Fruit.

Oral Answers to Questions — Food Supplies. – in the House of Commons on 24th July 1940.

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Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that there has been a decided increase in the price of soft fruit during the past week and that prices prevailing during the past 10 days have been more than 50 per cent. above those of last year; whether he can offer any explanation for the increase; in particular, whether such increase has any relation to the release of sugar for jam-making; and what steps he proposes to take to safeguard the public from exploitation when the plum crop becomes available?

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he proposes to take any action against fruit retailers who are raising the price of fresh fruit merely because the demand has increased owing to the provision of extra sugar for jam making?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I am aware of the increase in prices to which both Questions refer, but have been unable to obtain any evidence that it is due to the extra provision of sugar for household jam-making. The main cause of the increase is the shortage of supplies, due to the exceptionally prolonged period of almost unbroken dry weather, and a contributory cause has been the reduction of fruit imports as compared with the corresponding period of previous years, with the result that supplies have been considerably below normal. Such information as has come to my notice does not indicate that there has been any unfair exploitation of these difficulties by the wholesale or retail trades. Hon. Members may rest assured that appropriate action will be taken to safeguard the public from exploitation in the case of the plum crop.

Photo of Mr Charles Brown Mr Charles Brown , Mansfield

Is it intended to let the law of supply and demand work here, unchecked by the Government? Is the Minister aware that black currants have been sold at 1s. 4d. a pound and gooseberries at 1s. 6d., and that gross exploitation has taken place?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

No, Sir, I do not accept the suggestion that gross exploitation is taking place.

Mr. De la Bère:

Is my hon. Friend aware that the prime producer is not getting the benefit which the middleman is getting? Why not do something about it?

Lieut.-Colonel Heeage:

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the country districts they are getting only about 4d. a pound for fruit? Will he consider doing something about gardens which are now empty owing to evacuation, and where, for that or other reasons, there is fruit going to waste?

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

Is the Minister aware that in many districts prices are raised by 2d. a pound over the week-end, when wages are due? Is not that an example of exploitation?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

From the practical point of view, it is almost impossible to control the price of a fluctuating crop such as soft fruits, the supplies of which vary from day to day. It is not considered practicable to control the price of soft fruit crops.

Photo of Mr Frederick Watkins Mr Frederick Watkins , Hackney Central

Will the hon. Gentleman fix a maximum price?

Mr. De la Bère:

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (1) whether, in connection with the plum crop and any surplus there may be after meeting the requirements of the canning and jam-making firms, he will make some arrangements with the manufacturers of chocolates and sweets to enable these manufacturers to use a percentage of plum syrup for manufacturing their sweetmeats, to counteract the shortage of sugar which they may be experiencing in this connection;

(2) whether he can make some statement in connection with the arrangements which have been made by the Ministry of Food with the National Federation of Women's Institutes regarding his utilisation of surplus plum crop for the manufacture of pulp; and whether he can state the number of centres that have been established for this purpose?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I hope to be able to make a full statement on this subject next week, when perhaps my hon. Friend will be good enough to put down a further Question.

Mr. De la Bère:

Is my hon. Friend quite sure that this plum syrup is really suitable for sweet-making? I have been informed on reliable authority that it is most excellent for this purpose.

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I will take note of the suggestion of my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr George Garro-Jones Mr George Garro-Jones , Aberdeen North

Will the hon. Gentleman also take note of the severe terms in which he has condemned those who profiteer in eggs and his apparent indifference to those who profiteer in soft fruits?

Photo of Mr Robert Boothby Mr Robert Boothby , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Eastern

I cannot accept the view that there has been profiteering in soft fruits. There is no evidence to that effect.