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Food Production

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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13.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in the light of the outcome of the recent EEC negotiations, if he is satisfied with progress in implementing the policy set out in the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources".

The outcome of the CAP price negotiations is a good one for our producers, who have every reason to look forward with confidence. With reasonable weather, I expect to see a major recovery in production this year and good progress in line with the aims in "Food from Our Own Resources".

Is the Minister aware that his reply will be received with surprise by the farming industry? In the light of the recent EEC negotiations, does he not realise that what is required in this country is a move aimed at bringing the green pound more into line with the value of the pound sterling? Does he not agree that if the green pound is not brought more into line with the value of the pound sterling there will not be sufficient money available for investment in the British farming industry?

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's observations. If we take into account the increase in the common price and the small devaluation of the green pound, and above all the two transitional steps, it is clear that the support prices effected by the CAP settlement were raised adequately to meet the needs of producers in the forthcoming year.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the basic contradiction we face in seeking to expand the dairy industry is that the end price creates surpluses in Europe and at the same time inhibits production here? Does not the right way forward lie in reducing levies on imported cereals in order to reduce costs to our producers?

The Government are in favour of more liberal policies on cereals, but there would have to be some protection on the lines that existed before we joined the Community.

How can the Minister make such complacent expressions of hope for future agricultural expansion when we have seen in the Ministry's own figures a tremendous decline in the numbers of young animals coming into breeding herds in the beef, dairy and pig sectors?

The hon. Member is far too pessimistic. He and others are too heavily influenced by the severe drought last year. If we have reasonable weather in the forthcoming season, the situation should improve.

Which sectors are up to the target set in the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources" and which are not? Does the Minister accept that falling food production figures are directly related to the price package that he negotiated in the EEC?

Since the hon. Member comes from Angus, he may not be aware sufficiently of the enormous impact of last year's drought. Every agricultural commodity was adversely affected by the drought. The major factor in increased agricultural costs was the drought.