Horticulture Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he remains satisfied with the competitive position of the horticulture industry.

Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West

Is my hon. Friend aware that the horticulture industry is facing increasing problems because of domestically homegrown produce? Is he prepared to take steps to ensure that the horticulture industry is given adequate supplies of water at this time? Is he aware that the land settlement in my constituency faces growing problems with water? Will he ensure that the industry is protected during the drought period?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I know of my hon. Friend's deep interests in these matters. I agree that it is imperative that we should see that basic, vital industries such as horticulture are protected. We shall look at the example my hon. Friend has given about his constituency.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had about horticulture with the Agriculture Ministers of the EEC.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Horticultural crops of direct interest to British growers have not been discussed recently in the Council of Ministers.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

A few minutes ago the Minister said that the Dutch glasshouse growers were no longer receiving a subsidy on fuel oil. Is he aware that the anxiety of British growers is somewhat wider, in that they should be able to compete on fair and equal terms in regard to fuel prices generally with Dutch and other growers in the Community? Is he now asserting that that situation exists? If so, will he set out the relevant figures in the Official Report?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The devaluation of sterling has given enormous protection to our industry against Dutch exports. Imports of tomatoes from Holland this year are down 45 per cent. to date.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

Is the Minister aware that all that horticulture expects of him is fair competition from Europe? Will he give an assurance that he will see that that happens?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I absolutely agree. The least that our industry has a right to expect is fair competition. But we begin to get into difficult areas if we start to talk about taxation arrangements, labour costs and all the other elements which go into the cost of producing tomatoes and other horticultural crops.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus South

When will the hon. Gentleman be able to comment on the findings of the Strutt Committee and on the part that horticulture can play in future export plans?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The hon. Gentleman raised important points. Prospects for agricultural exports are good, and it is important that the Government should do everything they can to facilitate an expansion of those exports. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman offhand what proportion of the increase we should like to see coming from horticulture, but there is a rôle to be played by that industry.