asked the Minister of Agriculture whether it is his policy to raise the quantity and quality of tree fruit grown in the United Kingdom; at what prices fruit growers can purchase representative grafted stocks for the purpose of establishing or extending orchards, in comparison with prewar prices; and what action he proposes to take.
It is my policy to encourage the expansion of acreage under fruit of all kinds, as far as labour and materials permit. There are no fixed prices for young fruit trees, but I understand that prevailing prices, which inevitably reflect the rise in labour costs, are about double the prewar level. All restrictions on the acreage devoted to nursery stock have now been withdrawn, and nurserymen are being encouraged to revert to their prewar output. Licences are also being granted for the import of suitable fruit stock to assist in this revival.
asked the Minister of Agriculture at what prices grafted maiden apple trees are now being sold by nursery men; what were equivalent representative prices before the war; and if he will, in order to reduce the ring prices now being charged and to ensure an adequate supply of suitable stock, consider establishing Government nurseries for fruit-tree stocks on the analogy of the national stud.
There are very few maiden apple trees available for sale by nurserymen at present, and I understand that prices are not quoted for this type of tree by the Horticultural Trades' Association. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to a similar Question on 21st October last.
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has particulars of the scheme in operation in Switzerland for improving the quality of orchard tree fruits by subsidising the grafting of poor quality trees; and whether he will consider the adoption of a similar scheme in this country.
I have no information about this scheme, but the practice of grafting is, of course, well known in this country and used extensively by growers of fruit trees. The Ministry's National Agricultural Advisory Service is available to give advice on this subject, and I do not consider that there is any need for a subsidy.