ECONOMIC POLICY FOR BRITISH HORTICULTURE AND THE COMMON MARKET

W.L. Hinton
British horticulture at farm gate prices is a tenth of total agriculture. Imports of temperate horticultural products account for 34% of total supplies in the UK, a third of which comes from the Six. Only 5% of other farm products competing directly with British agriculture are imported and scarcely any of these come from the Six. It is the likelihood of greatly increasing horticultural imports from the EEC which makes growers in Britain so much concerned about our entry. The horticultural sector fears the prospect of lower commodity prices, due in particular to imports of greenhouse produce from Holland, apples from France and Italy, and pears from Italy. Greenhouse produce and fruit account for as much as a half of British horticultural output. When Britain joins the Market, protection will of course come to an end. This protection has given indirect income and price support to British growers as well as some measure of price stability, and has been the basis of government policy for horticulture for forty years.

Since 1960 when the Horticultural Improvement Scheme introduced grants for capital investment to raise the competitiveness of horticulture, every grower in Britain knew that the protection system would some day be changed. This was clearly confirmed by the speech of the Ministry of Agriculture on the future of the Horticultural Industry in 1963 which foreshadowed big extensions to the grants scheme in 1964 and 1966, and legislated for statutory grading to EEC grades to take effect in 1968. To date (June 1970) investment in horticulture since 1960 (one third or more given in grant aid) is £97 million, equivalent to a third of the annual output of the industry. Meanwhile changes are taking place in the distribution system, wholesale markets have been modernised (also under grant) and the industry is now much stronger to meet the new competition. By January 1st, 1978 when the transition period is over this process will have gone further. The unfortunate point is that tariff-free tomatoes, quota-free apples, and other produce will be on the British market at the same time as our own produce. Joining Europe may cause bankruptcy for some growers, but those remaining (who grow most of the produce) will be formidable competitors.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is ideal for farmers - particularly those in France and Italy, and, while countries cannot be blamed for looking after their farmers, CAP is neither ideal in terms of world trade, especially the developing third world, nor will it remain ideal for long in the eyes of the urban voter in the EEC. Criticisms of CAP have been made by members of the Commission as well as by leaders in

Hinton, W.L. (1974). ECONOMIC POLICY FOR BRITISH HORTICULTURE AND THE COMMON MARKET. Acta Hortic. 40, 59-78
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1974.40.5
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1974.40.5
40_5
59-78

Acta Horticulturae