asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he intends to review the quality and standard of Irish fruit and vegetables; if he intends to take any steps to improve quality in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Written Answers. - Irish Fruit and Vegetables.
Fruit and vegetable quality standards are governed by EC regulations and these standards are reviewed from time to time at EC level.
The quality of home-grown fruit and vegetables coming on the market is determined by a number of factors, including standards of cultivation, handling, storage, grading and presentation. At the distribution stage, quality can be affected by the manner of transport and handling and by the speed of sale. The ACOT horticultural advisory service advise growers on production and marketing of fruit and vegetables with a view to having more produce qualify for the better categories of the EC quality standards classification.
Inspections are carried out by officers of my Department at all stages of the marketing chain to ensure that the statutory standards are being observed. Where produce is wrongly graded or has deteriorated, traders are required to regrade to a lower classification or, if necessary, to remove it from sale. In recent years there has, in fact, been a steady improvement in the quality of produce on the market.
My Department also operates schemes to encourage growers to co-ordinate their production and marketing arrangements. The recently established Bord Glas will be paying particular attention to quality standards in its efforts to develop the horticultural industry.
Question No. 19 re-submitted for oral reply.