Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Written answers and statements, 28 June 2011
Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Meriden, Conservative)
The House will be aware that on 22 and
The action plan which we agreed recognises that market fundamentals—supply and demand—are the key causes of price volatility in wheat, corn, maize and soya and that both increasing production sustainably and reducing shocks to supply such as those caused when policymakers respond to poor quality information are the means to ensure a healthier relationship of supply to rising demand.
We emphasised the need to trade openly and remove distorting measures, and that export bans in particular should not impede calls for humanitarian aid.
We are taking steps to improve market information and transparency, by establishing an agricultural market information system (AMIS) in order to encourage major players on the agri-food markets to share data, to enhance existing information systems, to promote greater
shared understanding of food price developments, and further policy dialogue and co-operation. G20 countries committed to disclose reliable, quality, accurate and timely data for this initiative.
We also agreed to establish a senior officials' group to act as a "Rapid Response Forum", to share views and plans for immediate actions in order to prevent or mitigate world food price crises. Taken together with the improvement in market information which we anticipate that AMIS will bring, this improved co-ordination should reduce the extent to which G20 members are themselves the source of avoidable supply shocks in future, as happens for example when panic buying takes place or export restrictions are imposed.
G20 Ministers committed themselves to implementing a broad scope of actions to boost agricultural growth, including a strengthening of agricultural research and innovation. In particular, we launched an international research initiative for wheat improvement to co-ordinate our efforts on this major crop for food security.
We recognised the need for further analysis of the relationships between biofuels production and food availability and price volatility, as well as potential policy responses.
Finally, we welcomed and endorsed the importance of the work of the G20's development working group—on risk management and the potential use of pre-deployed emergency food stocks—and that of G20 Finance Ministers on financial regulation.
Written answers and statements, 27 June 2011
Stephen O'Brien (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, International Development; Eddisbury, Conservative)
The Department for International Development recognises the need for the UK and developing countries to balance the competing demands on land for fuel and food. We also recognise the need to ensure that bio-energy production does not jeopardise food security of poor people in developing countries.
DFID encourages the development of biofuels in consumer and producer countries which is compatible with a broader development agenda. Together with other Government Departments, DFID has been successful in ensuring that UK and EC policy takes into account the impact (positive and negative) of biofuels on developing countries.
Energy and Climate Change
Written answers and statements, 27 June 2011William Bain (Glasgow North East, Labour)
Charles Hendry (Minister of State (Renewable Energy), Energy and Climate Change; Wealden, Conservative)
A wide range of biomass feedstocks can be used for electricity generation. Dry agricultural residues such as straw can be combusted to generate electricity. Wet biomass residues such as food waste, sewage and manure can be processed in an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant to produce biogas. Woodfuel can be sourced from timber processing residues, such as off-cuts and sawdust, and by diverting waste wood from landfill, as well as from small round-wood and thinnings from sustainably managed forests. Perennial energy crops, such as miscanthus grass and short rotation coppice (SRC) willow which can be cultivated on farmland unsuitable for food crops, can provide a fast-growing source of biomass fuel.
We expect large-scale biomass electricity to be primarily fuelled by imports, and that the global supply market will respond to the growth of renewable energy in this country and worldwide.
Whether biomass feedstocks for energy are sourced from a forest, farm or elsewhere and whether it is homegrown or imported, it is essential that they are sustainably sourced. Therefore in April, we introduced a requirement to report on sustainability criteria under the Renewables Obligation (RO). These criteria include a minimum greenhouse gas lifecycle saving of 60% compared to fossil fuel, which considers the cultivation, processing and transport of the feedstock, and general restrictions on using biomass sourced from areas important on carbon or biodiversity grounds such as primary forests.
We intend, from April 2013, that biomass electricity plants of 1 MWe or above will be required to meet the sustainability criteria to receive financial support under the RO.
In addition, the Government recognises that with one of the lowest levels of woodland cover in Europe, England's natural environment needs more trees and woodlands. The Forestry Commission is working with other Government Departments and many stakeholder groups through the Woodland Carbon Task Force to provide frameworks to enable the use of private finance and public engagement to expand woodland cover and to increase the benefits that can be derived from them.
During 2011-12 the Forestry Commission intends to distribute a further £30.6 million as part of the woodland related components of the Rural Development Programme for England of which £14.9 million will support woodland expansion.
Forestry Commission Scotland recognises that forestry can make a significant contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change and meeting the Scottish Government's targets for renewable energy. To support this, during 2011-12 Forestry Commission Scotland intends to distribute a further £36 million as part of the woodland related components in the Rural Priorities schemes of the Scottish Rural Development Programme, of which £30 million has been allocated to support approved proposals for woodland creation and sustainable forest management.