Lamb prices are okay at the moment, but hill farmers are concerned about a potential reduction in the value of lamb and the loss of the European Union market. What contingency measures does the cabinet secretary have in place to assist farmers post-EU subsidy in the event of a fall in the value of lamb?
I am not sure that Jackie Baillie is entirely correct, because the information that I have had in the past couple of days indicated that in the market in, I think, Newton Stewart, prices fell by about 20 per cent. We closely monitor the price figures from all the marts.
We are concerned not only about the fall in beef prices and rising costs but about the overall financial position that the sheep sector faces.
One of the things that we have done—and I am pleased that we are doing this—is arrange that every farmer, crofter and land manager who is entitled to receive pillar 1 payments will receive payments at the earliest possible date. Ninety-five per cent of all eligible claimants have received a loan offer and about half of them have responded. I urge the people who have not responded to do so, so that they can obtain 95 per cent of their full entitlement by the beginning of October. Getting that money in the bank is the most practical thing that we can do in the short term.
If EU markets for lamb are lost because of high tariffs, it will be the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government to come up with a compensation scheme that is based on a headage payment on breeding ewe numbers, with 2018 historical information. That is the only way for us to administer a compensation scheme quickly and successfully.
It would be far better if the problem did not have to arise in the first place. It would be far better to avoid a no-deal Brexit.