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Dairy Products (Self-Sufficiency)

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the percentage self-sufficiency of the United Kingdom in butter, cheese and skimmed milk powder.

The Minister of State, Mnistry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

The latest estimates, which relate to 1979, are 42 per cent. for butter, 77 per cent. for cheese, and 119 per cent. for skimmed milk powder.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show considerable scope for expansion of the United Kingdom dairy industry?

Yes, I agree. The United Kingdom dairy industry is one of the more efficient industries in the Community.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is highly desirable that we should become more self-sufficient? This may well mean further encouragement and aid to British farmers, and may even mean—my hon. Friend may disagree with me—playing cricket by different rules, however repugnant that may seem.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that the three green pound devaluations last year removed the main artificial hindrance to our dairy farmers competing properly. Now that they can compete without the MCAs, there is much greater opportunity for them to take an increased share of our markets and to export dairy products. The House may not appreciate that 50,000 tonnes of butter are sold overseas every year.

Will the Minister bear in mind that if we make progress towards self-sufficiency in milk, butter and cheese, any surplus of powdered or skimmed milk should go to the underdeveloped nations, where that type of food is in short supply, and not be sold to Russia at cheap prices?

The hon. Gentleman will know of the Government's strong opposition to the sale of subsidised butter to Russia. We shall continue that opposition.