HC Deb 01 December 1954 vol 535 cc1-4W
Mr. Spearman

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he will now make a statement about the determination of minimum prices for livestock products for 1956–57 and 1957–58.

Mr. Amory

Yes. The Annual Review prescribed by Section 2 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, was held earlier this year, and a White Paper (Cmd. 9104) was then published giving the guarantees determined for livestock products for 1954–55 and for crops for the 1955 harvest. In addition, Section 5 of the Act requires

Minimum Prices for 1956–57 and 1957–58

The minimum prices that have now been determined are: —

Commodity 1955–56 1956–57 1957–58
As already fixed Adjusted to new basis for comparison
s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
Milk, per gallon 2 6 2 2 6 2 5
Fat cattle, per live cwt. 113 6 113 9 113 6 113 6
Fat sheep and lambs, per lb. deadweight 2 2 2 2 3 2 2
Fat pigs, per score deadweight* 45 0 43 6 41 0 38 0
40 0
Hen eggs, per dozen* 3 5 3 5 3 3 3 1
Duck eggs, per dozen* 2 2 2 2 1 10 1 8
Wool, per lb. (greasy basis) 3 0 3 0 3 0 3 0
* Prices subject to a sliding scale related to feedingstuffs prices.

the Agricultural Ministers to determine, in the light of this year's Annual Review, minimum terms for the guarantees for livestock products (milk, fatstock, eggs and wool) for the years 1956–57 and 1957–58.

The purpose of determining these minimum terms some time in advance is to enable farmers to plan ahead, knowing that the industry is assured of at least a definite average return whatever the circumstances of the times. The actual guaranteed prices for the years in question—1956–57 and 1957–58—will be determined in the usual way at the Annual Reviews in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

After discussion with the Farmers' Unions of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Agricultural Ministers have now determined the minimum prices set out below and have defined the produce to which these prices apply. A number of changes in the previous definitions have been made and these changes, together with the additional marketing expenses that farmers have had to bear since decontrol, have been taken into account by Ministers in determining the minimum prices. Because of these new factors most of the minimum prices for 1956–58 are not strictly comparable with those for 1955–56. The table below therefore includes a list of the 1955–56 minimum prices adjusted to the new basis for comparison.

Notes on Definitions

Attention is drawn to the following features of the revised definitions:—

Milk—The minimum prices for milk will now include the T.T. premium, but will still exclude certain special premiums (such as the Channel Islands and the level delivery premiums) now payable by distributors to producers individually. No minimum rate for the T.T. premium has been determined.

Far Cattle—The minimum prices for fat cattle will apply to steers and heifers (but not special young cows), weighing 7 cwt. or more gross liveweight and having an estimated killing out percentage of 54 per cent. (instead of 50 per cent. as at present), or having a dressed carcase weight of 425 lb. or more. The average deadweight equivalent of the minimum price of 113s. 6d. per live cwt. would be approximately 1s. 10¾d. per lb. dressed carcase weight.

Fat sheep and lambs—The minimum price for fat sheep and lambs will apply to clean sheep and lambs which are properly finished for the retail trade and have an estimated or actual dressed carcase weight of 25 lb. or more. Ministers have undertaken that at the Annual Reviews for 1956 and 1957 they will consider sympathetically with the Farmers' Unions the inclusion in the guarantees, for an appropriate part of each year, of fat lambs of types which can be properly finished to produce a dressed carcase weight below 25 lb.

Fat Pigs—The minimum prices for fat pigs will apply to clean fat pigs weighing from 90 lb. to 250 lb. liveweight or 60 lb. to 180 lb. deadweight and fit for human consumption. The prices quoted are related to a feeding-stuffs price of 29s. 10d. per cwt. as at the last Annual Review (the most recent equivalent price is 30s. 2d.).

Eggs—The minimum prices for hen eggs will apply to first quality eggs weighing 1½ oz. or more. The prices quoted for eggs are related to a feedingstuffs price of 29s. 1d. per cwt. as at the last Annual Review (the most recent equivalent price is 28s. 3d.).

Minor Changes—There are some other less important changes in the definitions. For example, minimum prices are not guaranteed for fat sheep and fat pigs produced from imported stores, nor for imported cattle until they have been in the country at least 91 days.

General Note—The actual guarantees for 1956–57 and 1957–58 determined after the Annual Reviews will not necessarily embody the changes described above. For instance they may cover some classes of fatstock that are not within the minimum price definitions.

Individual Guaranteed Prices

The purpose of the minimum prices determined under Section 5 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, is to guarantee for several years ahead a minimum average return to producers collectively. On the other hand, the object of the individual guaranteed prices under the fat-stock guarantee arrangements is quite different. Their purpose was to safeguard the individual producer against imperfections of the market on the introduction of the new auction system. For this purpose it is inappropriate to have the individual guarantees above the average level of market prices whatever that may be. In principle, therefore, there is no reason why the individual guarantees and the minimum prices should be at the same level.

When the new fatstock guarantee arrangements were announced in November, 1953, minimum prices for two years ahead—1954–55 and 1955–56—had already been determined when the system of guarantee was purchase by the State at fixed prices; and, as a transitional measure, the Government undertook to fix the individual guaranteed prices for these two years at no less than the minimum prices already determined. The Ministers have now given notice to the Farmers' Unions that, if the guarantee arrangements for 1956–57 and 1957–58 include individual guaranteed prices, they may fix these below the Section 5 minimum prices if it appears proper to do so. The minimum prices have been determined on that basis.

Calculation of Fatstock Prices

In making the necessary calculations to ensure that at least the guaranteed average minimum returns have been reached, all available relevant information will be taken into account; the precise method of making the calculation will be decided when the time comes after consulting producers' representatives.