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Butter (Intervention Stocks)

Volume 12: debated on Thursday 12 November 1981

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1.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much butter is now in intervention stores; and how many days' supply this represents.

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

On 29 October the quantity of butter in public intervention stores in the Community as a whole totalled 8,593 tonnes. This is equivalent to approximately two days' supply.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a very low level? Indeed, a week or two earlier there were only 24½ tonnes in intervention store in Britain. As this stock is running at such a low level, will he now consider the possibility of suspending the co-responsibility levy for milk producers?

It should be appreciated that the intervention stock is not a true indication of the actual stocks of butter held, because stocks are held privately as well as in the normal course of trade. Currently, in the United Kingdom trade stocks, for example, amount to about 34,000 tonnes and private stocks to about 30,000 tonnes. So there is no question of any shortage of butter.

How much subsidised butter was sold to the Soviet Union during the past 12 months?

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to put down a question on the matter, I shall answer it. But I point out that since 1 January this year there have been no export refunds on butter sold to the Soviet Union.

Does that not destroy the misleading propaganda of the anti-Community folk who say that there are always butter mountains, and so on? Is it not important to have more than a week's supply in stock for British consumers? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that at present there is not enough milk for manufacturing purposes in this country? Will he do all that he can to see that milk production is stimulated and continued so that we can produce these products?

My hon. Friend is right. The way in which intervention stocks of butter have fluctuated from a high level to virtually nothing demonstrates that agricultural produce is a highly volatile commodity, and that it is in the interests of security of supply to the consumer both in this country and in the Community at large that adequate stocks are kept. I note what my hon. Friend said about milk for manufacturing, and I pay tribute to the work of the milk marketing boards and others in this country in improving the outlets for milk for manufacturing purposes.