HC Deb 22 February 1937 vol 320 cc1620-8
15. Sir Gifford Fox

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether any research has been carried out to ascertain whether it is possible to carry on the poultry industry in this country on the basis of the present prices of eggs and foodstuffs, respectively; and, if not, whether he will arrange for research to be carried out in this respect forthwith?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Research into the costs and returns of commercial egg and poultry farming has been in progress for some years at various advisory centres, and the results are published from time to time. The hon. Baronet will appreciate that prices of eggs and feeding-stuffs are only two of the factors which govern the economic position of the industry.

Sir G. Fox

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the wholesale price of feeding-stuffs has gone up nearly 50 per cent. in the last 12 months and that the price of eggs has gone down compared with 12 months ago, and that the whole industry is faced with bankruptcy?

Mr. Morrison

As regards the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I am glad to say that the cost of feeding-stuffs was slightly easier recently, and as regards the second part of his supplementary question, the answer to my hon. Friend is in the negative. The price of National Mark Standard eggs on 19th February, in London, was 16s. 6d. per long hundred, against 15s. per long hundred last year and 13s. per long hundred at the same date in the two previous years.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Will my right hon. Friend tell us how many recruits from the labour-training centres are flowing into this egg business?

Mr. Morrison

I could not say that without notice.

Mr. George Griffiths

Arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's previous answer, is it not a fact that the foreigner is always paying for tariffs instead of the British trading interests?

16. Mr. Lambert

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will introduce legislation to secure for poultry producers a stable price commensurate with the cost of production for their products?

Mr. Morrison

The costs of production of poultry products are influenced by many factors, such as weather and world movements in feeding stuff prices, for which the Government are not responsible, and they also vary considerably from one type of producer to another. I am not clear, therefore, how my right hon. Friend would propose to attain the objective to which he refers, but if he would care to let me have any concrete proposals I will, of course, consider them.

Mr. Lambert

Is it not the duty of the Government to submit concrete proposals to secure a stable price commensurate with the cost of production in the poultry industry?

Mr. T. Williams

Would it be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to introduce legislation to produce a stable price to the egg producers exclusively, and to the farmers?

Mr. Lambert

What about the coal people?

17. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the number of eggs imported in 1936 from countries from which imports are not controlled by trade agreements; and whether, in view of the serious plight of the poultry industry, he will take steps to secure the prohibition or reduction of such imports?

The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)

I have been asked to reply. With my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the countries from which eggs were imported last year and with whom we have no trade agreements in which eggs are specifically mentioned, together with the quantities of eggs imported from such countries. I would point out, however, that we have commercial treaties with most of these countries under which they are accorded most-favoured-nation rights. As regards the second part of the question, there is nothing that I can usefully add to the replies that have been given by my right hon. Friends, the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade, to recent questions on the subject.

Sir A. Knox

Are the Government then going to let this whole industry go bankrupt?

Sir Francis Acland

Could not the hon. and gallant Gentleman add to the report which he has indicated that he will be able to make anything about the subsidisation of egg exportation from the countries concerned?

Captain Crookshank

If the right hon. Gentleman wants any other information and puts down a request for it on the Paper, I will see what can be done in the matter.

Sir A. Knox

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer my question?

Following is the list:

Imports during 1936 from countries with whom we have no trade agreements in which eggs are specifically mentioned.
Eggs in Shell.
Country. Great hundreds.
Irish Free State 2,563,216
Australia 1,634,919
South Africa 371,705
Canada 103,348
New Zealand 34,279
Other Empire Countries 4,504
Netherlands 3,799,534
Roumania 1,168,617
Belgium 539,927
Yugoslavia 127,428
Germany 41,150
France 902
Egypt 256,854
United States of America 1,167
Argentina 368,979
Uruguay 249,477
Brazil 88,386
Chile 21,180
China 1,356,888
Japan 150
Other foreign countries 686

Eggs not in Shell.
British countries (not separately distinguished) 7,044
China 862,021
Other foreign countries (not separately distinguished) 20,932
18. Mr. Roland Robinson

asked the Minister of Agriculture what organisations exist in Great Britain for the co-operative grading and marketing of eggs, and how many poultry farming concerns are members of such organisations?

Mr. Morrison

I am collecting the information desired by my hon. Friend and hope to have it ready to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Mathers

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the information asked for in these questions is continually altering because of the fact that a very large number of people engaged in poultry farming are going out of business?

Following is the information:

The following agricultural co-operative organisations grade and pack eggs under the National Mark schemes in operation in England and Wales and in Scotland:


Berks. Co-operative Poultry Producers, Limited, Wokingham, Berks.

Thames Valley Poultry Producers, Limited, Didcot, Berks.

Pumpsaint and District Agricultural Co-operative Society, Limited, Lampeter, Cardiganshire.

Bude and District Poultry Producers, Limited, Bude, Cornwall.

Cornwall Farmers' Egg Marketing Society, Limited, Wadebridge, Cornwall.

Poultry Farmers of Devon, Limited, Callington, Cornwall.

The Beaminster and District Collecting Depot, Limited, Beaminster, Dorset.

Northern Agricultural Co-operative Society, Limited, Gateshead, Durham.

Melton Mowbray and District Farmers' Association, Limited, Melton Mowbray, Leicester.

Stamford and District Co-operative Egg and Poultry Society, Limited, Stamford, Lincoln.

Norfolk Egg Producers, Limited. Norwich.

Northamptonshire Egg Producers, Limited, Northampton.

Clynderwen and District Farmers' Association, Limited, Clynderwen, Pembroke.

Shropshire Egg Producers, Limited, Craven Arms, Shropshire.

Framlingham and Eastern Counties Co-operative Egg and Poultry Society, Limited, Framlingham, Suffolk.

Sappa, Limited, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.

Heathfield and District Poultry Keepers' Association, Limited, Heath-field, Sussex.

Stonegate and South Eastern Farmers' Co-operative Society, Limited, Stone-gate, Ticehurst, Sussex.

Pershore Co-operative Fruit Market, Limited, Pershore, Worcester.

East Yorkshire Farmers, Limited, Beverley, Yorks.


Aberdeenshire Egg Producers, Limited, Turriff.

Caithness Egg Marketing Society, Limited, Thurso.

Dunvegan Egg Depot, Dunvegan, Skye.

In addition to these there are a number of similar organisations in both countries which do not market their eggs under the National Mark. Egg grading and packing is also carried on by various agricultural co-operative societies as a part of their ordinary business. I regret that I have no precise details of the membership of these societies generally.

19. Mr. Robinson

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many poultry-farming concerns there are in Great Britain; and what has been their annual egg production during the past three years.

Mr. Morrison

As the reply includes a table of figures, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Earl Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend, in circulating that report, designate the number of poultry keepers who are very small men, men in receipt of a total income lower than that of many wage-earners?

Mr. Morrison

The question on the Paper does not ask for that particular information, but if the Noble Lord desires it, I shall be glad to furnish it as far as I can.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that many ex-service men were persuaded to put their gratuities into this industry and are now being ruined?

Statement giving the average prices of certain kinds of feeding stuffs in England and Wales, in half-yearly periods, 1934 to 1936.
Period (six months). Wheat* per cwt. Oats* per cwt. Maize, Argentina† per 480 lb. Bran, British† per ton (2,240 lb.). Weatings† per ton (2,240 lb.). Fish Meal† per ton (2,240 lb.).
s. d. s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
January-June, 1934 4 7 6 0 1 0 2 5 9 6 5 9 0 16 4 0
July-December, 1934 5 0 6 6 1 3 2 6 7 6 6 13 0 16 9 0
January-June, 1935 4 11 7 0 1 0 8 5 18 0 5 19 6 15 16 0
July-December, 1935 5 5 6 4 0 17 5 6 0 6 6 9 0 15 3 0
January-June, 1936 6 5 6 0 0 18 8 6 1 0 0 1 0 14 18 0
July-December, 1936 7 11 6 9 1 4 2 6 15 6 7 6 0 15 2 0
* Average prices returned at markets scheduled under the Corn Returns Act, 1882, and the Corn Sales Act, 1921.
† Average prices at wholesale markets at Bristol, Hull, Liverpool and London. Prices are on mill or store a erage for bran, weatings and fish meal, relate to quantities of not less than 2 tons.
Sir A. Knox

Will the Government act now that the Communist party has taken this matter up?

Following is the reply:

The latest information available regarding the number of farmers keeping poultry relates to the year 1931, when fowls were kept on approximately 300,000 agricultural holdings exceeding one acre in extent in England and Wales in respect of which returns were received under the Agricultural Returns Act, 1925. No comparable figures are available relating to Great Britain as a whole, and there is no reliable information as to the number of persons who keep poultry on holdings of one acre and less including gardens and backyards.

As regards the second part of the question, the following statement shows the estimated production of eggs in each of the past three years in England and Wales and in Great Britain.

Year (June to May). England and Wales Millions. Great Britain Millions.
1933–34 3,779 4,241
1934–35 3,736 4,194
1935–36 3,590 (a)
(a) Not yet available.

Note.—The above figures include the estimated production of eggs on holdings one acre and less in extent.

20. Mr. Robinson

asked the Minister of Agriculture what has been the course of the price of poultry feeding stuffs in Great Britain during the past three years?

Mr. Morrison

As the reply involves a table of figures, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to have it circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the table:

21. Major Hills

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that Danish and so-called fresh Rumanian eggs are on offer at 6s. per 120 free on rail to London; and whether he can expedite the report of the Import Duties Advisory Committee so as to save from ruin the many small poultry-rearers who have embarked their whole capital in the industry?

Lieut.-Colonel Colville

I have been asked to reply. I do not know the source from which the figures quoted by my right hon. and gallant Friend have been obtained. Prices of imported eggs in the early part of this year were low, but they have recently risen to more normal levels. With regard to the second part of the question, I would refer my right hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Major Mills) and the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche) on 16th February.

25. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the large increase in the imports of eggs since the standstill arrangement was terminated, he will consider a renewal of such an arrangement in order that the poultry industry may be saved from bankruptcy?

Captain Crookshank

I have been asked to reply. I would refer to the reply which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade gave on 9th February to the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers).

Mr. Turton

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that I asked this question last Tuesday of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who said that it was a question that should be addressed to the Minister of Agriculture, and that now that I have put it to the Minister of Agriculture he refers me to the Minister of Mines, and the Minister of Mines refers me to the previous answer?

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Does this indicate the addled state of the Government?

26. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements exist in this country for placing home-laid eggs in cold storage?

Mr. Morrison

I am not clear as to the exact nature of the information regarding the cold storage of eggs which my hon. Friend desires, but if he will be good enough to give me details of his requirements, I shall be happy to supply him with such information as is available.