§ Mr. Sims
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy towards the purchase of bananas from Caribbean countries; whether he has any plans to modify this policy in the light of his current negotiations concerning the price of Caribbean raw sugar; and if he will bear in mind the needs of those people who rely upon bananas as an essential part of their diet.
§ Mr. Bishop
For a number of years bananas from the Commonwealth Caribbean have entered the United Kingdom duty-free. Bananas from non-Commonwealth countries attracted a tariff and, in addition, bananas from the dollar area, which embraces the world's major banana exporters, were admitted only under licence. These arrangements were designed to protect the Commonwealth Caribbean producers for whom bananas are important as an export earner and in providing employment.
We have no plans to change this policy substantially, though as a result of our accession to the EEC we are phasing out the tariff on bananas from the French overseas departments of Gaudeloupe and Martinique and aligning our tariff on bananas from third countries to the EEC's tariff of 20 per cent. ad valorem. The tariff on bananas from the EEC's Associated States will also be removed once the new Convention of Association, currently under discussion, is concluded and comes into force. The restriction on imports from the dollar area will be retained. However, the precise position on imports of bananas into the United Kingdom will depend on the terms of the convention as finally agreed.
I do not expect there to be any shortage of bananas in the future and anyone for whom bananas form an essential part of their diet should have no difficulty in obtaining them.