HL Deb 20 April 1993 vol 544 cc1363-4

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they intend to redress the adverse balance of payments caused by subsidised organically-grown produce imported from other member states in the European Community.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, a consultation document on environmental schemes was issued on 26th March. Included in that was a proposal for an organic aid scheme. It is hoped that that will contribute to a growth in the area under organic production in England.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. It is good news for organic farmers that at last their names are being recognised by MAFF. Will my noble friend tell the House how much money is being allocated to the ESA programme by MAFF? Also, how much of that will be allocated to organic farmers who presently farm around 35,000 hectares, already fully meeting the rules under the ESA? Will he remind his right honourable friend Mr. Gummer that the Germans, who are largely responsible for this imbalance in trade, are receiving a subsidy of £213 per hectare on arable land and that the German Government are preparing to spend £35 million on organic support alone in 1993?

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, the current ESA budget is £31 million a year. This package will add a further £12 million a year to the ESA budget, bringing the annual ESA budget to £43 million per annum. There will also be £19 million a year new money by 1995–96 for the other proposed new schemes, of which the organic aid scheme is included.

I understand that the current German scheme is available to producers of certain agricultural produce who undertake to reduce output by at least 20 per cent. That can be achieved either by taking land out of production or introducing less intensive ways of farming, including conversion of the total farm to organic production. Our information suggests that payments vary according to the Länder involved and that the maximum amount payable would be a little less than my noble friend suggests—around £206 per hectare. The German scheme ends this year and will be replaced by one based on the European Community regulation for agriculture and the environment.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Earl referred to organic production in England. Will he be good enough to tell us whether what he says is applicable in Wales and Scotland? Welsh farmers also are interested in his remarks.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, the proposals are along similar lines throughout the United Kingdom. However, some schemes may not be relevant in all four territories. For example, there will be no new nitrate measures in Wales since it has no significant nitrate problem. Some scheme details have been adapted to reflect varying environmental circumstances in different parts of the United Kingdom; for example, differences in heather coverage on moorland in England and Scotland.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, are not those figures minuscule compared with the hundreds of millions of pounds being lost by fraud in illegal payments to tobacco growers and non-existent olive growers throughout the Community?

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, asks another question. I would point out that there is a Question next week and another the week after that on tobacco and olive oil fraud.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, can the noble Earl reassure consumers in the United Kingdom that organically-grown produce imported from other member states in the European Community is subject to the same degree of control ensuring that it is organically grown as applies to such produce grown in the United Kingdom?

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, we have strict controls on pesticides and other chemicals used in farming and processing. Therefore, it is not generally necessary to buy organic food to ensure a good and healthy diet. Some people prefer food produced in an organic way and their demand should be recognised, not least because a little of what one fancies does one good.

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