HC Deb 23 February 1995 vol 255 cc471-2
4. Mr. Legg

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking following the publication of the results of his study into the problems of the horticultural industry.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack)

I identified six key areas for further work, which we are taking forward with the industry.

Mr. Legg

Can my hon. Friend confirm that exporting is one of the six key areas that he is considering? What does he hope will be the benefit to British produce of that review?

Mr. Jack

I can confirm that exporting, especially selling into the single market, is one of the key areas that we are considering as part of the horticulture project. I am considering ways in which we can provide practical assistance to our industry. There are already some hopeful signs that breakthroughs are being made. One company from Cambridgeshire has increased exports of salads and vegetables to Spain, Italy and Sweden by 74 per cent. in recent years and 15 per cent. of all United Kingdom daffodil bulbs are exported. Narcissus bulbs go to Holland and English apples are a leading item in the Marks and Spencer store in Paris.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why did not the Minister support a full Horticultural Development Council ballot, instead of the compromise consultation of a very shadowy nature?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman usually considers the background of such questions meticulously. Had he done so, he would know that, under the Act that governs the operation of development councils, we are statutorily obliged to consult with representative bodies. We consulted 41, which are democratically elected and are said to represent the interests of their members. Not one requested a statutory ballot, and that is why we did not have one.

Lady Olga Maitland

What steps is my hon. Friend taking to encourage producers to improve their promotional skills and, therefore, to sell more of their produce?

Mr. Jack

We have the very successful marketing development scheme in operation, with a budget of £10 million over three years. We have already made available about £1 million to the 30 successful horticultural projects that applied for assistance. For example, we gave £150,000 towards the restructuring of the English National Fruit Company, ENFRU, which enabled the apple industry to rationalise its marketing and deal more successfully with supermarkets.

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