Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons on 7th June 1937.

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Photo of Mr Morgan Price Mr Morgan Price , Forest of Dean

I think the words are: "Naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret." I could not resist the temptation of showing, at any rate, that I knew the quotation. Let me say a few words on the subject of marketing intelligence. Under Subhead A in these Estimates there are sums to be devoted to Economics Intelligence Division and Markets Division.There is one case which I wish to bring out, as showing that marketing forecasts may be extremely useful to general farmers, particularly in regard to fruit. In the autumn of last year there occurred in the West country what was little short of a disaster. There was a colossal crop of fruit in which our West country is always so abounding. It was not of first-class quality. Owing to very bad weather in July, apple scab made its appearance and we had a large quantity of second quality fruit and a certain amount of first quality. If the farmers had known the probable course of supplies to the market in the autumn and early winter, I doubt whether they would have picked much of that second-rate fruit at all. It would have been allowed to fall, and would have been ground into cider, or else have been allowed to rot. As it was, those who picked it found that it cost them a considerable sum to do so, and in my case I wished that I had not picked it. We did not realise at that time that there would be such a glut of second-rate fruit on the market that it would spoil even the sales of the first quality fruit. The able officials of the Ministry who go about the country have means of obtaining information of this kind, and I believe if that information could be made known to the farmers it would be very helpful.

Next I would refer to the money which is devoted to agricultural marketing. The marketing schemes have been passing through difficult times. The milk marketing scheme was successful up to a point, but it has stuck on the question of higher prices to the consumers, and there is not that increase in milk consumption that there ought to be, although I think some progress is being made. We have to approach the milk problem from the point of view of increasing consumption by all means in our power. I cannot in this discussion refer to future legislation, but I would go as far as to say that the Government must take steps to develop further their schemes for making milk accessible to those members of the community who are not well able at present, owing to poverty, to purchase the amount necessary for human health.

There is another point which would not involve legislation but might be dealt with administratively, and that is an investigation and reorganisation of the distribution of milk products. A very interesting report was made by a commission of investigation which was set up about 18 months ago to inquire into milk prices. In the autumn of 1935 when the Milk Marketing Board tried to establish higher prices the proposal was resisted by the trade. An inquiry was made by this commission which showed among other things that there is a great waste in distribution at the present time. Services are being paid for by the consumer the necessity of which is doubtful, such as deliveries twice a day. Also it is not certain how far the distribution costs are rightly charged against milk on the one hand, and, on the other hand, against the groceries which are often delivered with the milk. There is also the question of transport. At present milk is being bought from places away up near the Scottish border to London whereas London could be supplied with milk from the Home Counties.