HC Deb 18 July 1949 vol 467 cc943-5
6. Mr. John Morrison

asked the Minister of Food what loss has so far been sustained on the new potato crop.

Mr. Strachey

About £630,000, on potatoes which deteriorated in transit and had to be sold for stockfeed or processing.

Mr. Morrison

Is the Minister satisfied that the machinery of distribution of his Department is working satisfactorily?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir; but I am not satisfied that the purchase by my Department of early potatoes is a satisfactory arrangement in perpetuity, and we may hope to alter that arrangement in future years.

Mr. Awbery

When the subsidy is paid to the farmer, is it paid when he gives a certificate certifying how much produce he has produced, or when the potatoes are taken from his farm?

Mr. Strachey

That is another question, but, broadly speaking, the potatoes are not paid for wholly until they are taken, though there may be an advance made.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Was not the vast proportion of this loss entirely incurred as a result of mismanagement in the distribution of potatoes, which never ought to have gone bad at all?

Mr. Strachey

No, Sir.

Mr. Baldwin

With regard to the reply given by the Minister in answer to the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery), will the right hon. Gentleman make it quite clear that no subsidy is paid to the farmer on the sale of potatoes, and will he consider in future obtaining all the potatoes necessary for this country under contract, in the same way as beet is under contract, and thus avoid this waste of public money?

Mr. Strachey

Potatoes are obtained from the farmer under a guaranteed price arrangement and then the consumer may or may not be subsidised according to the price which is ruling, but the farmer, is, of course, subsidised on these potatoes to which the Question refers, which are sold for stock feeding. The farmer is fairly highly subsidised in that case.

9. Major Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Food what special steps he has taken or proposes taking to meet the possibility of a considerably reduced yield of potatoes this year.

Mr. Strachey

We shall be ready to adopt such expedients, as, for instance, an increase in the restrictions on the marketing of long-keeping varieties or the building up of the end-of-season reserve, as the situation may necessitate.

Major Legge-Bourke

Are we to understand from the answer that the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that if the average yield of the main crop does not come up to seven tons an acre, there are, or are likely to be, sufficient potatoes for all human requirements this year?

Mr. Strachey

It is rather early yet to speculate on what the yield may be, or what the total ought to be, but I certainly hope that the rain over the weekend has benefited the main crop.

Major Legge-Bourke

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there will be sufficient potatoes grown in the main crop at home to make it unnecessary for him this year to import potatoes for human consumption?

Mr. Strachey

That depends on the yield.

17. Sir John Barlow

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of early potatoes have been shipped from Cornwall to Manchester in May and June, 1949; and what tonnage was subsequently sold for stockfeed, stating the price paid by the Government and the loss per ton.

Mr. Strachey

No new potatoes were sold by the Ministry during May. About 3,220 tons were sent from Cornwall to Manchester between 1st and 9th June, the guarantee price to growers at the outset being £34 per ton and at the close £29 per ton. Of these, some 1,520 tons which had deteriorated because of delays in transport had to be sold for stockfeeding at a loss of about £28 per ton.

Sir J. Barlow

Does not the Minister realise that there was a large quantity of potatoes available in Cheshire during June and that it was quite impossible for the growers to sell them in view of this large importation from Cornwall at the time?

Mr. Strachey

I could not regard potatoes sent from one part of the country to another as an importation, although it is certainly true that there was a glut of potatoes at the time and that some had to be sold for stockfeed.

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