HC Deb 15 November 1956 vol 560 cc1119-20
24. Mr. G. Darling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the sharp increases in prices at tea auctions in the last fortnight; and what action he proposes to take to keep retail tea prices steady, by price control or otherwise.

Mr. H. Nicholls

There has been some increase in the price of plain teas which have been at low levels for some time past, but the average price of all teas offered at auction has remained virtually unchanged.

Mr. Darling

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the tendency now is towards an increase in tea prices, apart altogether from the Suez situation, and that the Suez situation may make the matter worse? Will he keep a very careful eye on this matter to make sure, again, that there is no exploitation of the situation to the detriment of consumers in this country?

Mr. Nicholls

My right hon. Friend recognises the importance of this. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's reaction, because it is the fact that over the last two weeks the price per lb. of plain tea has gone up. It went up from 4s. 5½d. to 4s. 7d. But if the hon. Gentleman looks at the average price of all teas, he will find that it has actually gone down from 6s. 2½d. to 6s. 2d. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we recognise the trend he has in mind and will watch the situation.

26. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what effect the hold up in the Suez Canal is having on imports of tea into this country.

32. Mr. Irving

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the closing of the Suez Canal and the shortage of shipping, he will estimate the effect this will have on imports of tea into this country.

Mr. H. Nicholls

The diversion of ships round the Cape will cause some delay in arrivals, but supplies in this country should be fully sufficient to make good any temporary shortfalls on this account.

Mr. Dodds

Will the Minister give a specific assurance that there will be no substantial increase in the price of tea during the next six months?

Mr. Nicholls

What I can tell the hon. Gentleman as regards supplies—and it is the supply and demand position that usually affects the price—is that the tea afloat on 2nd November totalled 64.5 million lbs. At the same time last year it was only 40 million lbs. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will see that there is no need for any great anxiety at this moment.

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