Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Reactor Prices.


andMr. Leonard asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will increase forthwith the maximum price to be paid for tuberculosis and brucellosis reactors to a more realistic level.

The system whereby my Department purchased reactor cattle at agreed prices, subject to a maximum, was discontinued as from 30th August last. Under the system now in operation the herdowner sells his reactors to a registered meat factory at a price which is a matter for private arrangement between himself and the factory. In addition, my Department make headage payments to the herdowner in respect of reactor cattle delivered to the factory. I do not propose to increase those payments.

In view of the prices farmers are receiving for cattle at the moment, would the Minister not consider seeking assistance from the EEC as compensation for the cattle?

As the Deputy is aware, proposals have come from the Commission as part of a package of proposals mainly on milk production that would involve a contribution towards disease eradication. I would be wholly in favour of that if it were possible.

Will the Minister give details of the EEC proposals?

We have not yet got the details but I know that the package coming up at the next meeting involves such proposals. It is a small contribution, about £35 per head.

Will the Minister state if any consideration is being given in those proposals to favour a high price for the smaller animals? It is the smaller animals that have suffered a loss at present. Because of this low price farmers are not interested in disposing of these animals and this situation can have a serious effect on animal health generally.

I can see this difficulty but I do not consider it to be the position that people keep specifically all small or all big cattle. The situation is fairly well mixed. In that way there is fair play in the long run.

For the information of Deputies I would point out that of the 1,500,000 small cattle tested only 1,000 proved to be reactors so that we are talking about a very small percentage.

I trust the Minister is correct in assuming this to be the total number of reactors. Surely he must realise that this situation could prove to be disastrous from the point of view of contamination. At least prior to this the beasts were collected in lorries hired by the Department for removal to the factories. Presumably the vehicles were disinfected after each load whereas a small producer who is found to have one or two reactors might transport those animals a distance of 30 or 40 miles in a trailer attached to the back of his car and might be negligent regarding the disinfecting of the trailer afterwards.

May we have a question, please?

Is it not the position that for the first time the State is not accepting responsibility for the eradication of either TB or brucellosis in cattle?

The State is not accepting total responsibility in this area.

Up to now every Minister for Agriculture accepted such responsibility.

The Deputy is embarking on a speech.

That is not so. If we arrive at a situation in which people who own cattle will not accept any responsibility in the area of disease, we shall never achieve eradication. I am surprised at Deputy Callanan adopting this attitude towards disease eradication.

Both the Minister and I are aware that those who fail to produce a reactor within a month are fined £10 for any succeeding week. We are all aware of the treatment meted out by the factories in 1974 to this type of farmer who again is to be lacerated.

The Deputy is imparting information rather than seeking it and that is not in order.

In view of the restrictions on the sale of the carcases of reactors to some countries would it be possible to devise a scheme whereby there could be some assistance in regard to the sale of this product to third countries? Also, would it be possible through the EEC to have a scheme of grants to assist private storage of reactors having regard to the difficulty experienced in disposing of these carcases to some countries?

Does the Deputy think that private storage companies would take up any such offer? What would they do with the meat? There is a problem here. One of the peculiar features of the whole eradication effort in Europe is that, while it is all right to use the flesh of these cattle on a national basis, it is not in order for them to be consumed in other member states. For example, cattle here which may be classified as having TB although they may have no lesions can be eaten on the home market but not on the markets of the other member states. It is a regulation that is all wrong and we have been trying to have it changed.

I am calling Question No. 4.

Perhaps I might ask a final supplementary. Is there any hope of assistance for storage since this aspect is a problem in this whole area?

That situation has not come to me so far as a problem.