§ Sir Paul Hawkins
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has determined the market prices for potatoes to apply in Great Britain for the 1987–88 crop year beginning on 1 July.
§ Mr. Gummer
Following consultations with the farmers unions I have decided to authorise the Potato Marketing Board to enter into pre-season contracts with producers to purchase up to 300,000 tonnes of potatoes over the months November 1987 to May 1988 at a scale of prices not to exceed an average of £53 per tonne. I have also agreed that the board may intervene directly on the market throughout the season where this will ensure support more cheaply than purchases under contract, provided that the total intervention does not exceed 500,000 tonnes. The target area for potato plantings in Great Britain, another important factor in market stability, was fixed last July at 156,500 hectares.
I have approved increases in the Potato Marketing Board's scale of direct intervention trigger prices for the period November to June inclusive to bring them into a more realistic relationship with the board's contract prices. I believe that placing increased emphasis on direct intervention will balance the effect of higher trigger prices and will thus avoid adding to the potential cost of market support. Overall, I believe that these arrangements will provide growers with a reasonable level of fall-back support in the event of surplus production arising in 1987–88. I shall be looking to producers themselves to ensure that our industry remains competitive by matching plantings as closely as possible to the target area set by the Government.