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Horticulture: Imports

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 16th June 2011.

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Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Labour, Dunfermline and West Fife

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he plans to implement a UK trade ban on the import of horticultural products following the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany for the purposes of protecting UK producers from price competition arising from cheap, surplus stock exported from (a) Spain and (b) other EU member states.

Photo of James Paice James Paice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have been asked to reply.

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 remains depressed, which is not helped by retail demand for salad crops in particular being sensitive to the weather.

While there has been an impact on our industry it would be against both the single common market organisation and World Trade Organisation rules to implement a trade ban for the purposes of protecting domestic producers from price competition. 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.

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