HC Deb 06 March 1940 vol 358 cc384-5
62. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Food whether he will make inquiries respecting the supply and wholesale cost of cocoa; whether he is aware that cocoa has been purchased through large shippers who receive 4½ per cent. and a contribution towards overhead expenses and through small shippers who receive 2½ per cent.; what portion of cocoa was and is bought through large and small shippers, respectively; and what action he is taking to prevent undue profits to shippers and unnecessary increases of price to consumers?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

His Majesty's Government have undertaken to purchase the total crop of raw cocoa produced in British West Africa during the current season which ends on 30th September, 1940. The actual purchasing is done by the shippers who receive varying rates of remuneration according to the services they perform. I am satisfied that these rates of remuneration do not afford undue profits to the shippers. During the last season small shippers handled approximately 8 per cent. of the total crop, and it is estimated that this year they will handle about 9 per cent. The large shippers handle the remainder. There is at present no indication of any unnecessary increase in price to the consumers of raw cocoa, but the situation is kept constantly under review.

Mr. Sorensen

If 2½ per cent. suffices for the small shippers, why cannot the large shippers receive the same percentage? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the large shippers are mainly under the control of one combine, which uses the whole trade to its own financial advantage?

Mr. Morrison

These shippers receive varying rates of remuneration, and they do not quite work out at the flat figures which the hon. Member suggests in the Question. The rule is that each shipper is remunerated according to the services which he performs. Some shippers perform greater services than others and have to be remunerated accordingly.