Written Answers. - Sheep Farming Grants.

102.

asked the Minister for Agriculture the up-to-date position regarding sheep deaths, of both highland and lowland sheep, due to exposure and weather conditions, if he is aware of the very serious crisis that has arisen for sheep farmers; if he will make subsidies and grant-aid payable based on the 1985 flock as this would ease some of the financial problems that have arisen as the farmers responded by increasing numbers on the advice given to them by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reports from my Department's field officers who have to date completed inspections for over two-thirds of all flocks, indicate that there were no appreciable losses in the lowland areas and that losses in the mountain areas while above normal were less than 10 per cent overall. Many of the high losses incurred in individual mountain flocks were due to poor management and overstocking arising from failure to cull older ewes (the main casualties) last Autumn.

Between mid-December 1985 and early May 1986 advances of ewe premium amounting to £7.2 million were paid to 23,600 flockowners in the disadvantaged areas including the mountain area where the problems were worst. I have made arrangements to bring forward the payment of the balance of ewe premium in the disadvantaged areas, and the full premium outside these areas to next month and to July as inspections are completed. The total amount of these payments is estimated at £30 million.

104.

asked the Minister for Agriculture the action he proposes to take to ensure that the proposals to reduce the Irish dairy quota by 30 million gallons will not be enacted by the EC; if he is aware of the serious consequences this will have for Irish farmers and if he will make a statement on this serious situation.

Because of the present serious imbalance in the milk market and unacceptably high stock levels, the EC Council of Ministers recently decided on measures aimed at reducing milk quotas by 3 per cent by 1 April 1988. This will be achieved principally through a voluntary milk cessation scheme and individual farmers will have their quotas cut only if that scheme fails to meet its objective. It was not possible to get the Council to agree to an exemption for any member state from the new arrangements.