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.
Common Agricultural Policy
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made towards change of the common agricultural policy of the EEC; and if he will report on his latest discussions on the matter in Europe.
I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 30th March about the latest discussions in the Council of Agriculture Ministers.—[Vol. 929, c. 411–22.]
Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Minister will resist, with every means at his disposal, all policies that are likely to result in the creation of massive surpluses, whether of beef, butter, wine or anything else? Will he give a further assurance that the Minister will also resist any attempt to sell off such surpluses at bargain basement prices to countries outside the Community? Will he also give an assurance that the Minister will do all he can to protect the consumer from the profligate policies based on the common agricultural policy?
There is a great deal of agreement between my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) on these matters. The House has debated the proposals of 16th March and the statement of 30th March. The main objective is to reduce surpluses by setting support prices at a sensible level. We want better and less wasteful use of the Community's resources. My hon. Friend is right in implying that there should be a balance between producer and consumer, because if the consumer cannot afford to consume it affects the producer and results in the surpluses that we want to avoid.
Has the hon. Gentleman studied the responses of such nations as Canada and the United States, which have experienced large surpluses of various commodities in the past? If such a study has been carried out, what lessons have been learnt which might profitably be learnt in the Community with particular reference to our agriculture industry?
The lessons are clear in the Community already. We want to avoid surpluses, which means setting prices at a sensible level. We want to ensure that the most efficient producers are encouraged and the less efficient discouraged. We want to fashion the CAP garment to the needs of this country as well as to the Community as a whole.