HC Deb 16 March 1950 vol 472 cc1244-5
46. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the admirable response from fruit farmers in western Worcestershire to his request for increased production of apples; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent dumped Italian apples destroying the market for home-produced supplies.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

I am aware of the response of fruit farmers, not only in west Worcestershire, but in many parts of the country, to my request for increased production of good quality dessert apples. I cannot accept the implication in the second part of the Question that the market was spoilt for home growers last season by the dumping of Italian apples. Only a small quantity of Italian apples was imported and these were all of eating varieties. They came in at a time when supplies of home-grown eating apples were quite insufficient.

Mr. Nabarro

Is the Minister aware that a few weeks ago best quality Worcestershire apples, properly graded and well packed, were being sold in markets in Worcestershire at 1s. for 40 lbs., against the proper economic market value of about 12s., and that that was due to the dumped supplies of tasteless Italian apples?

Mr. Williams

I am not aware of that fact. The facts are that the import of apples from 1st September, 1949, to 31st January, 1950, was 60,000 tons, of which 25,000 tons came from Italy, compared with an average pre-war figure of 160,000 tons.

Mr. Nabarro

Will the right hon. Gentleman again review this matter, in view of the depression which has been caused in farming circles in Worcestershire about the prospects of being able to sell the crop?

Mr. Williams

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no difficulty in disposing of a good quality eating apple. There has been a very large yield of poor quality cooking apples, and as they were all landed on to the market in a short time they knocked the bottom out of their own market for that kind of apple.

Mr. Henry Usborne

Is it not true that while there is probably depression in Worcestershire about this matter there may be a corresponding enjoyment in Birmingham at being able to get apples so cheaply?

Mr. J. Hay

Is it not a fact that the growers themselves said that they had lost more than £2 million through this ill-advised action?

Mr. Williams

I am not aware of that.