, 8 May 1987]: British sheepmeat producers have benefited from the Community sheepmeat regime, introduced in 1980. As a result of our successful negotiation of this regime our producers receive annual ewe premium and variable slaughter premium currently worth over £200 million per annum. The regime is an important factor underlying the continuing expansion of our sheepmeat sector: production rose by 29 per cent. between 1979 and 1985. Exports rose by 27 per cent. last year compared to 1985 to a record 63,600 tonnes.In successive price-fixing we have fought off proposals to adjust the terms of the regime in ways which would have put our producers at a disadvantage. We have three separate cases currently before the European Court in which we are challenging the EC Commission for operating the rules of the regime to the detriment of producers in Great Britain.The annual value of hill livestock compensatory allowances paid to sheep producers in the United Kingdom's less favoured areas has increased from £31 million in 1979 to some £61 million this year. We have also granted aid to sheep farmers to compensate for the effect of exceptional circumstances. Sheep enterprises benefited by nearly £3 million from the special aid paid out in 1985 to help those livestock producers most seriously affected by the exceptionally bad summer weather. In addition, £4–3 million has been paid to date under the schemes to compensate producers in Cumbria, Wales and Scotland for the effect on their enterprises of the restrictions we introduced following the Chernobyl incident last year.We have increased the wool guarantee from 115p/kg to 129p/kg. This has helped to sustain producer interest in developing wool quality so enabling the British Wool Marketing Board to promote British wool exports notably to Japan where our exports have risen from £0–87 million in 1980 to £8–5 million in 1985.