§ 4. Mr. Durant
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the present state of sugar negotiations with the Commonwealth sugar producers, both between the Commonwealth sugar producers and the EEC and also the Commonwealth sugar producers and the United Kingdom, indicating what minimum price the EEC is at present offering, what supplementary price the United Kingdom is at present 419W offering and what Commonwealth sugar producers are demanding.
§ 20. Mr. Marten
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the negotiations for 1.4 million tons of cane sugar from the developing Commonwealth.
§ 21. Mr. Tim Renton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the price at which he expects Commonwealth sugar to be available to the United Kingdom during 1975.
§ 30. Mr. Wiggin
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the recent negotiations with the EEC and the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement countries over the supply of sugar to the United Kingdom in 1975 and subsequent years.
§ Mr. Peart
It has not yet been possible to reach agreement with the developing Commonwealth countries on the special price to be paid for supplies to the United Kingdom in 1975. I have offered £250 per ton cif and, when talks were suspended last week, the supplying countries were asking £283 per ton.
As a result, little progress has so far been made in the negotiations between these countries and the EEC on the long-term aspects of a sugar agreement, including the level of the fall-back guaranteed price. As I said in my statement to the House on 21st November, the Community's proposal is that this guaranteed price should be negotiated within the limit of the prices applicable in the EEC.
§ Mr. Loyden
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the deadlock in the sugar talks, he will publish an early statement on the negotiations in the Official Report.
§ Mr. Peart
There is no deadlock; only an adjournment. I have offered to guarantee, on sugar shipped in 1975 by the African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar-producing countries, the payment of a supplement over and above the minimum price guaranteed by the European Economic Community. This guarantee would enable the total price paid to be equal to £250 a long ton cif a British port. For their part, the Governments420W of these countries have said that they would not accept less than £283 a long ton cif, and they have proposed that this price should apply until June 1976. In a public comment after the last discussions on 14th January, Mr. Patterson, the Minister of Trade of Jamaica, who was the spokesman for the supplying countries, indicated that the sugar to be supplied against the full quantity of 1.4 million long tons of raw sugar for which access is guaranteed would be kept available for the time being. I am ready to resume negotiations at any tme.
The supplying countries are engaged in separate negotiations with the Commission of the European Economic Community about the terms of access to the Community, including the minimum guaranteed price. These talks have also been adjourned for the time being.
§ Mr. Pym
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what developments have taken place since the Statement of Intent on 8th August 1973 between United Kingdom sugar refineries on the future reorganisation of the sugar industry; and if he will make a statement on the current investment programme in United Kingdom sugar beet and sugar cane factories.
§ Mr. Peart
The previous discussions based on the statement of intent involved a voluntary scheme of reorganisation upon which, unfortunately, it was impossible to secure the agreement of the three companies involved. Current investment programmes are a matter for the companies involved and it would be improper for me to disclose the details of any confidential discussions I may have with them.
§ Mr. Hooson
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the present strategic stocks of sugar available to the Government within the United Kingdom; and what is regarded by the Government as a desirable level of such strategic stocks.
§ Mr. Strang
It is not the practice to give details of any of the stocks of food forming part of the Government's strategic reserves.
§ Mr. Pym
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much sugar he now expects to be produced from the 1974–75 United Kingdom crop; how much sugar the United Kingdom has received in the Lardinois proposals; how much sugar he expects to receive from the Commonwealth producers in 1975; what the outstanding amount between expected supplies and expected demands is for 1975; and what plans he has to obtain the sugar to make good the shortfall.
§ Mr. Peart
The current estimate for the 1974–75 sugar beet crop in the United Kingdom is 565,000 tons of white sugar equivalent. Of the first slice of 200,000 metric tons involved in the Communities scheme for subsidised imports, 155,000 metric tons was successfully tendered for by British refiners. On 21st January, the Council decided in principle to subsidise imports of a further 300,000 metric tons as a second stage of this scheme, but I cannot yet estimate how much will come to the United Kingdom. The tonnage of cane to be received from Commonwealth countries in 1975 must depend on the negotiations that still have to be concluded. But Mr. Patterson, the spokesmans for the African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar-producing countries, has publicly stated that in the meanwhile the full quantity of 1.4 million tons is being held available. Given this situation, and the decision of the Council of Ministers in October 1974 to take whatever steps were necessary to make good the deficiency in the Community's supplies for422W 1974–75, it would be premature to assume that there will be a shortfall. But, should one occur, I clearly cannot disclose the contingency plans the Government are making.