HC Deb 29 July 1924 vol 176 cc1858-60

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any information that the price of bread will be still further advanced in the near future?

12. Mr. WELLS

asked the President of the Board of Trade if there is likely to be a deficiency in the Canadian wheat crop this year; and, if so, will he state from what other countries the deficiency is likely to be made good?


An announcement has appeared in the Press that the price of bread in London is to be increased on Monday next from 9d. to 9½d. per 4-lb. loaf. So far as can be foreseen at present, although the abundant world crops of wheat which were secured last year will, in all probability, not be repeated this year, there is no reason to anticipate that the requirements of the world in respect of bread will not be met. Until the harvests of the Northern Hemisphere have been reaped, it will not be possible to say whether wheat prices are likely to continue high.

In this connection, I should like to refer hon. Members to a summary statement. regarding the world's wheat supplies which appears in the current issue of "The Agricultural Market Report," prepared and edited by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. This Report indicates that the Canadian crop must fall short of last year's yield; but as it is too lengthy for an answer, I propose to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, together with a table of bread prices for recent years.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a rise in London flour of 7s. since July; that the Canadian Government are instituting inquiries into the matter; and will he say whether he is taking any steps in the matter?


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the state of the supply of wheat justifies the rise which is now taking place?


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it desirable to interfere with the natural law of supply and demand?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a report from Canada that the wheat crop is likely to be short by 120 million bushels this year, and will he say what are the Government plans to encourage wheat growing in this country?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are 300,000 fewer acres under wheat cultivation in this country than in 1922?


Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the rumour now current that the Government of this country intend to buy a lot of wheat because they are afraid of a shortage next spring, is untrue?


There is no truth in the suggestion made in the last supplementary question. The Government are under no apprehension as to the provision of wheat for the ensuing year. As stated in my answer, there is no reason to suppose that there will not be ample wheat in the world for the requirements of the wheat-eating population. It is true that the prospects of the Canadian wheat crop are not so good as last year, but it would be premature to give a figure of the number of quarters that it will fall short when it is harvested. [HON. MEMBERS: "What will be the price?"] I cannot predict anything as to the price. The price of bread is nearly as high as it was at this time two years ago, during the whole of 1922. Since then, we have had a fall in price, but it has gone up again to something under one penny less than it was nearly throughout 1922. Any apprehension of an exceptional rise is, I think, unwarranted. In answer to the hon. Member who asked me whether the Government would take steps to interfere with the law of supply and demand, I should say, certainly, with all my heart, if only I knew how to do it.

Following is the Report referred to: