HC Deb 10 July 1950 vol 477 cc941-3
34. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Food how many tons of Dutch and other foreign strawberries in all forms have so far been imported into Great Britain this year; and how many more are either to be permitted or are under contract to be imported this year.

60. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of foreign strawberries have been imported into Great Britain during 1950, up to the latest convenient date.

Mr. Webb

Up to 31st May, which is the latest date for which we have the figures, about 178 tons of fresh and 41 tons of quick-frozen strawberries have been imported this year. We have no record of any imports of strawberry pulp or bulk frozen strawberries. There are no separate figures of imports of canned strawberries, bottled strawberries or strawberry jam. As I have already told the House, we have arranged for imports of fresh strawberries to stop when the total quantity imported from all sources during June and July reaches 2,500 tons, provided, of course, that we do not need more.

Mr. Bossom

Can the Minister say where English strawberries which are normally sold for pulp will be sold, now that this vast quantity has been brought in from abroad?

Mr. Webb

This is not a vast quantity. We are working this thing out, and I think we have arrived at a balanced and fair arrangement.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

Will the Minister do nothing which will preclude the big industrial areas from enjoying some of this cheap fruit, while at the same time, giving the producers a fair deal?

Mr. Webb

That, in fact, is what we have been doing. As I have tried to explain to the House over and over again, I, on behalf of the Ministry of Food, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, try to balance, as we go along, what are the interests of the producers and of the consumers. I think the arrangement is a fair one.

Mr. Bossom

Is the Minister aware that buyers of pulp have notified farmers that due to the tremendous quantity that has been imported they will not want any pulp from our own growers this year?

63. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that his horticultural policy is ruining small but efficient fruit and vegetable growers in the Maidstone constituency, and as this is occurring in other parts of the country as well, can he readjust his policy to enable British growers to have the benefit of the first two weeks of the home market in the major fruits.

Mr. Webb

I think the arrangements agreed with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture for imports of fruit this season strike a fair balance between the interests of the growers and the needs of the housewife, and I cannot accept the suggestion that they are ruining the hon. Member's constituents.

Mr. Bossom

May I give the Minister the names of some of the people who are being ruined? Will he recompense them, because they are having to give up their livelihood because of his procedure'? Could he not give English farmers the opportunity of having the first two weeks of the home market to themselves for our major fruit crops?

Mr. Webb

It seems that the hon. Gentleman and I will never get anywhere on this point. We had better meet each other and talk it over.

Mr. De la Bère

What about Worcestershire?

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while growers complain that they are being ruined, the prices of soft fruit in the shops remain too high for housewives to be able to buy as much as they would like? Might not a solution be not the cutting out of imports but a reduction in distribution costs?

Sir W. Smithers

Although the right hon. Gentleman may make a forecast, does he not realise that, especially in the case of strawberries, the whole crop can be ruined or brought to greater production by one rainstorm in a week?

Mr. Webb

These are not forecasts made by astrologers but forecasts made by the very expert crop assessors of the Ministry of Agriculture, with whom I am in constant contact.

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