asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware that there are large areas of old orchards no longer productive, the owners of which have not found the present level of grant sufficient incentive to grub trees, with the result that the standard of fruit from these orchards is unlikely to meet his minimum grade; and if he will raise the grant to meet this.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the very high cost of grubbing, which can be as much as £80 an acre, is deterring the British apple grower from increasing his orchard productivity? Will he look into this question to see whether we can compete with, not just match, the productivity in countries like Holland and Italy?
Yes. Only a few days ago I had an opportunity of visiting some of the orchards in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. We give fairly substantial grants at present, but, as I said in my original reply, this matter is being discussed with the N.F.U. and an announcement will be made.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that it is primarily the general farmer with a few odd acres of old orchards who is unwilling to grub up? If he would seriously consider a once-for-all-time elimination of these old orchards, rather than the rotational grubbing grants, that would be far more helpful. Would the hon. Gentleman consider that?
I know that it has been suggested that we should make a 100 per cent. grant, but perhaps the time is not quite Propitious to think about spending public money in that way.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the poor growth that may occur in fruit trees planted on land previously occupied by the same or closely related species and that this is causing concern in the fruit growing areas; and if, in view of the research carried out at East Mailing Research Station and in Holland in connection with this problem, he will seek to provide a grant-aided soil fumigation service to farmers to facilitate the replanting of obsolescent orchards.
This problem is not a new one. The common precaution is to replant on fresh land, but fumigation may prove effective in some cases. Research is proceeding, and when reliable and economical methods are developed, grant will be available under the Horticulture Improvement Scheme for the equipment.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful and forward-looking Answer. Is he aware that there are Dutch apple growers who are getting a crop three to four years after planting compared with six to seven years in this country due to the advance in techniques of soil fumigation? Will he look with more energy into this matter?