HC Deb 26 April 2002 vol 384 cc506-7W
Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the recent change in the farmgate price of milk on the future viability of dairy farming; and what recent representations she has received from the dairy industry regarding agrimonetary compensation available to dairy farmers. [51454]

Mr. Morley

This year has witnessed considerable pressure on the farmgate price of milk, due in a large part to weak international markets for dairy commodities and to high current levels of domestic milk production. Official figures show that in February the average farmgate price of milk had fallen to 18.33 pence per litre. I am aware that some purchasers have recently announced more price cuts that are not yet reflected in official figures and which will further depress the average farmgate price of milk.

It is unlikely that prices at these levels are sustainable in the long term under the current milk regime and there are some potentially hopeful signs on world markets. The USA has recently exhausted its GATT commitment for subsidised exports of skimmed milk powders, while substantial quantities of New Zealand milk powders have already been sold. Furthermore, the EU has taken action—strongly supported by the UK—to assist dairy exports. We may therefore see some recovery in international markets that could ease pressure on domestic farmgate prices.

On 16 April, the National Farmers Union wrote to Lord Whitty, the Minister for Food, Farming and Waterways, presenting their case for further agrimonetary compensation for dairy farmers.