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Eire Cattle (Prices)

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 13 April 1949

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asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that it is impossible for private enterprise buyers to obtain the 90 per cent. of Eire cattle to which this country is entitled in our agreement with Eire unless they are put in a position to pay prices which are competitive with those offered by Continental buyers; and whether he will amend his regulations so as to enable them to do so.

No, Sir. I am satisfied that the price agreement which has now been reached is such that the Eire Government will have no difficulty in ensuring that we get the 90 per cent. of their cattle exports, which they have agreed to send us from next July onwards. In fact, the import of fat and store cattle from Eire into Great Britain during the last three months for which figures are available, namely, January, February and March, were 75,217 as compared to 61,698 in the corresponding months a year ago, an increase of 22 per cent.

Is not the controlled price in this country 113s. a cwt. and has not the private buyer to calculate at what price he must buy in order to be able to sell at a small profit in this country after paying expenses? In view of the fact that there is not a controlled price for meat on the Continent, is it not too easy for Continental buyers to outbid the price which our buyers can afford to bid?

That is why we made the recent agreement with the Eire Government. For this year their exports to other countries were restricted to 50,000 and for the future to 10 per cent. of their total exports. The Eire Government are adhering to this agreement most scrupulously.

But do the Eire Government assist British private buyers in this matter? Are they not very much handicapped by the present arrangement?

No, Sir. In this case I should be loath to take the matter out of private hands. I get a great deal of pressure from hon. Members opposite, but I think that would be carrying the principle of bulk buying too far.