HC Deb 11 September 1942 vol 383 cc508-10
20. Major Lyons

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what steps have been taken, or are proposed, this autumn, for the dehydration or processing of surplus fruit and vegetables grown in this country, for supply to the Services and the civilian population, in the early spring of 1943?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Mabane)

As the answer is long, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Major Lyons

Can my hon. Friend say whether, on this occasion, his Department will act in time, instead of facing the community with the everlasting "too late"?

Mr. Mabane

As always, in time.

Following is the statement:

My Noble Friend gave instructions some time ago for the maximum provision to be made at the earliest date possible for the drying of vegetables grown in this country. The Ministry is at present engaged in setting up 15 plants, and it is intended to increase this very considerably. The total annual capacity of these 15 plants is estimated at about 7,500 tons of mixed dried vegetables, and for this approximately 140,000 tons of fresh vegetables will be required. The plants are of a simple tunnel type and are being installed in existing factories which have the necessary facilities. Production will be controlled by the Ministry in order to secure and maintain the required standard of quality. The output of the plants referred to will be taken over by the Ministry for distribution, and it is expected that distribution in the coming spring will be limited to the Forces and certain emergency services.

It is intended to dry mainly potatoes, carrots and cabbages, but investigations to determine the suitability of other vegetables are proceeding. The main purpose of the drying of vegetables is not the removal of surpluses, but it is primarily regarded as a method of conservation and as a means of economising in transport, storage space and packing materials, especially tinplate. The operation of the plants will, however, provide some outlet for surplus supplies.

In addition to the drying of vegetables for direct human consumption, surplus potatoes are dried for use as animal feeding stuffs and could also be used for the production of flour suitable for inclusion in manufactured foods or as a dilutant in bread. It is estimated that approximately 700,000 tons of raw potatoes could be processed annually in this way on existing plants in Great Britain and on the plants in course of erection in Northern Ireland.

In dealing with the soft fruit crops this year the Ministry has again diverted priority supplies for jam-making, and at the date of the latest return more than 54,000 tons of fruit has been taken up for conversion into jam or for canning. Much of the fruit diverted in this way was not strictly surplus to the needs of the fresh fruit market. It was diverted owing to the urgent necessity of ensuring the continued supply of preserves. In the case of plums, however, the crop was greater than could have been taken up entirely as fresh fruit, and the Ministry's pulping programme has been the means of ensuring that so far the plum crop has been taken up as it has been picked.

As already announced, home-grown plums will provide approximately one-fifth of the total output of jam for next season. At the present time encouragement is being given to the picking of as much as possible of the blackberry crop for conversion into jam.