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Seed Potato Marketing Board

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how many members are appointed to the board of the Seed Potato Marketing Board for Northern Ireland; whether all members on the board finished their term in office; if not, why not; what is the salary of the general manager, executive staff, chairman, vice-chairman and members; and what were the expenses of each member over the 1973–74 season;(2) what is the number of the total staff employed by the Seed Potato Marketing Board (Northern Ireland);(3) when the present vice-chairman of the Seed Potato Marketing Board (Northern Ireland) took up his position with the board; and what position he held before taking this appointment;

(4) what are the investments of the Seed Potato Marketing Board (Northern Ireland); what has been the return on investments for each year from 1961 to 1974; where producers' money is invested; and who is receiving the benefit from such investments.

The Seed Potato Marketing Board for Northern Ireland has nine members, of whom three are appointed by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland and the remainder are elected by producers. A new board took office on 1st July 1974 and all members on the previous board completed their term of office on 30th June 1974. One appointed member, who had an interest in two large seed potato exporting companies, resigned in September 1974 as he felt that, with the proposal of the board to restrict its sales of potatoes for foreign export to a limited number of merchants, it was proper that he should not continue to serve on the board.The present vice-chairman of the board was appointed as a member of the board with effect from 1st July 1974. I understand that he was subsequently elected by the board as vice-chairman. He held the position of senior assistant secretary in the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture until his retirement in April 1974. At 6th February 1975 the total number of staff employed by the board was 15.On the remuneration and expenses of the board and its staff and the investments of the board, I would refer the hon. Member to the annual report and accounts of the board. The investments are on behalf of producers and the sole beneficiaries of the returns on the investments—after taxation—are the producers.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland why the Seed Potato Marketing Board (Northern Ireland) has attempted during the past two seasons to rationalise the potato industry by setting up an exporter-orientated monopoly of six merchants and at the same time reducing other merchants.

I understand that in introducing revised arangements for the marketing of the crop, the board's two aims have been to eliminate speculation within Northern Ireland in the sale of seed potatoes intended for export and to improve the efficiency of selling Northern Ireland seed potatoes in overseas markets. The board therefore proposed to sell potatoes for foreign export at the ports rather than ex-farm and to select a small number of exporting merchants, on the basis of recent sales performance and experience, with whom it would deal on foreign shipments; profits were to be shared between the board—on behalf of growers—exporting merchants and supply merchants, but because of difficulties in securing the co-operation of merchants the board did not proceed with these proposals for the 1974–75 season.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the Seed Potato Marketing Board (Northern Ireland) has at any time subsidised freight expenses to any merchant; and, if so, whether all merchants were notified of this subsidy.

I understand that from time to time assistance from the board in relation to foreign exports has been available to merchants and over the years all merchants registered with the board have been advised of the existence of these facilities.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how many occasions between 1972 and the present date the Seed Potato Marketing Board sold Pentland Dell seed at below the arranged price; and in what quantities.

The disclosure of the details of specific transactions is a matter for the board.