HC Deb 05 July 1948 vol 453 cc14-6
28. Mr. Collins

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that current importations of fruit and vegetables are 30 per cent. higher, and home production, in many cases, considerably in advance of prewar level; and if his is satisfied that, with few selective import controls, the present volume of purchasing power is adequate to absorb the total supplies without causing hardship to the home producer.

Mr. Strachey

We have not got the figures for total supplies during the first half of this year, but imports and home production of fruit and vegetables in 1947 together exceeded the prewar figures by only 3 per cent. In the same period the population has increased by 4.7 per cent. I am satisfied that if prices are kept down to a reasonable level all marketable supplies can be absorbed.

Mr. Collins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the figures for May were 30 per cent. above the prewar average? Has he formulated any rule as to the extent to which this expansion of imports may be allowed to go?

Mr. Strachey

I think that the figures that the hon. Member has in mind are a 30 per cent. expansion of certain imports of vegetables, mainly by private traders. I am certainly not alarmed at that expansion. I think the public has benefited very greatly from it.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in this country would be better in health if they could eat more fruit and vegetables than they can at present afford to buy, and will he resist this pressure upon him to keep up prices by curtailing imports?

Mr. Strachey

My hon. Friend can rely on me to do my utmost.

Mr. Baldwin

With reference to the last supplementary question, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Italian plums are coming into this country at present while the forward trade in plums is absolutely at a standstill, and that plums cannot be sold at 2d. per lb., let alone at high prices?

Mr. Dye

Is my right hon. Friend aware that owing to the more favourable season a far greater quantity of home produced fruit and vegetables is coming on to the market, and that unless something is done to market that produce in a better way than in the past the consumers will not have the full advantage of the crop?

Mr. Strachey

I am inclined to agree that the best marketing that can be done is to get prices to the most reasonable level possible.

Mr. Collins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the increase to which I referred is a tonnage increase, which refers to the totality of fruit and vegetable imports, and that the purpose of my Question was not to suggest that there should be any undue restriction, but that there should be some balance in the matter?

Mr. De la Bère

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman give an answer?

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