Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Carcase Lamb Markets.

22.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he is aware of the poor demand at present for fat lambs; and what steps are being taken to procure better markets for same.

Factory slaughterings of lamb for export in recent weeks have been higher than at this time last year. Due to mild weather earlier this year excess numbers of lamb came on the market during the Easter period and this caused difficulties for some producers. These difficulties are now easing and market conditions are expected to improve in coming weeks.

In addition to our main markets for carcase lamb in Britain and France, markets have also been developed in recent times in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Canada.

Is the Minister aware that the number of sheep dropped by over 1,000,000 a year or two back and a number of people who had lambs for sale this year found there was no market for them, and is the Minister taking any steps to ensure that some lambs will be sent to the countries he named? Even if only a small number were sent it might relieve the pressure at the moment. This is a very important trade and if it were properly looked after it could bring great benefits. Unfortunately, because of the way it is going at present, we are losing the markets we had instead of getting new ones.

I take it, Sir, this is a supplementary question?

That is correct.

I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that, due to the conditions I mentioned in my reply, the remarkable spring, the figures for lamb slaughterings for the week ending 3rd April, 1971, were 14,000 approximately as against 5,000 last year. For the week ending 10th April, 1971, they were 12,898 as against 8,900 last year and for the week ending 17th April they were 11,965 as against 7,958 last year. There has, indeed, been a remarkable increase in the supply of good quality lamb.

Would the Minister give me the comparative prices over the same periods?

Is it not true that when farmers are induced to increase production the bottom falls out of the market and, if the figures the Minister has given are correct, the markets have not been provided.

Deputy Creed has knocked the bottom out of Deputy O'Sullivan's argument, which was that sheep numbers are dropping rapidly. The fact is they had been dropping, but the numbers are now rising, or flattening out at any rate.

Big deal.

What is relevant is that large numbers of lambs are being put on the market which would not normally be coming on the market now.