HC Deb 30 October 1975 vol 898 cc1729-30
1. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to announce his decision on the negotiations on the 1976 sugar beet contract which has been referred to him.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Gavin Strang)

Perhaps I should preface my answer by saying that my right hon. Friend is sorry for his absence, but he is attending the very important stock-taking meeting of agricultural Ministers in Luxembourg.

The British Sugar Corporation and the National Farmers Union reached agreement yesterday on the terms of the 1976 sugar beet contract.

Mr. MacGregor

Although this is welcome news, is the Minister aware that this contract was accepted by only a narrow margin among farmers, largely due to the fact that part of the extra award to them, the £1 per ton that they were given on the guaranteed price, has been pre-empted in the sense that the first £1 increase from any further devaluation of the green pound or the next price review will go to the British Sugar Corporation and not to the fanners?

In view of that, and in the light of the poor beet yields because of the weather, in the past two years, will the Minister stress to his right hon. Friend that it is essential that he guarantees that before the farmers have to sign their contracts next year he will seek the most favourable price review possible, so that the farmers will be encouraged to have confidence again in the crop and will obtain the extra acreage which for economic reasons the Government quite rightly seek?

Mr. Strang

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman himself will recognise that the price of sugar beet has been increased enormously over the last two years. It is true that the adjustment to the green pound made it easier for agreement to be reached, but agreement has been reached, and I think that we can look forward to an expansion in the sugar beet acreage next year.