asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the immediate prospects facing the British pig farmer.
Domestic supplies of pigs reach a high point in the production cycle this year. There has been the usual seasonal weakening of pig prices since the end of January though the market for pigmeat generally improves somewhat in the Easter period.
Is the Minister aware of the gravity of the position facing pig farmers? My constituency in Wiltshire is no exception to this. Will the Minister say what is the current position concerning the recalculation of the mcas, and where is the sticking point in the negotiations?
We made some progress at the end of last year with the mca change of 8 per cent., which helped the position. Since then, there has been the 50p subsidy. The matter will be considered again by the Council of Ministers at its meeting on 25th and 26th April.
Will the hon. Gentleman take much more urgently the gravity of the situation in the pig industry? The slaughter of sows is increasing rapidly, and the temporary 50p subsidy introduced in January has already been overtaken by costs. Will he do something rather less complacent in order to save this very important part of our agricultural industry?
We appreciate the difficulties of the situation. There was some increase in feed costs in February, but the subsidy, although it may have been eroded, has not been overtaken. It is not for want of trying. My right hon. Friend pressed this matter strongly in the early part of the year and at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers. We intend to press it strongly at the next meeting.