HC Deb 07 July 1965 vol 715 cc1563-4
6. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how far the rise in the cost of pig food has affected the cost of pig production; whether he is satisfied with the present profit margins of pig keeping; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peart

The feed formula arrangements under the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme provide for the guaranteed price to be adjusted automatically as feed costs change. The cost of the basic feed ration has been increasing, but under the feed formula arrangements, compensating increases in the guaranteed price have been made during the current fatstock year totalling 1s. per score.

So far as profitability is concerned, all relevant factors were taken into account when the guaranteed price for pigs, and other features of the guarantee arrangements, were determined after the last Annual Review.

Mr. Mills

Does the Minister realise the serious position in which small pig keepers are at the moment and that it is virtually impossible to make a profit out of pig keeping? Does he realise that this is hurting the small farmer who has been hurt in poultry keeping and now is hurt in pig keeping? Will the Minister look at this matter, particularly the questions of imports of pork meat and feed costs?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Member knows full well, the system of flexible guarantees has been approved by the industry. He must not complain that it works. In the 1965 Price Review we raised the middle band from 11¾ million to 12.8 million. It should also be remembered that the total subsidy for pigs last year was over £30 million. The purpose of the flexible guarantee is to prevent overproduction which would be bad for the country.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does not the Minister agree that the feed formula is out of date and needs revising? Will he agree that many pig producers are finding it extremely difficult to make a living? Will he take extraordinary steps to deal with this problem and to see what can be done to increase productivity?

Mr. Peart

As a former Minister the hon. Member will know that it was agreed that there should be a review at a certain date. We shall do that and honour the agreement; it is right that we should have a proper feed formula and a flexible system. Certainly we shall look at this and I always said that we would.

Mr. H. Hynd

In considering all these demands for higher prices for farmers, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the interests of consumers?

Mr. Peart

Naturally I always bear those in mind; inevitably when considering an industry we have to bear in mind the production needed to meet demand, and we do this.