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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will discuss with the British Retail Consortium and its members measures to ensure that the UK horticulture industry is not undercut by the export to the UK of cheap surplus stocks from (a) Spain and (b) other EU member states arising from the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany.
I have been asked to reply.
We regularly keep in touch with industry organisations who have valuable insight into the current market and supply chain.
The E. coli outbreak has had a disruptive economic impact on growers and others within the supply chain for fruit and vegetables across the EU, including our domestic industry.
At retail level, prices for domestically produced salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers and courgettes) have remained relatively stable, although demand continues to decline. As a result more produce is being sent to the wholesale market, which is experiencing consequential price movements. Surplus EU produce has been directed to alternative EU markets, including our own, with similar consequences for prices, although I understand that prices for English produce are faring better than those for imported produce. But the situation continues to develop and the latest indications from our trade organisations are that the market continues to remain depressed, which is not helped by retail demand for salad crops in particular being sensitive to the weather.
However, the welcome news that the Russian Federation has lifted its ban on imports of fruit and vegetables from the European Union is an important development, which should start to alleviate the pressure on volumes and prices being experienced on the domestic market.