HC Deb 26 January 1995 vol 253 cc462-3
7. Mr. Hall

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to encourage the local marketing of fruit and vegetables.

Mr. Jack

The development, of local marketing of fresh fruit and vegetables is an objective of my horticulture project and of the marketing development scheme.

Mr. Hall

Is the Minister aware of the increased consumer interest in direct marketing, which brings the benefits of fresh produce, often organically produced, at competitive prices? There is also a better return for producers. Will the Government emulate the United States Government by funding research into improving direct marketing and by promoting it among consumers and producers?

Mr. Jack

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that interesting development, as it has a particular application to rundown city areas. When my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) was Minister responsible for food, he visited the American version of what the hon. Gentleman described—the so-called "green markets" in New York. As a result of that, a project is now being undertaken in Knowsley on Merseyside and approaches are being made through the city challenge mechanism—introduced by this Government—to promote the introduction of that interesting scheme.

Mr. Hawkins

My hon. Friend is well aware that in my constituency, as in his neighbouring one, horticulture is an important industry. Will he confirm that his Department will continue to support those who are trying to improve the marketing of excellent British horticultural products?

Mr. Jack

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for the work that we are doing. I commend to him and his growers the marketing development scheme. It has a £10 million budget over three years, it is the most flexible scheme that we have had and it is aimed at helping people in horticulture and in all branches of the food industry. It could be of benefit to the Blackpool area.

Mr. Martyn Jones

Is the Minister aware of the latest report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which exposes the absurdity of supermarkets in Scotland selling milk from Dorset or ones in Evesham selling asparagus from Spain when there is a glut of the same product locally? If not, will he read that report and then provide maximum help for initiatives such as those mentioned already, which would benefit local producers, local consumers and the environment?

Mr. Jack

I am certainly aware of the line taken in that report. I hope that the hon. Gentleman listened to my remarks a few moments ago. We have had an extremely good response to the marketing development scheme, which is designed to do precisely what he has suggested—as is the £12 million that we have spent on horticulture research and development. In an earlier answer, I also referred specifically to extending the seasonal availability of British produce, on which we are spending a targeted amount of £3 million.