HC Deb 23 March 1961 vol 637 cc555-6
11. Sir A. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much the 17 per cent, of the United Kingdom's beef supplies imported from Argentina represented in weight and value last year; what is the estimated saving in cost, compared with home-produced meat; and what has been the average cost of dealing with foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks and paying compensation in the past five years.

Mr. Soames

Imports of beef from the Argentine in 1960 amounted to 204,000 tons, valued at £39 million, or £191 per ton. The guaranteed price for fat cattle to United Kingdom producers in that year was the equivalent of £285 per ton. Argentine imports, however, supplement rather than replace home production and, even with their help, beef consumption per head last year was well below the pre-war level. That is one of the reasons for the substantial increase in the guaranteed price for fat cattle following the Annual Price Review. Over the period 1956–60 compensation, together with the cost of slaughter, the disposal of carcases and the disinfection of premises has averaged just over £1 million per year.

Sir A. Hurd

I thank my right hon. Friend for that information. Has he noted that there was recently an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among pigs at a Royal Air Force station which uses Argentine beef? Has he further noticed from Answers given by his right hon. Friends representing Service Departments that they cannot say how much Argentine beef is being used by the Service Departments. In view of what my right hon. Friend has said, will he give us that information? It seems that there may be a special risk attaching to the use of Argentine meat in Royal Air Force stations and Army units where personnel may not be as careful as they should be to sterilise the remains of food before feeding it to the pigs.

Mr. Soames

I am sure that my colleagues' attention will be drawn to the Question which my hon. Friend has put. I shall certainly make sure that their attention is drawn to it. As to the fact that they could not say what amount of Argentine beef was consumed by each Service, I understand that although the meat has to reach certain standards, it is left to the contractor to decide from what source the beef comes.

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