Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the present level of United Kingdom butter production.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

The quantity of butter produced in the United Kingdom in the period January to May 1976 is estimated at 51,500 metric tons, compared with 21,800 metric tons produced in the same period in 1975.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Is the Minister aware that last year the British farmer supplied only 9 per cent. of United Kingdom butter requirements and that the rest of the EEC countries supplied 62 per cent.? What steps is he taking to remedy that imbalance and ensure that Britain does not remain the dumping ground for EEC surpluses?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of my right hon. Friend's views on surpluses and the representations he has made in Brussels. United Kingdom butter production was low last year, at 48,000 tonnes. It is expected to double to about 100,000 tonnes this year, leaving a requirement for imports of about 300,000 tonnes, compared with 387,000 tonnes last year. This is an important contribution to import-saving.

Photo of Mr Raphael Tuck Mr Raphael Tuck , Watford

Four weeks ago my right hon. Friend the Minister told me that there was no butter mountain in Britain. Is my hon. Friend aware that a week previously The Times had reported that there was a butter mountain in Britain of 1,000 tons and that it has increased since? What will he do about it?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

My hon. Friend should get the matter into perspective. The intervention stocks of butter in the United Kingdom stood at 3,250 tonnes at the end of June. Butter was being sold into intervention in the United Kingdom because of the high level of imports from the EEC before the transitional step in March. We do not share my hon. Friend's fears.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

Has my hon. Friend seen the draft proposals of Mr. Lardinois, reported this morning? Mr. Lardinois suggests that we deal with milk and milk products by imposing a levy on their production and a levy on imported protein and even the competitive margarine oil. Is not that a crazy way to run a food policy for Britain?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I should not like to comment at this stage. Although there is a surplus of dairy products and milk in the Community, we in this country want to make sure that our production is in keeping with the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources".

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

Will the Minister give us an undertaking that if the Commissioner's proposal to put a levy on milk producers is carried into effect the levy will be offset by a consequent devaluation of the green pound, so that it does not fall upon British producers?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I can give the hon. Gentleman no such undertaking. Whatever changes are proposed within the Community, we must look after the interests of our own producers and consumers. A change in the green pound can affect food prices across the board. We must take that into account when any such moves are proposed.