Glasshouse Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th March 1983.

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Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel 12:00 am, 17th March 1983

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of competition in the European glasshouse industry after 30 June.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

The elimination of the Dutch growers preferential gas tariff on 1 April will strengthen the competitive position of our growers. Our industry is also benefiting from the fall in inflation and interest rates; in addition, recent changes in the sterling-guilder relationship will help, provided that costs are kept under control.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the welcome measures taken by the Government were in response to unfair competition in the European glasshouse industry? What further monitoring role does he see for himself and the Ministry in the second half of this year, and what will be the role of the Commission?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I assure my hon. Friend that not only will my Ministry conduct severe monitoring, but the German and Danish Ministers are in close collaboration with us in insisting to the Commission that no further disruption of genuine market forces takes place.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that his inspectors continue to increase their vigilance on the import of cut flowers and produce from overseas, because standards for the elimination of chrysanthemum rust are much higher in Britain than on the continent, and our producers do not receive compensation when stock must be destroyed?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that if our producers are part of a scheme, from which they may suffer considerably if white rust is brought in, the toughest possible inspection must take place.

Photo of Mr Richard Body Mr Richard Body , Holland with Boston

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would now be in order for him to reply to my supplementary question to question 2, which was whether he was aware of any glasshouse growers who had had the advantage of a 45 per cent. increase in income during the past 12 months?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I know my hon. Friend's views about the need substantially to reduce British agriculture. As he knows, the 45 per cent. increase followed a 52 per cent. drop. My hon. Friend should put the matter in the correct context.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell , Hemel Hempstead

To help to improve the competitiveness of British glasshouse growers, will my right hon. Friend arrange the setting up of a marketing organisation that would provide information, for example from the Dutch clock options and the French auction markets?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Yes, Sir. The Food from Britain organisation is examining ways in which we can substantially improve our marketing information. Nowhere is it more important than in horticultural produce, where the Dutch take most advantage.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

In view of what my right hon. Friend has said today and what he has done to help this industry, is he hopeful that competent Lea Valley growers can make a go of it in the years ahead?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Yes, Sir. The current change in the competitive position between our main rival, Holland, and Britain means that in 1983 there will be a considerable improvement over this year. I am anxious that we should understand the markets, both here and in Europe, to ensure that we produce goods appropriate for those markets. That is why my answer to the previous supplementary question about improving the entire system of marketing is important.