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Imported Apples

Volume 478: debated on Monday 18 September 1950

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5.

asked the Minister of Food if, in view of the heavy home crop of apples, he has set any limit to the importation of eating apples from Italy and cider apples from France.

No arrangements have yet been made for imports of eating apples this season from any source, but, in considering what should be done, the position of the home crop will certainly be kept in mind. Cider apples are imported by private traders under licence, but no licences have so far been issued this season.

How, then, does it happen that Italian eating applies are being offered by greengrocers today at a time when there are ample supplies of good quality English eating applies?

Does my right hon. Friend realise that any limitation on the importation of eating apples would be strongly resented by consumers unless the distribution of home stocks can be made more effective, and their prices maintained at reasonable levels?

Will the Minister say why Italian apples are, in fact, being offered in the shops at the present time?

In considering his policy, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the mistakes made in previous years and the great losses suffered as a consequence?

There is no need for great excitement about this. We are working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, and are aware of the crops of apples from home producers. All the time we are endeavouring to arrive at arrangements which on balance, I think, are fair to both producers and consumers.

Would the Minister not agree that there would be less excitement had he not started this mystery by refusing to say why Italian apples are in the shops?

11.

asked the Minister of Food what quantities of apples, apple pulp and apple juice have been imported during the last six months.

The figures are as follows: cider apples, none; other apples, 90,089 tons; unsweetened apple juice, 110 gallons concentrated, 9,215 gallons unconcentrated. There are no separate figures for apple pulp and sweetened apple juice.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in Devon we have been encouraged to plant cider apple trees over a long term of years; that this year apples are the one good crop we are able to harvest, and that owing to the Minister's importation policy we cannot sell any of them?

I cannot think—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is a cheap joke. I am just as capable of thinking as anyone on the other side. That is a silly joke to make. I repeat that I cannot think that the figure of 9,000 gallons of apple juice is really a considerable amount when we consider that 22 million gallons of cider were produced last year.

As, unfortunately, several thousand tons of good apples have been blown down recently throughout Kent, will the Minister not purchase those apples before they rot? Otherwise, in another week or two they will rot, and we shall lose those thousands of tons of apples.

There is another question down on that point. I am not sure whether it is down today, but I have notice of it, and will answer it.

Can the Minister say how much apple juice there was in the country at the beginning of this year?

As the Minister has said that he cannot afford to allow more sugar to go to cider manufacturers, what is the use of importing apple juice?

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the British farmer would be a little more successful in this free competition if he packed, graded and marketed his apples rather better?

13.

asked the Minister of Food what regulations he has made with regard to the importing of French apple juice and the mixing of it with home-produced apple juice and the selling of the mixture as Devonshire cider.

Apple juice and raw cider may be imported from France under open general licence and there is no restriction on their use in making cider in this country. Whether cider made in Devonshire wholly or partly from imported apple juice can properly be described as Devonshire cider could only be decided by the courts.

Will the Minister take steps to see that cider made out of foreign apple juice is sold as made from foreign apple juice and not under a Devonshire name?

It is up to the private traders to be honest in their definitions and their trade marks.

14.

asked the Minister of Food what steps he proposes to take to encourage the production and sale of cider apples in this country and to protect home producers against foreign imports.

I understand that the present production of cider apples is sufficient to meet the demand. Sales are not controlled in any way but the amount cider manufacturers can take up depends partly on the amount of sugar we can afford to let them have. No cider apples have been imported so far this season. I am afraid, however, that the limiting factor here is the falling off of public demand for cider. There are no steps I can take to alter that situation.

Will the Minister take steps to limit the amount of foreign imports of apples and cider apples?

Will the Minister now say why foreign apples are on the market in this country?

Can the Minister give an assurance that the allocation of sugar to manufacturers will not be conditional, as it has been in the past, upon their taking up some of these surplus and unwanted foreign imports?

Sugar for manufacturers is determined solely by the amount of sugar available.

Is the Minister aware of the great anxiety about this in some parts of the country, and does he propose to do anything about it at all?