asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the conflicting reports on the subject, if he will make a statement about the potato situation resulting from the abnormal weather conditions, and the prospects, as far as consumers are concerned, during the next six months.
It is too early to assess the effect of the recent heavy rainfall on potato supplies. In England and Wales about 40 per cent. of the main crop had not been lifted at the beginning of November, and a great deal will depend on weather conditions during the next few weeks. The heavy surplus that was estimated some weeks ago has obviously been reduced, but more than that I cannot say. Retail prices are now ½d. to 1d. per 1b. lower than at the same time last year, and the prospects over the next six months, so far as we can judge at present, are of adequate supplies at reasonable prices.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but will he bear in mind, if there is a danger of a shortage, that the records of the past few years show that when there is a glut people eat less but when there is a shortage they eat more? If there is a shortage, will he make an appeal to people not to waste potatoes?
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, if heavy frost sets in on land as wet as it is now, a very great deal of the crop will be lost altogether? Will he do all he can to answer the requests of the potato-producing areas such as the Isle of Ely for assistance from Her Majesty's Forces?
I am aware of what my hon. Friend has mentioned. That is why I said that a great deal will depend upon the weather during the next few weeks. We have been in touch with the Service Departments on the very point which he raises.