Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the importation of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Hon. members will recall that when the shortage of United States dollars made it necessary to impose import restrictions in November, 1947, the importation of oranges and other citrus fruits, apples, potatoes, onions and fruit juices, was placed on a quota basis and the importation of many other fresh fruits and vegetables was prohibited.
As I said on several occasions in this house during the debate on the Emergency Exchange Conservation bill, these import restrictions on fresh fruits and vegetables like the other restrictions were intended to be temporary. They were put on as a necessary measure to conserve exchange and it has been our declared policy to relax and remove them as soon as the exchange position permitted.
Accordingly from time to time, as our reserves of gold and United States dollars improved, we relaxed the restrictions, by increases in the quota and by allowing the importation of staple vegetables and some fruits under open general permit-that is, without restriction.
In December, 1948, when the restrictions were substantially relaxed, I said that it was the government's intention to remove all remaining restrictions under the Emergency Exchange Conservation Act on fresh fruits and vegetables by the following July-that is, July 1949. This intention was confirmed in the budget speech of March 22 of this year.
It is hardly necessary for me to enlarge upon the grave uncertainties which confronted the government in July of this year arising out of the British exchange crisis. Under the circumstances the government considered that any further action at that time which might in any way adversely affect our exchange position should be postponed pending the outcome of the conferences and discussions then under way.
The government has now reviewed the position in the light of the Washington discussions, the subsequent realignment of exchange rates and the domestic supply situation and has come to the conclusion that it should now proceed to carry out its declared intention to remove all remaining restrictions under the Emergency Exchange Conservation Act on the import of fresh fruits and vegetables. I am hopeful that in due course other import restrictions can be relaxed and removed. But that will depend upon future developments in our exchange position.
Accordingly the government has decided to suspend the present import restrictions on all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables in their natural state, and also on fruit juices, effective next Saturday, October 1.
No change is being made at present in the restrictions on canned or frozen or otherwise processed fruits and vegetables.
Subtopic: SUSPENSION OF RESTRICTIONS ON IMPORTATIONS