§ 83. Mr. MOLTENO
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the expected increase in the profits of oil and cake manufacturers in this country from the enactment of a duty of £2 per ton on palm kernels exported from West Africa; and whether, in view of the increase already in the profits of these companies, he can do anything to secure for the British farmer some share from the increased profit likely to accrue by obtaining a reduction in the price of feeding stuffs from these manufacturers who are likely to benefit from the new duties?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I understand that the duty in question is not one of £2 but of 22s. 6d., which was imposed as from the 7th October last on palm-kernels exported from Nigeria, not from the other parts of British West Africa, from which we obtain about thirty-five per cent, of our supplies of this article. Firms in this country which had already at that date any considerable stocks of palm kernels from Nigeria are probably deriving some temporary benefit because of the duty, but I do not see that oil and cake manufacturers generally will benefit by the duty as they will presumably have to pay more in future for the palm kernels without a corresponding increase in the selling price of the cake. On the question of the profits of oil and cake manufacturers owing to other causes, I beg leave to refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I shall make to his next question.
§ Mr. KEATING
Can the right hon. Gentleman state what earthly good or what object is to be hoped for from the imposition of these duties?
§ 84. Mr. MOLTENO
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture whether his attention has been drawn to the increase in the cost of feeding stuffs; and whether, in view of the effect of this increased cost upon the price of milk, he can take steps to secure a reduced price for feeding stuffs, in view of the increase in profits by the various oil and cake mills in this country, which in some cases have increased their dividends from 5 per cent, in 1913 to 15 per cent, in 1915?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I understand my hon. Friend to suggest that some steps should be taken to keep down the retail prices of feeding cakes, so that milk production may be cheapened. As the supply of these cakes is dependent on the importation of seeds, nuts, and other materials from abroad, it is not easy to see how the cost of them in this country could readily be controlled; and, as at present advised, it is not the intention of the Board to recommend that retail prices of any feeding stuffs should be fixed. If my hon. Friend knows of particular cases in which mills appear to be making unreasonable or excessive profits, and will communicate them to me, I will gladly see that they are brought to the notice of the proper authority.