HC Deb 28 July 1983 vol 46 cc1314-6
4. Mr. Freeman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to assist the pig farming industry, specifically with regard to the cost of feed supplies.

8. Mr. Deakins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made with the feed incorporation proposals for pigs made by the European Commission.

Mr. Jopling

I shall continue to press for more restraint on cereal prices in the interests of the intensive livestock sector.

It is important to achieve a stable pattern of cereals marketing over the coming season, and I hope that users of feed grain will buy forward as far as possible to take advantage of current new crop prices, and to prevent excessive quantities going for export or into intervention.

The Commission's proposed cereals incorporation scheme is still under discussion.

Mr. Freeman

Will the Minister give us some hope that he will seek an amendment to the cereals regime so that crops sold into intervention immediately after the harvest are more readily available to the pig producing industry at prices that it can more readily afford?

Mr. Jopling

We have made representations to the Commission to find ways whereby the intervention system can work more smoothly and deal with shortages, when they occur. During the past two months we have had a number of discussions with the Commission to achieve that end.

Mr. Deakins

Does the Minister agree that the main aim of the Commission's proposals is not to help the pig and poultry industries, but to dispose of surplus cereals? Does he further agree that the conditions so far outlined in the scheme would put our producers at a distinct disadvantage in that they involve an increased uptake of cereals—Britain already uses a great deal of cereals in feed incorporation schemes — they will not help the smaller home mixer, and they are not coming in at the right time of the year? In fact, they are coming in at the wrong time of the year, when there will be an abundance of home harvested cereals.

Mr. Jopling

The hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that there is a certain amount of disappointment about the incorporation scheme as proposed so far. As proposed, the scheme is not as likely as we should wish to help the United Kingdom livestock producer. However, we shall be having further discussions, and we shall seek to angle the scheme more towards the needs of the livestock industry.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I remind him that in recent price fixings the Commission and the Council agreed that the increases in prices for the livestock sector had been higher than increases in the grain sector. That is right, and it is my stated policy to continue that progress in the future.

Mr. Nicholas Baker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the pig farming industry is suffering from bad marketing of its products? Will he help in the better promotion of British pork and bacon products?

Mr. Jopling

I have already expressed my support for Food from Britain, the exciting new organisation that was set up by my predecessor.I strongly support the opportunities which are already resulting from the charter bacon scheme, and I was delighted that the figures which appeared recently showed for the first time for a long time that consumption in this country of home-produced bacon exceeded that of Danish bacon. Recently, we have been using 46 per cent. of our own charter bacon and bacon from other home sources. This is a great step forward.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hopes raised by his predecessor's statement a few month ago about intervention grain being sold at prices which would assist the British pig producers have, as a result of backtracking, not by this Government but by the Commission, not been realised? Does he further agree that it is therefore necessary to keep up pressure on the Commission to sell grain held in intervention at below market prices, rather than at market prices, because if it is sold at market prices there is no obvious benefit to British pig producers?

Mr. Jopling

We have been trying to do exactly that. My hon. Friend is probably aware that I raised the matter at the very first meeting of the Council that I attended. I tried to press the Commission to stand by the promises that we thought we had obtained from it to release grain for the benefit of the British livestock sector.


Does my right hon. friend agree that substantial relief could be afforded to the United Kingdom pig industry by a ban on the importation of pigmeat from countries where Aujeszkys disease remains endemic? Will he consider the imposition of such a ban and will he show his readiness to use the Community's rules to benefit our industry in the same way as our partners in the Community have used them to benefit theirs?


We are already making a great deal of progress in eliminating Aujeszkys disease from Britain's pig population and I am delighted with the extent of that progress. That scheme is moving along well. Britain is always jealous of the health of its livestock and if there are further steps to be taken to protect our pig population from this disease I shall be glad to consider them.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does the Minister accept that the pig industry is deeply disappointed by the failure of the incorporation scheme proposals? The remarks of his hon. Friend the Minister of State in the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments disappointed his colleagues, the pig industry and the Opposition. Can we not do better? Will the Minister press harder for an effective incorporation scheme?

Mr Jopling

The hon. Gentleman should consider the steps that we have already taken to help the pig industry. The National Farmers Union made representations to my predecessor. We have done many of the things that were asked for. We have introduced an aid for private storage scheme. We have increased the rate of aid payable under that scheme. On two occassions we increased the export refunds and we have given a lot of new money to the improvement of United Kingdom pigmeat processing plants. We have remitted veterinary charges on meat inspections and, as I have said, we have supported the charter bacon scheme. The position of the pig industry is not as bad as it was earlier. Prices are still marginally below what they were a year ago and I hope that we shall soon see an improvement in the pig industry's economic prosperity.