HC Deb 29 March 1956 vol 550 cc2328-9
16. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what revised estimate he has made of the quantity of potatoes from abroad that will be needed to supplement the home crop in order to meet consumers' requirements until the new home crop is available.

Mr. Amory

Consumers' requirements of potatoes, and the quantity available in the United Kingdom, depend so much on the weather and other factors during the next few months that I am unable to give any useful estimate of the quantity it would be desirable to import from abroad. It is, however, clear that we must continue to import potatoes from all sources which can satisfy our plant health regulations.

Mr. Hurd

Has my right hon. Friend seen the statement which the chairman of the Potato Marketing Board made yesterday, that there is, in the Board's estimation, a short-fall of about 300,000 tons on the home crop last year owing to the drought? Can he say how many potatoes have been imported so far to make good that shortage?

Mr. Amory

I have seen the statement to which my hon. Friend refers. Since last December, when we permitted the free import of ware potatoes, about 110,000 tons have been imported to date.

Mr. Collins

Whilst I appreciate that imports of potatoes are good, can the Minister say whether his Department is making any special effort to fill the expected gap of two or three weeks when there may be no potatoes available?

Mr. Amory

I am very anxious that all imports available should come into the country from every source that we can justify on plant health grounds.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the potatoes which have already come in have all been definitely of a standard which does not endanger the home crop by disease?

Mr. Amory

Yes, the reports that I have had indicate that in general they are of a high standard.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the price of potatoes compared with a year ago is scandalously high and that some of us have been supplied with details showing that the price per ton since price control was lifted has doubled from £17 to about £35?

Mr. Amory

I am sure the hon. Gentleman remembers that we had an exceptionally low yield last year because of the weather.