§ 35. Brigadier Medlicott
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will make a statement on the present situation concerning the disposal of home-produced pigs.
I understand that the number of pigs offered to bacon factories for curing has declined considerably but is still somewhat in excess of what the factories can take. The number sold for pork has also fallen now that the accumulation of pigs has been cleared; and there has been a distinct improvement in the prices realised at the auction markets.
Mr. T. Williams
Is it not the case that no long-term solution can be provided for this pig situation apart from more new bacon factories, and that the alternative is many fewer pigs?
I think that the long-term solution is really to be found in a continuing improvement in the quality of pigs and a continuing reduction in the costs of production.
But is it not perfectly true that, no matter how high the quality of the pigs may be, there will always be production surplus to requirements so long as the factory accommodation is not there?
I should think that the curers would be ready to review their curing facilities in the light of progress in the two directions which I have already indicated.
§ 38. Mr. G. Williams
asked the Minister of Agriculture when he anticipates he will be in a position to make a complete statement of Government long-term policy with regard to pig production in this country so that pig breeders will know whether it is the policy of the Government that they should continue to increase home production and to incur capital expenditure on the introduction of modern scientific methods into their arrangements for pig production.
The Government's policy has already been stated. The White Paper issued after the Annual Review last March said that a primary objective of general policy must now be to secure a more rapid improvement in economic efficiency. It stated also that further expansion of pig production must now depend on improvement of quality and substantial reduction in costs. The steady improvement of efficiency through the use of modern scientific methods is essential for the achievement of these aims.
§ Mr. Williams
Is the Minister aware that at the moment farmers are being discouraged by the great difference between the retail price and the market price, and will he continue to pursue his present policy of encouraging more pig production at home, because that it the one thing we can produce without requiring the wide open spaces as, for example, in the production of wheat?
I think that we have made it clear that the Government's view is that the higher the level of production at home the better, provided that that production is accompanied by the greatest possible efficiency.
Mr. T. Williams
While I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is desirable that we should have the highest quality of pigs, does he not agree—no matter how high the quality—that unless the bacon factories are capable of absorbing the pigs, there will always be a surplus to requirements? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, if the factories will not extend their accommodation, the Ministry itself might consider doing so?
I think that is a hypothesis, and that such a hypothetical situation is not likely to be reached.