HC Deb 05 May 1988 vol 132 cc1005-6
8. Mr. Tredinnick

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the competitive position of British pigmeat producers.

Mr. MacGregor

In recent weeks the pigmeat market appears to have stabilised and the United Kingdom monetary compensatory amounts have fallen from minus 10.9 per cent. to minus 4.9 per cent.

Mr. Tredinnick

Would my right hon. Friend care to comment on the impact of current MCA levels on imported pigmeat and bacon? Is he satisfied that the British slaughtering industry is sufficiently prepared for the single European market in 1992?

Mr. MacGregor

The whole of industry has to make sure that it is sufficiently prepared for 1992, and many industries have a lot to do in that respect. In answer to my hon. Friend's first point, our domestic market shares have been holding up, but the important point is that the recent drop in the MCAs has meant that the subsidy per tonne of imported bacon side has fallen from £69 to £31 in the last few weeks. In so far as the MCAs are having an effect, it is much reduced. In the debate after Question Time I shall have more to say about pigmeat MCAs.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Given that there is a slight improvement, is the Minister satisfied that the pig industry is out of the crisis that it has faced over the past few months? Does he recall that in 1983, in a similar situation, 12 per cent. of the United Kingdom's pig breeding stock was lost? Is he satisfied that that will not happen again?

Mr. MacGregor

I have to make clear that it is not a slight improvement in MCAs. At the peak in February last year MCAs were nearly minus 28 points and now they are below minus 5. That is a considerable change. I am well aware of the pressures that the pig industry is facing. We are in a cycle in which supply is exceeding demand and, in a market such as the pigmeat market, that creates problems for producers.

Mr. Marland

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the British pig industry is further disadvantaged by the Dutch pig industry, which makes extensive use of manioc imports? Pelleted manioc imported into Holland carries a levy of 28 per cent. and the levy on the raw material is 6 per cent. Is he aware of allegations that the Dutch are importing pelleted manioc and paying only the 6 per cent. levy? Is my right hon. Friend's Ministry prepared to look at this?

Mr. MacGregor

We may if we wish use manioc in this country, but naturally the Dutch have advantages in their ports and in the ease of access at their ports for their producers. I have been looking into the point raised by my hon. Friend and the Customs directorate of the European Commission is investigating it. It is a fairly technical point and perhaps I could write to my hon. Friend about it. I do not think that it makes any difference to the present position of our pig industry.

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