asked the Minister for Agriculture the steps he proposes to take to secure the full and unrestricted access to all the markets of the European Community to which this country is entitled in respect of agricultural exports from 1 January 1978.
Ceisteann—Questions. Oral Answers. - Community Markets Access.
Since 1 January restrictions in intra-Community agricultural trade apply only to a few products not yet subject to a common organisation of the market. Of these, the main products of interest to us are potatoes and sheepmeat. The European Commission has already initiated the procedure leading to legal action against the member states operating these restrictions. As regard sheepmeat, however, Irish exports now have unrestricted access to all Community markets.
The Minister said that the Commission were taking legal action where these restrictions were being applied. Why did we withdraw our legal case against the French?
We withdrew the case because we got access to the French market for our lamb, and that is what we had been fighting for.
We have only partial access when we were entitled to full access and, in my view, to compensation because the French kept our sheep out of their market. Whenever it suited them they closed the market or raised charges to such an extent that we could not export there until our sheep numbers were reduced to nearly half.
We will get full access to the French market in due course. As we had access to it from 1 January, the Government saw fit to withdraw the case against the French Government from that date.
Can the Minister say if we are insisting that a common organisation of the market for sheepmeat be part of the price package before we settle? I understand that that is happening in relation to potatoes. Why should potatoes have priority over lamb?
That is a separate question.
It is very much related.
It has no relation to the question of access to markets.
Can the Minister tell the House why we are exercising quality control in the case of the French market and not exercising quality control in the Belgian market which was opened to us when the French closed theirs?
The Deputy has more experience of this issue than anybody in the House and I think he will agree that it is essential that only the best quality lamb be exported to France in order to get our share of the market.
It should apply in the case of other markets.
I hope it will apply to the other markets. We have got a substantial amount of lamb into the French market since 1 January and that is what we have been fighting for.
Question No. 7.