asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he is aware that dairy farmers in creamery areas are now taking a substantial drop in income as a result of a reduction in milk prices; and, if so, whether he proposes to take any steps to rectify the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Milk Prices.
The indications at this stage of the season point to an increase in total family farm income from dairying in 1969.
Is the Minister aware of the fact that the returns from the creameries show that the average price paid for milk during the month of April of this year was 2d per gallon less than in the corresponding month last year? In view of this would the Minister not agree it is disgraceful that creamery milk suppliers should be penalised in this way because the Minister and the Department failed to take steps to secure adequate creamery outlets for all the milk produced?
I am fully aware of the situation in regard to the creameries throughout the country. As the Deputy is probably aware, I have had quite recently very full discussions with the ICMSA on this very matter. Despite that, what I have said in reply to the question is still true, that is, that the overall indications now are—although it is impossible to be very definite about this—that the total family income from dairying will be up by a fair few million pounds, perhaps £3 million or £3½ million. That, of course, is subject to the season continuing as it is or improving.
Has the Minister seen the returns from the creameries and does he not admit that there is a reduction in the income of creamery milk suppliers by as much as 2d per gallon? Does he admit that and is he prepared to do anything about it?
I would hope that the Deputy would be as well prepared to accept what I have said as I am prepared to accept what he has said. I am examining the creamery returns at this moment arising from this recent meeting with the ICMSA, but, as I say, the overall indications are that the increase is £3 million or £3½ million up on our projections for family farm income from dairying this year.
Question No. 6.
The whole dairying industry is in absolute chaos.
We cannot discuss this question all evening.
What the Deputy says could be damaging and only for that I would not even attempt to reply. The dairying industry has never had an output approaching what it is producing now, nor has it ever had anything approaching the overall income it is earning in this year. We have only to go back less than five years to find that the total volume of output has gone up almost 100 per cent and the actual creamery cheque has gone up 100 per cent in that time. There is also the fact that the support for the marketing of the dairy produce deriving from this new high output of milk has been climbing at quite a big rate and is now in the region of £27 million. This creamery support is greater now than the total cheque would have been five or six years ago.
Is the Minister aware that one major processing plant in the South of Ireland will be short six million gallons of milk this year? If this does not indicate a state of chaos in the dairying industry, I do not know what would.
The only thing this would indicate to me is that the scare talk of the Deputy and his colleagues last year, when nowhere could be found for the skim except the rivers of County Limerick, is rather contradictory of the situation as now depicted by him when he complains that things are in chaos because there is not enough milk. Surely the Deputy cannot reconcile those two arguments?
Could I ask the Minister——
I have called Question No. 6.