HC Deb 26 January 1961 vol 633 cc309-10
1. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food if he will state the approximate size of the domestic apple crop this year, the percentage of this crop absorbed into the home market and the average retail price.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

We now estimate the 1960 dessert apple crop in England and Wales at a record 320,000 tons and the cooking apple crop at 346,000 tons. Estimates of marketings of the home crop can only be very approximate, but we reckon that about two-thirds of the crop had been sold by the end of December. It is impossible to give any worthwhile estimate of the average retail price of home-grown apples.

Mr. Stonehouse

Does not that reply reveal the danger of a shocking waste of this crop? What are the Ministry doing about improving the distribution of the crop at a lower retail price? In particular, what assistance is the Minister's Department giving in research into improving the storage of the fruit?

Mr. Vane

Research is looked after by the Agricultural Research Council's laboratory at Ditton and is continuing. Under the horticultural improvement scheme, opportunities have been given bath to individuals and to co-operative marketing groups to extend common facilities to members, including storage, which is important. In all marketing problems the Department is naturally interested in helping those who will help themselves, which in a crop like this would clearly work out in the interests of both the consumer and the producer.

Mr. J. Wells

Is the Minister aware of the increasing demand among the apple-growing sections of the industry for a new marketing scheme and a new marketing board? Can he give any assurance about definite assistance towards helping the growers in their problems of grading and co-operative marketing?

Mr. Vane

We are indeed aware of the interest among growers, and the Government are always ready to consider schemes submitted under the Agricultural Marketing Acts. There is, however, a prescribed procedure for this, and it would be wrong of me to Say anything which would anticipate that procedure.