Fodder

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd December 1974.

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Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey 12:00 am, 2nd December 1974

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement about the fodder situation in Wales.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will disclose the result of the survey recently carried out by Her Majesty's Government into the fodder situation in the livestock-rearing areas in Wales.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

The recent survey showed an overall shortfall in Wales of the order of 13 per cent. hay and 25 per cent. straw. The quality of much of the hay was poor. Other fodder crops appeared to be up to average in yield, particularly silage. Harvesting was not consistent, but the hills generally have come off worse than the lowlands. However, adequate supplies of cereal feed are available and the extra cash which is being made available this winter from the livestock subsidies and the higher returns for beef will help some farmers to pay for feed.

Photo of Mr Cledwyn Hughes Mr Cledwyn Hughes , Anglesey

Does my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that a major operation is now necessary to enable producers of stores to keep their animals alive this winter? Is he aware that the best prospect would appear to be the purchase and transporting of feed straw from Eastern England to Wales and the West country, and that this should be available at a figure of under £30 a ton, although it would need some protein injection, such as poultry residues? Will my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture therefore consider some co-operative action between the Government, the farming unions and ADAS advising all areas of greatest need? Otherwise there could be an extremely serious position, especially if there is a hard winter.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

I am deeply aware of the gravity of the problem in many parts of Wales. That is why my right hon. Friend and I have been holding discussions with the farming unions to see what might be done in the way of practical assistance. There is unfortunately a shortage of straw and roughage in other parts of the country as well.

One of the questions which may have to be looked at is whether, instead of necessarily moving the feed to the animals, one moves the animals to the feed. All these matters will be looked at—indeed they are being looked at— anxiously. I hope very much that the confidence that the floor to the market gives to those maintaining stores will ensure that animals start moving to the more traditional fattening areas.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

Bearing in mind the high cost of fodder, will the Secretary of State join the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and look into the possibilities of providing finance for agriculture on lines similar to those on which the Chancellor of the Duchy is providing finance for industry?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

That is exactly what we have done by bringing forward payments for hill cows and increasing those for hill sheep. All these matters are substantial. When we announced and spelt out the details in the last agriculture debate there was a great deal of surprise on the faces of hon. Members on the Opposition side.

This is the kind of cash flow required by the industry, and it will bring a great deal of help.

Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that apart from giving Welsh farmers substantial financial help, the fodder situation would be greatly relieved if they could sell calves and barreners to Continental and other overseas countries, in respect of which there is at present a ban. Will the Secretary of State use his best endeavours to secure a debate on the O'Brien Report this side of Christmas?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

That is a matter for the Leader of the House, who is fully aware of the concern in different parts of the House for an early debate.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us that no hay and straw will be exported to the Continent during the next three or four months?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

In the first agriculture debate of this Parliament, I said that there was no evidence of the export of hay or straw. The farming Press has ventilated this problem, too. I said that I should welcome evidence of any significant export, or, indeed, any export. So far, none has been produced, although I have invited hon. Members on both sides to do so.

Photo of Mr Caerwyn Roderick Mr Caerwyn Roderick , Brecon and Radnor

Will my right hon. and learned Friend discuss with the Minister of Agriculture the possibility of the Ministry being involved in the distribution of fodder? Will he consider subsidising imports of fodder? Although there is some excess in some parts of the country, overall, we understand that there is a shortage. Not only is there a shortage, but the price is out of the reach of many Welsh farmers.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

All these problems are being considered by my right hon. Friend and me. The problem in this country is that there is a general shortage of hay and straw. That is why I distinguished them from cereals. There have been poor harvests on the Continent, also. It may be possible to get some supplies from Canada, but I cannot raise any hopes that this could have any significant effect at the moment. However, we are deeply considering every possibility. The problem is the general shortage.