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Surplus Potatoes (Sale)

Volume 530: debated on Monday 12 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Food why he has purchased from farmers a large quantity of potatoes at around £14 a ton and is selling them as low as £2 a ton for stock food while at the same time he has imported from Cyprus and sold on the British market quantities of potatoes; if he is aware of the complaints of Ayrshire farmers about this action; and what action he is taking to rectify this anomaly.

The potatoes sold for stock-feeding are surplus old potatoes of the 1953 crop bought from farmers to carry out the guarantee under the Agriculture Act, 1947; they are not comparable to new potatoes. My Department has not imported any potatoes from Cyprus.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Ayrshire potato farmers—who are nearly all Conservatives—are making frivolous complaints in this matter? Is he aware that there have been strong criticisms and that the farmers are denouncing the Government? What reply am I to make to the potato farmers of Ayrshire when I have to apologise for the hon. Gentleman?

The Ayrshire farmers producing Ayrshire earlies have no reason to fear competition from imported potatoes from Cyprus—grown, incidentally, from Scottish seed.

Is the Minister saying that these Conservative Ayrshire farmers are making purely frivolous complaints?

I am not concerned with the politics of the farmers, but it may be that the hon. Gentleman has a sensitive nose for criticism of the Government about any sort of thing.

In view of the completely unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.