HC Deb 30 October 1980 vol 991 cc686-7
9. Mr. Freud

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied with the result of the homegrown potato crop; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

High yields, coupled with a high level of plantings, mean that there will be a surplus this year. It is not yet possible to estimate its size, but the Potato Marketing Board believes that it will be contained within the 422,000 tonnes already held under our joint support buying arrangements.

Mr. Freud

Does the Minister accept that some of the glut is due to allowing too many imports of non-EEC new potatoes? When he decides the date on which he will stop imports of non-EEC new potatoes next year, will he try to get it right?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that what he says is true. The early potato imports do not affect dramatically the main crop, to which the question relates. Imports caused anxiety this year, and we took immediate action in order to control them. We are having discussions with our suppliers about next year, to ensure that the market is treated in a proper and orderly way.

Mrs. Fenner

Will my hon. Friend convey to our right hon. Friend the need to exercise the same stringency in the marketing of potatoes as he has in the marketing of apples? Will he accept my advice as a housewife—a rare breed in these parts—that the current potato crop is something of a disgrace? Is he aware that some people care no more for plastic-bag potatoes than for plastic-bag bread? Will he ensure that the potatoes on the shelf are a credit to the British potato crop?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I do not think that it is necessary for me to convey that to my right hon. Friend, because I am sure that he has taken note of it. The Potato Marketing Board, though it is criticised on some counts, has done a great deal to raise the standard of potatoes. Equally, many producer cooperatives are working hard to that end. I accept that there is scope for further action. It is one matter that is being studied by our marketing advisers.