A total of 2·16 million tonnes of grain have been delivered into United Kingdom intervention stores in the current marketing year to 1 December.
Is it true that, if the Government want to send grain to Ethiopia, it is cheaper for them to buy it on the open market than to take it from our intervention stores and from our farmers who have been paid for the grain? Many of my constituents, especially those who contributed to the Ethiopian famine appeal, find that absurd and offensive. Will the hon. Gentleman talk to his European colleagues with a view to reforming the system?
There are two main points to be made. We are sending—and have been doing so all through the year—considerable quantities of cereals out of intervention stores to Africa to deal with famine. My hon. Friend will know that at the European summit earlier this week a commitment was made to send 1·2 million tonnes next year. While we have those stores in intervention it is right to use some of it for that purpose, but it is a good deal more expensive to give it as food aid than to keep it in intervention stores. That point has also to be taken into account.
In our overall aid programme we concentrate a considerable amount of the food aid on developing agriculture and on making use of agricultural stocks that are available and cheaper elsewhere in the world. The problem with regard to Community stocks is that, with high support prices for cereals, they are expensive to dispose of.