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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.