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 2329 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?
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?
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. 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?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman remembers that we had an exceptionally low yield last year because of the weather.