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Early Potatoes

Volume 466: debated on Monday 4 July 1949

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29.

asked the Minister of Food what instructions he has given for the disposal of more than 300 tons of Cornish new potatoes which were until recently lying in the railway sidings at Monkwearmouth and elsewhere.

All the Cornish potatoes bought by my Department have now been cleared, including those sent to Monkwearmouth. Most were sold for human consumption but some had to be disposed of for stockfeeding and processing.

In view of the disastrous losses sustained by the Ministry of Food, will the right hon. Lady give an undertaking that she will go out of the potato business tomorrow morning?

I should like the House to know why this happened. The reason is that 48,000 tons of potatoes were delivered to us by the growers in 11 days, and the railways were unable to cope with the situation.

Arising out of what the right hon. Lady has said, is she not aware that I asked the right hon. Gentleman to extend the date by one week and that the refusal to extend it has caused this confusion? Is she not also aware that a great shortage of sacks came about through her Department, and that it was due to the shortage of sacks that the trucks were filled and congested the railways?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about the sacks. We sent so many sacks into the area that half a million have not been used.

Was the delay further exacerbated by the fact that although in one case a large quantity of sacks was available, they were not allowed to be used until they had "M.O.F." stamped upon them?

No, I cannot agree with that. The reason was that the farmers under-estimated the crop, which was 50 per cent. higher than they had originally estimated.

30.

asked the Minister of Food how many railway trucks loaded with potatoes were lying in the sidings at Manchester on or about 18th June; and whether they have now been cleared.

One hundred and twenty-eight trucks, the last of which had been cleared by 23rd June.

In view of the enormous losses sustained by the Ministry of Food, will the right hon. Lady give an undertaking to go out of the potato business tomorrow morning or tonight?

41.

asked the Minister of Food what quantity of this season's crop of Cornish potatoes has been used for stock feed.

Does the right hon. Lady realise that this situation was brought about owing to really bad management and distribution on the part of her Department, and is she further aware that had supplies been available even on the basis of last year's crop, some of them would have reached my constituency in Macclesfield?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong in the first part of his supplementary question. We could not possibly anticipate such a large crop this year. I have already said that it was 50 per cent. higher than even the growers estimated. I repeat that they sent 48,000 tons to be loaded and transported in 11 days and that it was quite impossible for the railways to undertake this task.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that she has completely missed the point with regard to the question of sacks? It is not a question of whether sufficient sacks were available at the end. There were not sufficient available at the beginning, and that is what caused the congestion at the end.