asked the Minister of Agriculture what effects he estimates his policy this year, in respect of the import of soft fruits, especially strawberries, has had upon the markets and prices that have been available to the home growers, especially in Hampshire; and how this has compared with the circumstances of last year.
The import quotas that have been imposed this year for balance of payments reasons have kept imports of soft fruit, including strawberries, well below last year's levels. This has exercised a steady influence on prices, and although home crops are larger this year than last, prices have not been very different from last year's. I have received no reports of growers being unable to sell soft fruit of a marketable standard. Prices of fruit for processing are higher than was expected earlier in the season and strawberries for processing generally fetched equal or higher prices than last year.
Would my right hon. Friend turn his attention to the question of plums? Is he aware that in Worcestershire the price offered to growers of plums is not sufficiently large even to allow them to pick their crops or to pay for the labour of doing so?
I realise that the plum crop is likely to be very heavy this year and I think the House and my hon. Friend will recollect that we are trying to help by an additional allocation of sugar.