HC Deb 24 April 1975 vol 890 cc1734-5
15. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in view of the continuing need for an increase in the beet acreage, he will make an immediate announcement about an increased price for beet for the current year.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. E. S. Bishop)

This is a matter for the British Sugar Corporation and the National Farmers'Union but I understand that the NFU and the BSC have just reached agreement on a formula for increasing the price paid to growers for their sugar beet and that details will be sent to growers very shortly.

Mr. MacGregor

Is the Minister aware that the present weather is creating havoc with the sowing of beet? In view of the need for the maximum uptake of the increased quota which his right hon. Friend negotiated, and bearing in mind that the increase in the sugar beet price negotiated at the February EEC Council of Ministers'meeting is a minimum and that there is still a 14 per cent. disparity between the price available to continental beet growers and United Kingdom beet growers, will the Minister consider taking steps, if the new price is insufficient, to make up that short-fall?

Mr. Bishop

I hope that the settlement by the BSC and the National Farmer's Union will reassure growers. The price for the 1975 returns is expected to be approximately double that paid in 1972.

With regard to the plantings, the EEC meeting and the basic quota, the BSC target acreage would have met the basic quota. Despite the recent had weather I am hopeful that they will not fall far short of the target.

Mr. Wiggin

Will the Minister say what the increase is likely to be? If the matter has already been agreed, why cannot he say what the increase will be? Will he bear in mind the immense urgency of this matter? Farmers are making plans for planting sugar beet for this season.

Mr. Bishop

An agreement was reached by the NFU and the BSC. The indications are that that will afford the assurance which is necessary to obtain the quota.

Mrs. Bain

Will the Minister review the decision taken by the previous Government to close down the sugar beet factory in Cupar, Fife, an enterprise which was profitable and which provided much employment for the local community? Will he tell the House whether that was part of a deal with the EEC? If so, will he join with the Scottish National Party in urging that a White Paper should be produced specifically on Scottish issues for the EEC referendum?

Mr. Bishop

With regard to the Irish situation, the Irish NFU said in a Press release—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong Question."] I do not know whether I should apologise to the hon. Lady for mistaking her accent. With regard to the Scottish situation, the position is that stated in the agreement between the BSC and the NFU.

As regards the sugar situation, we must pay the price set out in the agreement arranged by my right hon. Friend to ensure adequate sugar supplies. I am confident that the price obtained for the sugar beet growers will produce the result we want.

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