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Surplus Grain

Volume 77: debated on Thursday 18 April 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what new methods of disposal of surplus European Economic Community grain have recently been considered: and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. John MacGregor)

There is currently some discussion about finding new outlets for Community cereals, and the issue has been raised in this year's price fixing discussions. We would look positively at proposals into the development of any such outlets if they seemed likely to be economically viable. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case.

Is the Minister aware that certain elements in the EEC have made the appalling proposal that surplus food should be converted into plastic material? Surely that is an appalling proposition at a time when millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are in need. Will the Minister give an undertaking that the British Government will not support the proposal and will seek positive ways in which the surplus can be used to feed people, which is the purpose for which it was grown originally?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are spending considerable sums in disposing of quite a large part of the cereal surplus as emergency food aid to the African drought countries. We intend to deliver 1ยท2 million tonnes from last year's harvest. However, there is still a surplus, and that is why other suggestions are being made. I have not heard the suggestion to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but there is no sense in spending vast sums to find alternative outlets. We must ensure that any such outlets are economically viable.

As opposed to what has been allocated by the EEC, how much of the surplus grain has been delivered to Ethiopia and the Sudan?

I do not have the exact figures immediately to hand. If the hon. Gentleman tables a question seeking that information, I shall answer it.