HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1204-6
13. Mr. Jopling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further steps he is taking to prevent the wheat market from being severely depressed by imports of French wheat before he is able to increase the minimum import charges.

34. Sir D. Renton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware that from time to time during the past six months the price of wheat on the home market has fallen to too low a level as a result of foreign imports landed at British ports at prices below the cost of production; and what steps he will now take to remedy this situation.

37. Mr. Deedes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware that exceptionally heavy imports of French wheat during recent months have depressed the market to a point when some holders of grain in this country cannot obtain an economic price; and what further action he now intends to improve the market.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Imports of French wheat have not been abnormally large, but the low price at which it is on offer is a major cause of the current low price for home-grown wheat. While discussions continue about an increase in the existing minimum import prices following devaluation, the return to producers is not affected since this is safeguarded by the guarantee system.

Mr. Jopling

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he is prepared to tolerate a situation in which these dumped imports are wrecking our markets, and where the restitution of import subsidies paid on them is more than the selling price of the product? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that that is an intolerable situation about which he ought to be doing something?

Mr. Hughes

I realise that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are a gross exaggeration of the facts. The fact is that we are having discussions. I hope that they will be concluded at an early stage, and I hope to make a statement to the House.

Mr. Godber

Is the Minister aware that his answer will cause grave concern to producers who have been alarmed at the way in which these imports have been coming in? Will he give the House an assurance that he will come to a decision about some form of control on these imports? If he does not he will not get the increased production about which he was talking glibly a few moments ago.

Mr. Hughes

We shall come to a conclusion as quickly as possible, but we have to discuss the matter and negotiate, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware. There will be no unavoidable delay. I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the International Grains Agreement, which will be a help in this direction, will, if ratified, come into force on 1st July.

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