asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consideration he has given to suggestions that imports of eggs from France should be banned; and if he will make a statement.
We have looked carefully at the present situation in our egg market. First, my right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the industry. We are considering the information about imports which they have given us, some of which was available only at the end of last week. We accept that imports can have some effect on prices here but we have had to reiterate that one must look at the total supply position. We produce, on average, about 98 per cent. of our total supplies. In January packing stations throughput which is usually taken to represent about 60 per cent. of our total production was 1,792,000 boxes of eggs, 110,000—or over 6 per cent.—more boxes than in January last year. Imports are estimated to have been about 70,000 boxes, which is over 30,000 fewer than in January 1974. We have also had to make it clear that we could justify seeking to control imports from other member States of the Community only if there were clear evidence that such imports were at the heart of our industry's problems.Secondly, there have been discussions with the French Government. We hope that it will now be possible to arrange discussions between representatives of our two industries which will lead to a better understanding of each other's problems.Thirdly, we are hopeful that the question of the ban which the French maintain on imports of eggs from this country because we permit the use of arsenicals in feedingstuffs for laying birds can be brought to an early and satisfactory conclusion.Fourthly, we are arranging further discussions with the French authorities on problems concerning the implementation of the Community's rules on the labelling of eggs.We hope that the industry will recognise the value of these discussions as part of a continuing dialogue which will, we hope, focus primarily on the fundamental problem of how to achieve a balance between supply and demand within the Community over the longer term. In the meantime, a combination of firm demand and a reduction in home production from the high level we saw in January and early February has resulted in some strengthening of the market.