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Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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asked the Minister of Food how many tons of potatoes are available under the reduction of £1 per ton offer for stock feeding; and how many tons of these are the property of his Department.

Under the guarantee to growers I must buy any sound ware potatoes now offered to me, and in consequence we expect to have about 200,000 tons to sell for stock feed between now and the end of the season. I cannot yet say for how long the price reduction recently announced will continue.

Can the Minister say how much more this last disastrous transaction will add to the £10 million he has already lost?

No, Sir. I cannot give to the House an estimate of the end of season position.


asked the Minister of Food how he computed his estimated loss of £10 million on potatoes.

This estimate of the trading loss in potatoes and carrots for the financial year 1948–49, which of course covers part of two crop years, was computed by reference mainly to the surpluses which my Department expected to handle as a result of the guarantee of the grower's market at fixed prices; the cost of imported supplies; the price premiums paid on purchases of potatoes for end of season reserve; and the cost of emergency storage under the allocation scheme put into operation last year.

In view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food has stated that the surplus of potatoes is five million tons, will the Minister now say what price he expects to pay for them and what price he expects to get when he sells them again?

My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the surplus of this year's crop as against last year's crop was five million tons. We shall have five million more tons this year than last, but not a surplus of five million tons over the demand.

Is not the Minister aware that I questioned the Parliamentary Secretary twice on the same subject and she confirmed that there was a five million ton surplus?

How much money went to Eire by the process of buying Eire potatoes at a high price and selling them back to Eire at a low price?

There was a loss on Eire potatoes as on the other potatoes. I will give the hon. Gentleman the figure if he will give me notice of the Question.

Will the Minister give, in the OFFICIAL REPORT, the actual amounts involved in each of the surpluses mentioned in his original reply?


asked the Minister of Food what is the total tonnage of ware potatoes exported by him in the current potato season; what he has paid for it; what he has received for it; and how many more tons he expects to export from the present crop.

Up to 3rd March, exports of ware potatoes of the 1948 crop amounted to 48,503 tons; the f.o.b. cost was £571,286 and Ministry receipts £477,577. A further 10,000 tons of potatoes may be sold abroad.

Would the Minister explain why he gave an answer on 21st February that 140,000 tons of ware and seed potatoes would be exported from the 1948–49 crop, and why the figure is now so much smaller?

I may have hoped that we should be able to export a larger amount than this, but, as I have said, the final amount at the end of the year is not certain. The figure I have given is the present forecast.

Is not the Minister imperilling the public interest by making these disclosures?