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Arable Farm Prices

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on recent trends in arable farm prices. [66517]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 2 July 2002]: The table shows price patterns for arable crops over the period May 2001 to May 2002, one month more than a year to allow comparison for the maincrop potato where the season end is May. Here follows the explanation of the price trends.

Bread making wheat prices have fallen by around 4 per cent. between May 2001 and May 2002. Domestic demand has been flat and any short term supply difficulties have been met by imports from the EU.

Feed wheat prices have declined by around 12 per cent. over the last year with the most marked fall since February 2002. Markets have come under increasing pressure from cheap Black sea eg Ukrainian supplies.

Feed barley prices have been affected by falling wheat prices and limited trade on the domestic market. Overall they have declined by 19 per cent. over the period May 2001 to May 2002.

Maincrop potato prices have declined by 20 per cent. since the start of the current maincrop season in August 2001 and by 47 per cent. compared to the end of the 2000–01 season in May 2001. The fall in prices can be attributed to supplies outstripping demand. There is a large price difference between the poorest and best quality stock.

Early potatoes are not shown on the table as at this point in 2002 there is no monthly representative data, however weekly information provides an indication. For the 2001 early season (June and July), prices were considerably higher than during 1999 and 2000 due to strong demand and poor weather restricting supplies. Early indications for 2002 suggest a likely fall in prices due to large volumes of imports. The latest provisional weekly prices (14–20 June) show the prices 98 per cent. and 30 per cent. higher than the equivalent weeks in 1999 and 2000 but 53 per cent. lower than in 2001.


DateBread making wheatFeed wheatFeed barleyMaincrop potatoes
May 200184.8676.4872.02159.12
June 200188.1876.5671.73(33)
July 200186.0575.1966.96(33)
August 200188.7275.3865.22105.86
September 200191.0476.7166.9984.89
October 200189.8776.2765.6979.01
November 200189.8977.0565.5181.87
December 200189.9476.7567.4484.32
January 200290.7976.8468.0791.59
February 200291.2376.2367.0293.47
March 200287.0572.4563.6793.34
April 200284.0968.7559.7589.26
May 200281.2367.4658.2684.73

(33) Out of season

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Farm Diversification

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on progress made on farm diversification. [66519]

Alun Michael: It is a Government policy priority to help farmers to consider diversifying the economic base of their businesses. This accords with views on farm diversification emerging from the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food.

To help achieve this policy aim DEFRA provides grants under the Rural Enterprise Scheme, which forms part of the England Rural Development Programme. Since the scheme's launch in October 2000, over 200 diversification projects have been approved and awarded nearly £9 million in funding. The Department also offers assistance in the form of free planning consultancy advice to farmers who intend to pursue an eligible diversification project through the Rural Enterprise Scheme and we are considering how to improve the provision of help and information to farmers considering diversifying their business. Our Rural Development Service has been running successful business planning seminars in a number of the regions.

There are many types of farm business and no single approach will be appropriate. The Rural Enterprise Scheme is just one of a number of measures under the England Rural Development Programme, including agri-environment schemes, aid for conversion to organic farming, grants for processing and marketing of agricultural products, farm woodlands, energy crops and vocational training.

Curry Report

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what economic assessment she has made of the implementation of the Curry report. [66352]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 3 July 2002]: The Policy Commission estimated that implementing its recommendations would cost approximately £500 million over three years. However, the cost of many of the recommendations will depend upon the precise way in which they are implemented. The Government intend to produce a strategy for sustainable food and farming in England in the autumn, following a wide-ranging process of stakeholder engagement. This strategy will incorporate a definitive response to each of the Policy Commission's recommendations, although not all of these fall to, or involve expenditure by Government.

Farming Techniques

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government have done to encourage farmers to adopt more wildlife-friendly farming techniques. [66645]

Mr. Morley: The Department and its agencies have a variety of mechanisms to promote more wildlife-friendly farming among farmers. The two largest instruments are the Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas schemes. These offer farmers and other land managers payments to assist them in the protection and enhancement or the rural environment.

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Other measures include:

Animal Welfare

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what legislation is in place to control the welfare of (a) livestock and (b) other species. [66646]

Mr. Morley: The following is a list of primary legislation in England and Wales relating to the welfare of livestock and other animals (the list excludes secondary legislation and EU directives):

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Livestock Movements

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she intends to change the 20 day standstill rule on livestock movements in time for autumn sales. [65571]

Mr. Morley: No decision will be made until the recommendations of the Royal Society and Lessons Learned Inquiries have been published. There is firm veterinary and scientific advice in support of the present 20 day standstill as a means of helping protect against the rapid spread of any new incursion of disease. We are in discussion with industry representatives about the economic impact of the present standstill rule.

Wye Navigation Order

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make an announcement about the Wye Navigation Order. [68018]

Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency has applied for an Order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 making it the navigation authority for the River Wye. A public inquiry into the application was held in 1997 following which further detailed representations were made. After careful consideration the Minister responsible my noble Friend the Lord Whitty has decided to accept the Inspector's recommendation and, with the agreement of the National Assembly for Wales, make the Order. A copy of the decision letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

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