asked the Minister of Food whether, in view of the fact that production of carrots is sufficient to meet demand, he will terminate control.
My right hon. Friend will shortly be discussing with growers and traders whether the time has now come to relax control.
Can my right hon. Friend give us any idea of when an announcement on this subject is likely to be made?
As soon as possible, but I cannot give my hon. Friend the date.
asked the Minister of Food the total tonnage of the 1948 crop of carrots found surplus to human requirements which is being sold by his Department for stock feeding; how many tons now remain on offer; and why these surplus carrots were not cleared in February and March when they would have been of more value to farmers than at the present time when the grass is growing.
Sixty-four thousand tons of the 125,000 tons of carrots not needed for human consumption are still available for stockfeeding. These carrots have been on offer since 1st January, but farmers apparently preferred to buy potatoes for their animals.
Surely, if the Minister knew of this very heavy tonnage of surplus carrots he should have pushed their disposal much earlier, at Christmas time or before, so that they could have been some use for stock feeding.
We did circularise all merchants in the first week in January.
But the Ministry have only started advertising them now.
Does not the right hon. Lady realise that one of the difficulties in this matter has been movement, and tint the Ministry have concentrated on moving potatoes and left the carrots to rot?
Is the right hon. Lady aware that in many parts of the country it is completely unknown that carrots are still available, and that in answer to requests, merchants say that they cannot get them.
I can only repeat that we circularised merchants in the first week in January; and we advertised in the farming papers in March.
But we are now in April, and people have forgotten what the Ministry advertised in January.
I cannot help it if they cannot read.
If these carrots cannot be used for stock feeding purposes at once, will my right hon. Friend see that they are dried and thus preserved for future use as animal feedingstuffs?
Yes, we are preserving them as far as possible.
asked the Minister of Food what is the cost involved in disposing of his Department's stocks of surplus carrots at 40s. a ton; and what is the tonnage and value of carrots imported during the 1948–49 season.
The net cost to the Ministry of disposing of surplus carrots bought under the guarantee to growers is on average about £9 per ton. According to the Trade and Navigation Accounts 168 tons of carrots to the value of £12,373 were imported between 1st October, 1948. and 31st March, 1949.
Does that mean that the taxpayer is to expend about half a million pounds on dealing with this surplus of carrots, while at the same time we are finding foreign exchange to buy imported carrots?
No, Sir. In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I do not recall that the hon. Gentleman ever objected to this Government guarantee to the farmers. In fact, he has always accepted it willingly. If that is so, the first part of the supplementary question does not arise—
Certainly not. Hawing given this guarantee to the farmers we must, of course, honour it, and that will cost money. So far as the second part of the supplementary question is concerned, that is something which cannot be said to compete with this particular commodity. This is the new carrot which is now retailing at something like 10d. to 1s. per lb., whereas the old carrot is retailing at a maximum price of 2d.
Why did not the Minister offer these carrots earlier in the season when he could have got more than £2 per ton instead of charging the taxpayer for them?
I have already said that we have done so.