HC Deb 23 January 1975 vol 884 cc1734-5
18. Mr. Shersby

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the price he has indicated that sugar beet manufacturers will receive in the next sugar beet campaign will be adequate to ensure the maximum take-up of the increased sugar beet quota; and what is the present level of take-up of contracts compared to the same time last year.

Mr. Strang

The British Sugar Corporation expects the contracted acreage to reach about 500,000 acres compared with 484,000 acres last year.

Mr. Shersby

Is the Minister aware that the House will be grateful for the assurance he has given regarding the acreage contracted for so far? Will he tell the House something about the progress of the negotiations now taking place for an 8 per cent. price increase on 1st February and a further 8 per cent. price increase on 1st July as a result of the EEC recommendations?

Mr. Strang

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I think he will be well aware that my right hon. Friend stated that he is in favour of the proposed price increase for beet.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the Minister be so kind as to sweeten my few moments by telling us whether he will now consider a massive increase in beet production in this country? Beet produced here is infinitely cheaper than that which we can buy from overseas. Will he offer to our beet producers a proper incentive by which we can raise nearly half a million tons more sugar a year than we are now raising?

Mr. Strang

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are in favour of increased beet production. If the Commission's proposals go through, the price to the producer will be about £16 a ton compared with £8 a ton in 1972.

Mr. Wiggin

If the sugar beet crop this year yields even an average amount, what will be the total deficiency on United Kingdom sugar requirements? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although his right hon. Friend has said that he is negotiating a long-term agreement with the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement countries, so far not one ounce of that sugar has been bought, is on the high seas or has reached a British port?

Mr. Strang

Expected production of sugar beet will be somewhere in line with our basic quota. The hon. Gentleman know that we have had a disappointing beet crop this year. On the second part of his question, the fact is that my right hon. Friend has just secured 300,000 tons of sugar through the Lardinois scheme and is in the process of negotiating a long-term agreement with the ACP countries.