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Italian Tomatoes (Prices)

Volume 439: debated on Wednesday 9 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that Italian tomatoes are being imported into this country at 2d. per pound and retailed at the maximum price of 1s. 4d. per pound; and what steps he is taking to prevent this profiteering.

Tomatoes imported into this country from Italy, are brought in on private account and I have no precise information about the price paid by the importer. I understand, however, that the price is about 3d. per lb. packed, f.o.r. The first-hand selling price at Covent Garden is 8d. per lb. for sound fruit, out of which about 2—d. per lb. has to be paid for the cost of transport from Italy. There is also an import duty of 2d. per lb., leaving a balance of 3½d. per lb. to cover the cost of the fruit and all other incidental expenses such as packing, packing materials, selling agency charges and the cost of the container. Whilst the maximum retail selling price is at present 1s. 4d. per lb., I am informed that some retailers are selling at is. per lb. and others at as low as 9d. per lb. The margin has, of course, to cover any wastage of over-ripe fruit, which is high in some cases.

May I ask the hon. Lady whether she is aware that the tomatoes were being brought here at the end of last week at between 2d. to 4d. a lb.? Whatever one may think of maximum prices when there is scarcity, it is not generally agreed that when there is a glut or a comparative glut is the time to take maximum prices off, because they at once become minimum prices?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I have explained to the House that that has been our policy in the past. These prices will be reduced on 14th July, but we must bear in mind that "maximum prices" does not mean "minimum prices."

Do I understand the hon. Lady to say that maximum prices are to be reduced?

Will the Minister explain why there is an import duty on these tomatoes?

May I ask the hon. Lady whether she can review the whole of this question of tomatoes? There are far too many speculators in a business where there are many reputable people. A review would be good for the trade and would sort it out.

If the hon. Gentleman will give me the names I will look into the matter.