HC Deb 25 November 1964 vol 702 cc1262-3
21. Mr. Brewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he will take to improve the market for next year's crop of home-grown early potatoes.

Mr. Hoy

No one can say at this stage what prices will be for next year's early potatoes. It will be for the Potato Marketing Board to consider what action, if any, may be necessary to improve the market. The present guarantee arrangements are limited to main crop potatoes.

Mr. Brewis

Does not a reduction in the tariff rate in July on foreign early potatoes cause them to come in during that month and provide competition when our own supplies are being dug? Will the hon. Gentleman consider trying to make agreements with the Mediterranean countries, both Commonwealth and foreign, so that they may phase out their imports in order that the potatoes will come in earlier and not cause a glut?

Mr. Hoy

This we have tried to do. The point has been drawn to the attention of the Cyprus Government. Even from their point of view it would be better economically for them to do what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting.

Mr. Manuel

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the best action which could be taken to improve the market for early potatoes would be to step up the quality which would cause there to be a readier and a more willing market?

Mr. Hoy

I do not know, I am not technically competent to say whether the quality of early potatoes could be improved. I think that it may have something to do with the acreage involved. This has been drawn to the attention of the growers.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the only restriction on the importation of early potatoes during May, June and July is the plant health regulations? Is he intending to change the regulations?

Mr. Hoy

Home producers are protected by a tariff of £9 6s. 8d. a ton from mid-May until the end of June.