HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc376-7
2. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current level of levy per tonne of wheat imported into the United Kingdom from countries outside the European Economic Community.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Mick Buchanan-Smith)

Yesterday's levy was £72.38 per tonne.

Mr. Spearing

Is the Minister aware that the farm gate price for wheat is only £123 per tonne, which is high for Britain and suggests that the levy is nearly two-thirds the cost of home grown wheat? In that case, does he agree that even if the cost of wheat represented as little as one-third of the cost of bread, using imported wheat without levy could bring the price of bread down by 15 to 20 per cent. at a stroke? If he does not agree with those figures, will he place his Department's calculations in the Library?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman should not exaggerate this matter, because the levy amounts to less than 2p on the price of a standard loaf. That is the effect at the consumer end. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the threshold price for wheat and the levy that must be paid—particularly as this is wheat in respect of which the Community is not self-supporting—is too high. We have tried, and we shall continue to do so, to bring that price down.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does not the Minister accept that the cost to the livestock sector of the farming community of this level of levy is prohibitive?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

This question relates to strong wheat, which is of particular interest to our baking industry. The issue of importance is the discrimination against our baking industry in obtaining a raw material that it cannot get from within the Community. That is what is wrong.

Mr. Jay

What does the figure of £70 a tonne amount to as a percentage of the import price?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

At present, the world price for wheat—we cannot necessarily be sure what quantities will be available at that price—is around £84 per tonne. On the other hand, and contrary to what the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) said, the right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that the actual market price for strong wheat in the United Kingdom is around £130 per tonne.