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Volume 79: debated on Thursday 16 May 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek to establish a joint producer-Government-backed organisation to help the promotion of cereal exports.

The promotion of cereals exports already falls within the scope of Food from Britain, which is a producer-Government-backed organisation. I would be prepared to consider proposals for improvements in the existing arrangements for the promotion of cereals exports if they were practical and realistic and had wide support from the cereals sector.

Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the export credit arrangements are satisfactory in time for the start of exports from the 1985 grain harvest?

Last December we made consider-able improvements in the export credit arrangements. During a meeting with the trade I said that I would be happy to consider any practical ideas that could bring about further improvements. Our export growth in cereals has been substantial in recent years. That is a remarkable achievement. It is clear that a great deal of growth is taking place.

Will the Minister comment on the financial crisis suffered by Food from Britain? Does he accept that massively subsidised cereal exports to Russia and elsewhere are not only an insult to our taxpayers but an injury to our cereal-consuming industries? Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that any new export promotion initiative by the Government on cereals also benefits the British cereal-consuming industries in the livestock sector?

Food from Britain already has a funding programme from the Government. The time is not right to review where Food from Britain should go. There is a continuing programme. As the House will be aware, we are opposed to any special arrangements for the export of agricultural products to Russia. The Community has a considerable surplus of cereals and the House has been expressing anxiety about that this afternoon. It is important that we should be able to export that surplus. With regard to the livestock sector in the United Kingdom, one of the reasons why we have been urging a reduction in cereal support prices is to improve the horn-corn balance and help the livestock sector.