HC Deb 29 July 1971 vol 822 cc168-9W
Miss Joan Hall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now take action to stabilise butter prices.

Mr. Prior

The British consumer has been having to pay more for butter because a reduction in world stocks has led to substantial increases in the prices charged by our overseas suppliers, on whom we depend for about 87 per cent. of our butter supplies. During the last five months the price of butter from our principal suppliers has risen, in the case of New Zealand and Australian packet butter by 40 per cent. and in the case of Danish butter by almost 30 per cent. Faced with the prospect of falling supplies and higher prices from our traditional overseas suppliers, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry introduced on 29th April for the time being what is in effect an open market for butter imports, so that United Kingdom traders could buy butter wherever it was available.

United Kingdom imports of butter in June, the first full month to reflect the open import market, were 25,900 tons, 6,200 tons higher than our imports in June, 1970. They included shipments from five countries which do not normally supply us. The Irish Republic sent 7,650 tons, almost 5,000 tons more than in the same period last year. Butter stocks at the end of April were 19,400 tons lower than at the same period last year but by the end of June stocks were 3,900 tons above those at the end of June, 1970. Although United Kingdom butter prices will continue to reflect the available supply of butter, these prices have now stabilised and the prospects for the butter consumer is slightly better.