HC Deb 11 December 1984 vol 69 cc435-6W
Mr. Spence

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many milk producers have so far decided to join the outgoers' scheme; and whether any more will now be invited to join.

Mr. MacGregor

To date, 1,060 producers have committed themselves to joining the scheme. The quota which they will surrender amounts to 109.5 million litres on a full year basis. This week we are sending out invitations to a further 261 producers who each have between 275,000 and 325,000 litres of quota, amounting to 78.1 million litres in total. As before, a small number have been excluded because milk production is a relatively small part of their overall farming enterprise.

Progress will be reviewed early in January and from then onwards further groups of producers will be invited to join the scheme each week in so far as this is necessary to offset the number not taking up earlier invitations. This process will continue until our target of 289 million litres is reached.

Mr. Latham

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current position regarding quotas over off-farm sales of retail milk or other dairy products such as butter, cheese or yoghurt by farmers; whether the quotas are to be made interchangeable with general quotas of milk sold to the Milk Marketing Board; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

Producers who make direct sales of whole, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, butter, cream or cheese had to apply for direct sales quota by 28 August 1984. Yogurt is not covered by the milk quota arrangements.

Estimates of primary direct sales quota have now been issued to over 90 per cent. of the 3,454 applicants. It is hoped that the remainder will receive their notifications shortly.

Under the terms of the Community regulations quota arrangements for direct sales are dealt with quite separately from those for wholesale deliveries to a purchaser. I consider that the regulations are rather too rigid in this respect and we are continuing to press in Brussels for greater flexibility. In the meantime, we intend to make use of the existing provisions which provide some limited measure of flexibility between the two types of quota. If a producer has more wholesale quota than he needs but not enough direct sales quota (or vice versa) he will be able to apply to the MMB to exchange some of his quota with a producer in the opposite position. The quota exchange system will be operated on the Ministry's behalf by the MMB.

The detailed arrangements are being finalised in discussions with the interests concerned and I hope to make an announcement shortly.

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