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Potatoes

Volume 465: debated on Monday 23 May 1949

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3.

asked the Minister of Food if he will now say how many tons of potatoes bought by him have been sold for cattle feed; and at what prices.

I still cannot tell the hon. Member what will be the total amount of potatoes which will be used as animal feedingstuff in order to produce meat. For they are not all sold yet, but on 14th May, about one million tons of potatoes from the 1948 crop had been sold by my Department mainly for feeding pigs, not cattle, at an average price of about 68s. per ton.

Is it not a fact that the Ministry of Food give £8 15s. per ton for these potatoes? Is the Minister not aware that because he pokes his nose into the retail distributive business his officials refuse to do business on the telephone, that this leads to delay and that the merchants cannot get what they want because of his interference?

Is it with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman that, without removal, the potatoes are sold to his Department for £10 per ton and are sold back to the owners at £3 or £2 10s. per ton, and that the total transaction is to pass a cheque through the post to the farmer for the difference?

No, Sir. Those are not the figures. It is true that potatoes are fed to animals at a subsidised rate, but then so are all other animal feedingstuffs. Potatoes are not unique in that respect.

How many tons of these potatoes have been used for cattle and how many have been sold to fish friers?

11.

asked the Minister of Food how many prosecutions by his enforcement officers have been initiated or are pending against potato growers who sold potatoes to his Department at £8 15s. a ton and bought them back at £2 15s. a ton to be dyed for cattle feed and are re-selling them for human consumption; and how many tons are involved.

In view of the fact that the Minister lost £10 million speculating with last year's potato crop, how much longer is he to be allowed to play ducks and drakes with the food of the people?

That is, of course, a grotesque way of describing the fact that the farmers are paid a guaranteed price for their potatoes. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would make it quite clear to the farmers of the country that he is against their being paid a guaranteed price for their crops.