Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sheep Producers' Income.

76.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if his attention has been drawn to a statement (details supplied) concerning a drop in income of 20 per cent to sheep producers; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

I have seen the report referred to and while I am aware that sheep prices have been lower this year than in 1970, I am unable to accept speculative conclusions on the effect of lower prices on the total income of sheep farmers.

So far this year slaughterings of sheep and lamb for export have shown an increase of almost 200,000 head on slaughterings in the same period in 1970; the rate of subsidy on hogget ewes has been increased from £1.50 to £2.00 per head; total payments under the sheep subsidy schemes will be £400,000 more than last year and export support for mutton and lamb in 1971-72 will be higher by about £800,000.

I am advised that the current factory price for fat lamb is the same as it was this time last year and that market prospects seem to be reasonably good.

Did I understand the Minister to say that the price for fat lambs was the same this year as last year?

At the present time, yes.

I would say that is completely and absolutely untrue.

Is the Minister aware that the price of fat lambs has dropped by £2 per head this year and that the markets were never so bad?

The prices are verifiable by reference to market quotations. From my own experience in the last two or three weeks I can say that there has been a remarkable improvement in the sheep trade, especially in the store lamb trade.