§ 2.38 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the prospective supplies of beef for the United Kingdom market in the second half of this year from home sources and the chief exporting countries, particularly Australia, Argentina and Yugoslavia, compared with average supplies over the past five years, and what forecast has been made of total supplies of beef to the United Kingdom in 1966.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, our total beef supplies for the July-December period averaged 620,000 tons over the last five years. Of this total, 445,000 tons were home-produced, 85,000 tons came from Argentina, 33,000 tons from Australia, and some 8,000 tons from Yugoslavia. In addition, the Irish Republic and Uruguay each sent some 13,000 tons, and New Zealand about 9,000 tons. In the second half of this year total supplies are expected to be considerably below the five-year average, although no precise forecast is possible. Compared with this average, home supplies will be lower (although about the same as last year), imports from the Argentine will be substantially less, and those from Yugoslavia and Uruguay may also be down. On the other hand, imports of frozen beef from Australia and New Zealand may be double the five-year average. With regard to 1966, there are too many uncertainties in world supply and demand for me to be able to give a reliable estimate of our total supplies, but I am glad to say that we expect an increase in home production.
§ LORD HURD
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that Answer? Having looked at the whole situation, does he not think that the outlook for the British consumer, who likes a nice bit of beef occasionally, is pretty grim for the next two or three years, and would it not be 1159 right for the Government to take further measures now to stimulate and encourage an increased production of beef in this country, as the demand from the Continent of Europe seems to be continuing very strongly and is likely to persist?
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that the outlook is not very good for that nice little bit of succulent beef that he was talking about. The fact is that, as the noble Lord knows, we have taken some measures to increase future beef supplies, and evidence already available to us shows that measures taken at the last Review in relation to the guaranteed price, calf subsidy and hill cow subsidy are achieving the Government's purpose of stimulating home production. We think that, to some extent, this will meet the shortage; but clearly this is a world shortage, and we cannot hope to make this up by stimulating our own home production.
My Lords, in view of the fact that the majority of the countries who supply us with beef are now themselves consuming more of their own products, and in view of the fact that, as the noble Lord said, our home-produced beef in the last six-month period was lower than previously, could he say what steps Her Majesty's Government have in mind, other than those he has mentioned, to increase the home production—because would he not agree that the increase of 10s. in the calf subsidy is wholly inadequate to encourage further beef production?
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, we are finding that it has, in fact, increased it. The full results will be coming in later; the figures I have given are those which are available to the Ministry to date. But, of course, we shall have to watch the position. We shall have to consider it before the next Annual Review, because clearly this is a matter of tremendous importance to the consumer in this country.
But does the noble Lord not appreciate that, while there is a difficulty at the moment, it is not likely to have its full impact until about another eighteen months' time, and that therefore measures should be taken immediately, as 1160 opposed to waiting for another year or so when it may be too late?
§ LORD CHAMPION
As I have said, the measures already taken are showing results. Clearly, the calf cubsidy cannot have any immediate result—the beasts have got to grow up and reach beef standard and beef size—but we think that we have taken appropriate measures. However, as I say, we shall watch the position, because we are, as the noble Earl is, anxious about it.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether Her Majesty's Government are taking steps to encourage the import of beef from Rhodesia? Is he aware that the Rhodesian National Farmers' Union recently let it be known that, with appropriate markets, they could increase the export of beef from Rhodesia to some £20 million per annum within a very short time?
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am sorry to say, my Lords, that I have no information on that point, but I will look into it and write to the noble Lord; or if he cares to put down a Question, I will give him the reply.