Wednesday, 30 June 1976
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Meaney: asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will make a statement on the arrangement whereby New Zealand is guaranteed approximately 25 per cent of the British butter market; and the discussions he has had with the New Zealand ministers or officials since they were in this country discussing their position with regard to imports to EEC countries.
Mr. Clinton: The arrangements for imports of New Zealand butter in the period 1978 to 1980 which were agreed on by the Council of Agricultural Ministers in Luxembourg last week implement the decision taken by the Heads of Government at their meeting here in Dublin in March, 1975. New Zealand has not been guaranteed 25 per cent of the UK butter market. What has been provided is that if, because of a reduction in the consumption of butter in the UK, the quota for any of the three years should represent more than 25 per cent of the total UK direct consumption in the preceding year, the excess should be diverted into the food manufacturing industry.
Mr. J. Gibbons: Does the Minister not concede that the permission granted to New Zealand by the Heads of Government at the Summit meeting in Dublin, over which the Taoiseach, Deputy Cosgrave, presided, ensures the right of the New Zealand Government to export to Britain until 1980 120,000 tons of butter, and this exceeds the possible manufacture from all Irish milk? It is greater by far than what could be produced by the whole of the Irish dairy herd and it is in competition with Irish dairy products in the British market.
Mr. Clinton: Regardless of who presided at the Dublin Summit—we had to preside during that six months irrespective of where the Summit was held—there was a decision and that decision was for reasons other than butter. Let us say the decisions were made for political reasons and there was no other option to the Council of Agriculture Ministers except to implement this decision. I think it was perhaps on the generous side in interpreting the decision and I said so and stuck to that very strongly at the Council meeting, but I was on my own in that position. I want to say quite clearly that I got absolutely no support from the other member states on the amounts that have been agreed—125,000 tons in 1978, 120,000 tons in 1975 and 115,000 tons in 1980. But there is an element of digressivity which is useful in this if it is an indication for the future. There was a strong proposition at the meeting that we would make provision beyond 1980 and that was turned down by the Council of Ministers.
Mr. J. Gibbons: Is it not true to say that at the next meeting of Council of Agriculture Ministers on 7th July this very question the Minister mentioned of a further extension beyond 1980 of this extraordinary concession to New Zealand, a third country, to the  detriment of Irish dairy producers will be raised for further consideration?
Mr. Clinton: If the Deputy has information of this kind I certainly have not. I have no information that it will be on the agenda and even if it is, I am given an assurance that it will not be passed. That is all I can say.
Mr. O'Connor: Should it not be understandable that our interests would be protected and our supplies of butter purchased and that Britain would take whatever she needed over and above that from elsewhere? Is it not understandable that our market should be protected at the British end and whatever quantity we produce should be taken by Britain and any imports from New Zealand should be over and above that?
Mr. J. Gibbons: To our disadvantage. Is it not correct to say that Protocol 18 of the British Treaty of Accession runs out in 1980 and the present position is the UK Government are seeking an extension of that Protocol?
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