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Potatoes And Carrots

Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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36.

asked the Minister of Food, in view of the fact that potato merchants are cancelling outstanding orders to his Department for potatoes because they lose money on every bag, how many tons of the 1948 crop he now possesses; and if he will reduce prices to enable them to be used.

I know of only one case where this is the alleged ground for cancelling an order. The small remaining stocks of 1948 crop potatoes have now all been ordered, and the last part of the Question does not therefore arise.

As the Ministry has already lost £10 million, and probably a good deal more, in speculations over last season's potato crop does the right hon. Lady realise that it is impossible for a Government Department to control the distribution of potatoes without a serious loss of food and a serious loss to the taxpayer? May I have an answer? As the right hon. Lady is incapable of answering, I will ask Question No. 37.

37.

asked the Minister of Food if he will instruct his officers to do business over the telephone, which is common practice in the industry, for orders for potatoes and vegetables.

No, Sir; normally we arrange to supply potatoes and carrots for human consumption only for a month or two at the end of the season. Our transactions, therefore, do not enable us to establish trade relationships which would justify business being conducted on the telephone.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that dealers in perishable foods want their produce at the market within 12 hours? In the old days they telephoned their dealers and got it; now they have to telephone the Ministry, and all the answer they get is "Fill up 14 forms," which means that they get delivery in a week.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that potatoes are not highly perishable, and that the House would expect us to have an order of this kind confirmed in writing.