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Volume 887: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the average price per ton for ware potatoes in Scottish markets for the 1974 crop; how this compares with the guaranteed prices; and if he is satisfied that Scottish potato growers are getting a fair return.

The average price received by Scottish growers from the beginning of the season until mid-February is estimated to be £24·40 per ton or £2·40 above the guaranteed price of £22 per ton determined by the previous administration. I am satisfied that this Government's determination of a guaranteed price for 1975 of £28 per ton should provide growers with the necessary confidence.

Is the Minister aware that recent estimates of the cost of loading dressed potatoes on to lorries in Scotland are between £29 and £30 a ton, and that the estimates for the crop which is to be planted this year are between £35 and £37 a ton? Both figures are well above this year's and next year's guarantee. Since imported potatoes are selling in my constituency at 10p a pound—which is £224 a ton—and housewives are paying that price, does he not agree that there is a good case for re-examining what the guaranteed price for potatoes should be after this year's crop has been planted and a proper cost of the assessment has been made.

That question raises a whole host of different matters. I am aware of the Potato Marketing Board's view of what the figures should be, but the normal pattern is for prices to be lower to our own producers and to rise from March onwards. We are satisfied that this guaranteed price should give confidence to the industry, because there is no evidence that things were difficult last year in spite of rising costs and the lower guaranteed price fixed by the previous administration.