HC Deb 19 November 1959 vol 613 cc1330-2
30. Mr. Braine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the present difficulties in the bacon-pig industry, he will take steps, well in advance of the next Annual Price Review, to separate the guarantees for pork and bacon pigs sold for deadweight.

31. Mr. Gardner

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the threat of extinction to the British bacon industry, he will take immediate steps to separate the guarantees given to bacon producers from those given to other pig producers.

Mr. John Hare

I have received representations from all sides of the pig industry, both for and against the introduction of separate price guarantees for bacon pigs. I am giving full consideration to all these very varied opinions.

Mr. Braine

Could my right hon. Friend go further? Is he aware that the British curing industry is fast losing ground in its small share of the British bacon market? Is he aware that British bacon-pig producers are fearful that they will be ruined unless some statement of policy is made and some decision taken well in advance of the February Price Review?

Mr. Hare

We have to be very careful what we say. I do not think the facts quite bear out the implication of what my hon. Friend has said. The House should be aware of these two facts. The bacon factories in Great Britain slaughtered as many pigs in the first ten months of 1959 as in the first ten months of 1958. We also have to bear in mind that the average return for graded pigs at bacon factories over the new farming period, April to October, was 45s. 10d. per score, compared with the price for other pigs of 45s. 8d. In other words, bacon producers were slightly better off than producers of pork-pigs and pigs for manufacturing purposes.

Mr. Willey

The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that this does not allay the real anxiety. Can he undertake to make a very early statement in the House on the steps he proposes to take?

Mr. Hare

No, Sir. I purposely answered my hon. Friend to show that we have to get these things into perspective. I realise that the specialist bacon producer is not having an easy time at the moment, but the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has been connected with agriculture for long enough to know that the right decision requires very careful thought, and I think that hasty action would be most unwise.