Drought

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 Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the effect of the current drought on estimated EEC production of maize, barley and wheat in 1976, and on the intervention stocks of beef.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

It is too soon to say what effect the drought will have on these commodities. However, the Council of Ministers recently decided as an exceptional measure to permit up to 10,000 tonnes of cow beef to be purchased into intervention in France before the end of July in view of the severe shortage of fodder in that country. Similar restricted measures have also been agreed in respect of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

Does the Minister agree that the present situation demonstrates the absurdity of the policy envisaging a self-sufficiency of food for Western Europe, because we thereby become vulnerable to serious fluctuations in weather conditions, which cause danger to food supplies and water? Apparently, not content with creating a butter mountain, Mr. Lardinois is now proposing to put levies on vegetable oils, thus preventing access to margarine and creating a surplus in that commodity as well.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's view that the Community is not particularly useful to us. However, drought is not a matter that is particularly associated with the Community. What matters is the security of our supplies. On that score, if drought affects our crops, the access we have to other countries will be of great assistance to us.

Photo of Mr Charles Morrison Mr Charles Morrison , Devizes

The Minister will be aware of the situation in regard to the price of wheat and barley. What estimate has he made of the effect of those prices on the cost of living, and the extent to which it is likely to affect the Government's anti-inflation policy?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

It is difficult at this stage to say what the yield will be within the Community and outside it. Those are factors that will have some bearing on prices generally.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

In his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), the Minister implied that we may have to import food grains next year, should the drought continue. In that case, will there not be levies on those grains, and will not those grains be more expensive than they otherwise would have been? Does that not illustrate that the CAP is not suited to the consumers of this country?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I think that my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The price depends on the availability of grains outside the Community. All forecasting on this matter is hypothetical at this stage.