HC Deb 16 July 1997 vol 298 cc195-6W
Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the role of organic produce in assisting(a) Caribbean countries and (b) other developing countries to increase their international trade; and if she will make a statement. [8735]

Clare Short

I am keen to explore the potential for organic production in developing countries. My Department has seconded an agricultural specialist to the Delegation of the European Commission in the Eastern Caribbean to serve as Donor Co-ordinator to the Banana Industry. The Co-ordinator is working with Government and banana industry representatives on how the Windward Islands might best respond to any proposed erosion of the preferential trade agreement for bananas with the European Union. This agreement comes to an end in 2002. A range of options are being considered for improving the quality of Windward Islands' bananas and to identify niche markets.

Some Caribbean producers are beginning to take an interest in organic exports. The European Commission is helping farmers in the Windward Islands to consider the potential of organic production.

Disregarding travel-to-work costs in calculating earnings
Benefit All costs 70 per cent. taper 50 per cent. taper
Costs £ million Gainers Cost £ million Gainers Costs £ million Gainers
Income support/income-based
jobseeker's allowance cases 15 80,000 10 80,000 1 80,000
Contribution-based jobseeker's allowance only cases 1 10,000 1 10,000 1 10,000
Housing benefit 70 160,000 50 160,000 35 160,000
Council tax benefit 20 120,000 15 120,000 10 110,000
1 Denotes negligible cost i.e. less than £2.5 million.

1. Modelled on the 1994–95 Family Resources Survey (FRS) uprated to 1997–98 benefit levels and earnings.

2. Costs are rounded to the nearest £5 million, gainers to the nearest 10,000.

3. The estimate for income support and jobseeker's allowance (JSA) has been combined due to difficulties in separately identifying the unemployed not in receipt of contributory benefit on the FRS.

4. This is a deadweight estimate: there is insufficient information on which to estimate possible behavioural responses.

5. A number of benefit units on family credit would be better off on income support/JSA as a result of this change. It is assumed that they do move onto out of work benefits, and the IS/JSA(Income Based) cost is net of the family credit saving.

6. No figures are collected directly on the cost of running cars and motorcycles. Instead, costs are estimated using mileage rates (42 pence per mile for cars and nine pence per mile for motorcycles). Outlying cases have been ignored.

My Department recently commissioned a study from the Henry Doubleday Research Association and Coventry University on the potential for further development of organic agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. This study concluded that in the short-term there is limited scope for small-scale farmers in Kenya and Ghana to export organic produce. I will place a copy of this report in the Library of the House once it is finalised.

There is, however, considerable interest in adopting individual organic technologies which conserve resources. But, with the exception of some non-perishable crops such as coffee and tea, it would appear that, without some assistance, few resource-poor farmers will be able, in the short to medium-term, to achieve international standards of organic accreditation.

Through our Sustainable Agriculture Strategy my Department will work with poor farmers to develop and use technologies which conserve resources and minimise the use of agricultural pesticides. Where this is appropriate we will also help groups of farmers to achieve organic accreditation, thus increasing their incomes by exporting produce or selling to urban centres.

Back to