§ 1. Mr. D. Price
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware that in September the price for tomatoes to the grower fell to 2s. for 12 lb., whereas the cost of production is about 9s. for 12 lb.; and what steps he intends to take to protect producers from losses of this kind.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)
In early September, market prices for tomatoes were low, ranging from 2s. to 12s. for 12 lb. according to quality, but the cost of production must be compared with returns for the season as a whole. The seasonal tariff is designed to give producers reasonable protection from excessive imports. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is answering a later Question on the subject of the tomato tariff.
§ Mr. Price
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply will give no comfort to tomato producers who, this year, have had a most appalling season due to very low prices? If they are to grow tomatoes next year, they want some guarantee from the Government that there is a reasonable chance that the most efficient producers will be able to cover their costs?
§ 2. Mr. D. Price
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will consider introducing a deficiency payment scheme for tomatoes along the lines of that prevailing for barley.
§ Mr. John Hare
No, Sir. It would not be possible to apply to tomatoes a deficiency payments scheme on the lines of that which applies to barley because, as my hon. Friend will realise, there are fundamental differences in the nature of the two crops.
§ Mr. Price
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is very strong feeling among horticulturists that they are not being treated as fairly as farmers or industrialists with regard to protection and the whole problem of marketing, and that if he cannot persuade his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to do something about the tariff, perforce we look to something like a deficiency payment to rescue the position of tomato producers?
§ Mr. Hare
My hon. Friend knows full well that what I have said is true. Tomatoes are very perishable products. I think my hon. Friend will also agree that the Government, like himself, are very conscious of the need to do what we can to help marketing. That is why certain discussions are going on in the House at the moment.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend seems to be very keen about private enterprise so long as it is subsidised from public funds?