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Surplus Food

Volume 79: debated on Thursday 16 May 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the latest figure for the total amount and value of surplus food stored in the United Kingdom; and what is the total amount currently stored in the European Economic Community.

On 30 April intervention stocks of beef, breadwheat, butter and skimmed milk powder in the United Kingdom were just over 321,000 tonnes, valued at some £476 million, using the buying-in prices valid at that date. The volume of Community stocks of these products and sugar at the latest available date was just over 7 million tonnes.

Would the Minister care to estimate how much of that food will eventually be consumed by human beings and how much will simply rot away? Is it not an absolute crime against humanity for the Government to support a high-price, high-waste common agricultural policy, especially at a time when literally millions of people in the Third world are in danger of starving to death?

Neither this House nor the Council of Ministers is under any illusions. It is the firm resolve of the United Kingdom Government to reduce the surpluses. Nevertheless, a considerable proportion of the surpluses will be consumed by human beings, or by animals which will ultimately be consumed by human beings. A considerable proportion will be consumed within the Community, through exports, or through the substantial programme of food aid.

While the surpluses seem large in tonnage terms, will my hon. Friend put the whole business of surpluses into perspective and tell the House exactly how many days of normal supply for the British housewife the surpluses represent?

Clearly, it varies, but for butter it is between 150 and 200 days' supply. There are some cases in which it is vital to reduce the surpluses substantially. In other cases, moderate surpluses are desirable for the safety of food stocks.