HC Deb 28 October 1954 vol 531 cc2130-1
41. Mr. Steward

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will make a statement on the recent representations he has received about the difficulties farmers are meeting in disposing of bacon pigs; and how far bacon imports from Denmark and the Republic of Ireland are aggravating these difficulties.

Mr. Nugent

Free markets with comprehensive guarantees for the producers as a whole, and for individual producers, have been restored for all fatstock, and the Government are convinced that this represents in present circumstances the best system for marketing pigs as well as other stock. The difficulty over the marketing of pigs has been due, not to imports of bacon, but to the fact that the number of pigs offered to bacon factories has far exceeded their curing capacity. This has been caused by the disparity between the price paid for pigs of bacon weight and the prices for pork pigs in the open market.

My right hon. Friend has discussed the position with representatives of the producers, who have informed us that they are examining the problem of reducing this disparity in prices. Further intervention by the Government would be likely to disturb rather than improve the marketing arrangements. My right hon. Friend, in his capacity as Minister of Food, is now suggesting that his Joint Advisory Panel, which consists of representatives of all the interests concerned, should discuss the position at the next meeting of the panel.

Mr. de Freitas

Is it not true that while the Government were encouraging the greater production of pigs, they did nothing whatever to increase the capacity of the bacon-curing factories?

Mr. Nugent

This is not primarily a matter of the bacon-curing capacity of the factories. About half the production of pigs goes to the pork market and half to the bacon market.

Commander Maitland

Does my hon. Friend's answer apply equally to the import of live pigs from Ireland?

Mr. Nugent

The import of live pigs from Ireland is, as far as I know, negligible. There is a certain import of pork from Ireland and a certain import of bacon, but it is a very small proportion of the total.

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