§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what study he has made of the evidence supplied to him of high vegetable prices and their failure to respond to supply and demand; if he will investigate the marketing arrangements for vegetables; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Strang
Evidence about the supply and wholesale prices of vegetables is regularly collected and published by my Department. Vegetable production has been reduced by the abnormal weather of last summer and winter. Prices have risen due to the normal effects of supply and demand.
Prices, margins and channels of distribution for fruit and vegetables were investigated by the Price Commission during 1974–75, and since last November the Commission has extended its monitoring of prices and distributors' margins for potatoes to cover cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, carrots and turnips. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection said in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan on 22nd April—[Vol. 930, c. 171–2.]—the Price Commission's report on its investigations for the period December 1976 to February 1977 showed that while prices increased distributors' gross percentage margins for the five vegetables mentioned had fallen over the period.
In view of these continuing studies and the underlying cause of the recent price increases for vegetables—which I hope will prove only temporary until the supplies improve—the Government have no plans for any further investigations of the marketing arrangements for vegetables.