HC Deb 05 February 1962 vol 653 cc13-4
15. Sir B. Janner

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whether he is aware that the price of potatoes to the housewife will rise shortly, and, on an average, the increase to the merchant will be under one farthing a pound; and whether he will introduce legislation to protect buyers of potatoes from increased prices.

Mr. Soames

No. Sir. Both producer and retail prices are fairly steady at present, and I am not envisaging any imminent rise.

Sir B. Janner

In the event of there being a rise, and as the charge to the merchant will be so very small—I gather from fairly reliable sources that that is what is expected—will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that a comparatively large amount of it will not be charged to the consumer? Can he do anything about that?

Mr. Soames

I am in some difficulty here because I have not quite understood what the hon. Member means when he talks about a small extra charge at the wholesale point. I believe that he is confusing it with last year when the Potato Marketing Board had a buying programme—that, of course, affects what he is saying—but no such programme is in operation this year.

Sir J. Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, so far from potatoes being more expensive to the consumer, they may well come down in price because of the large imports of Israeli new potatoes which are taking place now?

Mr. Soames

There is coming from the Middle East a certain quantity of potatoes—we expect some 10,000 tons in all—which does not meet the classification of early potatoes. This has been taken into account in our forecast. We shall, of course, be watching the market very carefully as time goes on.

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