Having had an interest in the production and marketing of livestock for many years, I declare my interest.
My colleagues and I welcome the scheme, which will increase the calf subsidy by £10 per head. It is a step in the right direction, but I am sure that even the Minister is worried and disappointed by the slaughtering figures, which show a substantial increase this summer. The statistics show clearly that livestock producers will not be encouraged to rear more calves just for the sake of the extra £10. They have lost all confidence in the future.
We might as well face reality. The beef market has collapsed. Unless the Government introduce a price guarantee system for beef in the near future, farmers will run riot. Many will become bankrupt by the autumn. Young farmers and new entrants to farming are having sleepless nights because of financial worries.
I support the scheme, but I urge the Minister to do something positive and constructive to help beef producers out of the present crisis and to restore confidence and stability in our great agricultural industry.
Unfortunately the previous Government did away with the guarantee deficiency price system for beef. This year the present Government did away with intervention support. So beef producers are left entirely without a bottom to the market. Beef prices have dropped to the unrealistic figure of between £12 and £13 per cwt. We receive 50 per cent. less than we received a year ago. We also receive 50 per cent. less than our fellow farmers on the Continent. Something must be done in the near future to solve this financial crisis, which is worse than that of the 1930s. We beg the Minister to do something to help beef producers in the near future.