HC Deb 26 June 1940 vol 362 cc451-2
5. Mr. Creech Jones (for Dr. Haden Guest)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will reconsider his decision to destroy a large quantity of cocoa in Nigeria and the Gold Coast amounting in value to about £300,000 and paid for by the British Government; and instead either provide additional storage for 12 months to create a food reserve, in view of possible emergencies, or transfer it to the United States, by gift, for the manufacture of cocoa butter, or give it to the Red Cross for refugees, or civil populations impoverished by war?

Mr. George Hall

I can assure my hon. Friend that all the possibilities which he mentions were fully considered before the decision was taken. No figure of cost can be given, as the position is being reviewed from month to month. I would remind my hon. Friend that markets to the extent of nearly 300,000 tons annually, which is equivalent to the whole Gold Coast crop, have now been lost for the duration of the war. In addition, there are difficulties in providing shipping space for cocoa. Consequently, the existing large storage capacity in West Africa is full to overflowing, and there is an ample reserve of cocoa on which the world markets can draw whenever shipping and other considerations permit. Additional stores in West Africa would take time to build and would not solve immediate difficulties. Further, even the best quality of cocoa will not keep indefinitely without serious deterioration. The question is, however, continuing to receive attention, together with a number of other suggestions which my Noble Friend has received.

Mr. Creech Jones

Has this cocoa now been destroyed?

Mr. Hall

A very small proportion is being destroyed, but we are keeping the position under review and examining it month after month.

Colonel Wedgwood

Will the Minister stop them from destroying it?

Mr. Burke

Will the Minister bear in mind that Lancashire cotton exports to the Gold Coast will come to an end unless the people on the Gold Coast have some means of paying for these exports?

Mr. Hall

My hon. Friend may be reassured that the matter is receiving our consideration. He must know that the Government undertook the responsibility for the purchasing of the cocoa crop in the Gold Coast and Nigeria.

Mr. Lipson

Has the hon. Gentleman considered the recommendation which was put before the Select Committee on National Expenditure?

Mr. Hall

The recommendation has been considered.