Cereals

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill , Ludlow 12:00 am, 3rd March 1988

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the potential of the United Kingdom pig industry to absorb surplus cereal crops.

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

The potential for compounders and home mixers to increase their usage of cereals in pig rations is strongly influenced by the movements in price and availability of competing materials and therefore cannot be assessed easily.

Photo of Mr Christopher Gill Mr Christopher Gill , Ludlow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. In the light of it, will he seek to restrict the importation into Europe of cereal substitutes, which are undercutting the price of cereals?

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

There is a GATT arrangement to import cereal substitutes into Europe. For instance, the spot price of manioc for the delivery of a handy load at the farm gate today is £83, compared with feed wheat at £100, or feed barley at about £104. I believe that it would be impossible to re-rig the GATT arrangement.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware that pig producers do not want privileged access to surplus grain, but rather the removal of the unfair disadvantage of an overvalued green pound? Does my hon. Friend agree that pig producers are among the most entrepreneurial and least subsidised of all farmers and that their request for an urgent devaluation of the green pound is entirely reasonable?

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

As a man who kept a considerable number of pigs, I agree with all that my hon. Friend says about pig producers being entrepreneurial, intelligent and able. I fully understand their request for the removal of MCAs. We have had a promise from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for action on that matter, and that promise was echoed on 16 February by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Gerry Steinberg Mr Gerry Steinberg , City of Durham

During the last pig industry disaster in the 1980s one of my constituents, a pig farmer, lost about £25,000. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that that constituent—he is still a pig farmer and did not go bankrupt—does not face similar problems now?

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern for his constituents in Durham and the importance of the pig industry to Durham and the east side of the country. We have already introduced private storage aid into Europe and increased export refunds from 13 to 67 per cent. This year we have reduced MCAs from a minus quantity of 27 to about a minus quantity of 11. The other Friday morning I met 200 pig producers from the north of England. I am well aware of their difficulties and we are treating the matter with great seriousness and urgency.