§ Mr. John Garrett
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement about the marketing and support arrangements for potatoes for the 1978 crop.
§ Mr. John Silkin
Negotiations on an EEC regime for potatoes have made slow progress and it is now clear that agreement will not be reached by the end of the year, when I had hoped to let farmers know what arrangements would operate for the 1978 crop.
In these circumstances I am asking officials to consider with all the interests concerned the appropriate support arrangements for the 1978 crop. Some modifications will be necessary, but we see the need for some continuing arrangement to permit support buying of potatoes so that a surplus does not unduly depress the market. Taking account of transitional arrangements, I would expect the cost of support buying, if required, to be shared between producers and the Government. So far as the 1977 crop is concerned, I reiterate my assurance to producers that the Government will ensure that the guaranteed price of £46.40 per ton—£45.77 per tonne—will be fulfilled for the crop as a whole.
§ Mr. Bishop
We have given an assurance that the potato guarantee for the 1977 crop, £45.77 a tonne, will be fulfilled. This is normally achieved by a support buying programme to lift the average price and the Potato Marketing Board has recently received offers of over 500,000 tonnes which we estimate to be greater than any small surplus produced from this season's crop and I hope that growers' prices respond to this action. We shall of course keep the situation under review.
§ Mr. Bishop
It is unlikely that the quantities of processed potatoes imported during the next three years will increase significantly provided that the cost of the raw material here and abroad stay in reasonable balance taking one year with another.
§ Mr. Strang
In 1976 the value of processed potatoes imported into the United Kingdom was £27 million, but this does not include frozen potato chips, which are not separately distinguished from other frozen vegetables in the Overseas Trade Statistics.
§ Mr. Bishop
There are no subsidies paid in other EEC countries directly comparable to the United Kingdom guaranteed price arrangements. Certain subsidies which benefit potato producers are available for starch and dehydrated fodder, under the appropriate EEC regimes, andad hoc measures are sometimes taken by member States to alleviate heavy surpluses.