HC Deb 28 February 1968 vol 759 cc1399-401
29. Sir J. Gilmour

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, what quantities of potatoes have been imported since 1st January, 1968; how this amount compares with imports over the same period in each of the last three years; and what effect these imports have had on remaining home stocks of potatoes.

Mr. Hoy

In January, 1968, 4,175 tons of new potatoes were imported; there were no imports of main crop potatoes. No figures are yet available for February. The corresponding figures for January in 1965, 1966 and 1967 were 1,400, 2,700 and 2,800 tons. Against a total consumption each January of about 400,000 tons of potatoes these imports signify little; and any consequent addition to the stocks of potatoes remaining this year must signify even less.

Sir J. Gilmour

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the increase these figures show underlines the difficult situation of marketing main crop potatoes. the price of which is very low? Will he ask his right hon. Friend in his capacity of Minister of Food to look into the marketing of main crop potatoes as compared with imports, in view of the fact that the wholesale price of imported potatoes is 8d. a 1b., and I bought them in a shop today at ls. a lb., whereas the wholesale price of main crop British potatoes is 2d., and they are selling at 5d?

Mr. Hoy

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman bought imported potatoes at 1s. a 1b. when he could have got home produce at 5d. I can assure him that we are in consultation with the Potato Marketing Board, because we want to sell to the best advantage what our farmers produce.

31. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the present scale of imports of frozen potato chips and new potatoes from the Canary Islands.

Mr. Hoy

Imports of frozen chips during 1967 are estimated at about 8,000 tons from all sources compared with about 5,000 tons in 1966. These imports have occurred because demand has outstripped home production. Two firms, however, have recently announced plans for expanding output.

In recent years imports of new potatoes from the Canary Islands have ranged between 41,000 and 49,000 tons. We expect 1968 imports to lie within that range.

Mr. Hastings

How can the hon. Gentleman reconcile what he has just said about wishing to improve the marketing of potatoes with the figures that he has now quoted for the importation of frozen chips? When there are massive supplies in our clamps, surely that is a first consideration for him? With regard to imports of so-called new potatoes from the Canaries, no doubt he will agree that they are not really new potatoes at all, and, again, if he wishes to improve marketing he had better give more consideration to our home producers.

Mr. Hoy

It is not for me to define and argue about what we are sent, but we take precautions to see that they are new potatoes. If most of our manufacturers have not taken advantage of the market, the hon. Gentleman ought to be grateful that at least two have and are about to establish plants in this country. Ross Foods are about to establish another £175,000 production line at Westwick in Norfolk, and I can also confirm that McCains of Canada are about to build a £980,000 factory at Scarborough, in the development area, to meet the demand in this country.