asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (r) whether he is aware that growers of outdoor tomatoes who have responded to appeals of the Ministry of Agriculture and war agricultural committees have subsequently been unable to dispose of their crops at a reasonable price to cover the growers' costs; and whether he can give an assurance that his Department will accept all tomatoes grown and at a fair price;(2) whether he can give an assurance that this year tomato growers will get an assured price for their tomatoes at a predetermined reasonable price in exactly the same manner as is done with blackcurrants and other soft fruit?
In 1942 the tomato acreage, voluntarily planted, in many counties exceeded the target figures, and my Noble Friend is aware that during a certain period the prices received by growers, particularly for the lower grades of tomatoes, fell below the maximum levels prescribed by the Home Grown Tomatoes (Maximum Prices) Order, 1942. He has, however, received no evidence that the return to the growers for this large tomato crop was unremunerative. In 1942 a scheme for the distribution of tomatoes was introduced for the first time the object being to move them from areas of surplus production and share them evenly among markets deficient in supplies. The scheme was intended primarily to improve distribution, but in so doing it reduced the risk that growers might suffer as the result of particular markets being over-supplied from time to time. The prices prescribed by Order both for tomatoes and for black currants and other soft fruits are maximum prices. It would not be practicable to pre-determine fixed prices for produce so variable in quality and supply. Moreover, there is no comparison between he utilisation of this crop and that of black currants and other soft fruits. My Department does not therefore propose to provide a guaranteed price or a guaranteed market for tomatoes. However, the allocation scheme, which was put into operation last year, will be repeated this year with certain improvements which have been introduced after consultation with representatives of the growers and the trade. When supplies are heavy a reduced price must be expected particularly for the lower grade produce, and a general reduction in price might occur should weather conditions cause an undue proportion of the crop to ripen simultaneously. It is, nevertheless, hoped that the distribution scheme this year will enable the growers to dispose satisfactorily of a crop even heavier than in 1942 and will give them substantial protection against price variations due to local inequalities of supply.