Thursday, 20 October 1977
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. B. Desmond: asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will initiate a public inquiry into the methods of production and wholesale and retail marketing of fresh vegetables in view of widespread consumer complaints about quality, presentation and retail prices.
Mr. Hussey: I do not consider that such an inquiry is warranted and I do not propose to initiate one. There has been a marked improvement in quality and presentation since the EEC standards were introduced here in February, 1973. However, certain products can from time to time cause problems because of seasonality of production, limited shelf-life and vulnerability in handling and transport. My Department have 16 outdoor officers to supplement the headquarters staff in the  enforcement of the quality standards. They attend daily at wholesale and retail outlets. Warning letters are issued to offenders and legal proceedings were recently instituted in a number of cases. I am confident that these measures will result in a continued improvement in the quality and presentation of fruit and vegetables on the wholesale and retail markets.
Mr. Bruton: Is the Parliamentary Secretary not prepared to give the House an assurance? In other words, would he investigate it and assure us that there will be a statement on the matter at a later date?
Mr. Bruton: asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will make a statement on reports to the effect that the operation of EEC grading regulations has unduly raised the cost of vegetables to the consumer.
Mr. Hussey: Presumably the Deputy's question relates to an article which was published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics and discussed at a recent seminar organised by the Irish Housewives' Association. The conclusions drawn in the article are an assumption as to what would happen in the market if the EEC were to withdraw recognition of the lowest of four approved grades into which certain fruit and vegetables must be classified. There are no reports that I know about the existing grading system having the effect of unduly raising the cost of vegetables to the consumer.
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