§ 74. Mr. RAPER
asked the Food Controller whether he is aware that owing to the excessive price fixed, and the reported very poor quality of the Ministry's stocks of currants, distributors are not taking anything like a good proportion of the 38 quantity now held; and whether, if those goods are not very rapidly disposed of, it is quite possible they may have to be sold at a loss and the large estimated profit which it is believed the Ministry have made over this transaction may easily eventuate in a deficit?
§ Mr. McCURDY
The price of currants is fixed on the basis of the average purchase price paid by the Ministry, and although some of the consignments have proved to be of inferior quality owing to climatic conditions, I am quite satisfied with the way in which distributors are taking up the allotments. Purchases of currants have been made by the Department not only for the Christmas trade, but to meet the demand in the months after Christmas, and I have no reason to anticipate that there will be any difficulty in disposing of the quantity purchased without incurring a loss.
§ Mr. McCURDY
I have not those figures with me. If the hon. Member will give me notice I will have it inquired into.
§ 76. Mr. RAPER
asked the Food Controller whether he is aware that during the months of June to October, inclusive, the margin between the mean average landed cost of currants and the sale price to the public amounted to no more than an average of 12s. per cwt., or about 15 per cent. for division between the whole- 39 saler, the secondary wholesaler, and the retailer, whilst under thee control in November the margin between the mean average landed cost as shown by the Ministry and the price to the public amounted to 47s. per cwt., or about 56 per cent.; if he is aware that, whilst there have been complaints from distributors of an inadequate margin from June to October, yet a profit of 33⅓ per cent. should be enough to cover legitimate expenses between the mean landed cost and the price to the public and that this could have been secured by fixing maximum wholesale and retail figures: and whether, on the basis of the average cost paid by the Ministry, a, wholesale figure of 90s. per cwt. could be fixed and 1s. per lb. retail?
§ Mr. McCURDY
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. Owing to the small margin of profit between the mean average landed cost of currants and the maximum retail price, very little of the small quantity of currants landed between June and October of this year found their way into retailers' shops, the sales being made mainly to manufacturers and caterers. The public were supplied by retailers with currants which had been distributed in ample quantities by the Ministry during the early months of the year on a basis which allowed adequate margins of profits to all distributors. As regards the second part of the question, the Costings Department of the Ministry do not in this particular case consider that a profit of 33⅓ per cent. is sufficient to cover legitimate expenses between the mean landed cost and the price to the public. The actual margin allowed between these two prices is fixed at a figure adequate to cover all intermediate charges, and to allow a minimum margin to the Department in order to guard against contingent losses. It would not have been possible for the Department to fix a wholesale price of 90s. per cwt. and a retail price of 1s. per lb. without incurring a very substantial loss.