HC Deb 09 April 1941 vol 370 cc1533-4
39. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government have yet reached any decision in regard to assistance to the citrus industry in Palestine?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)

Approval has now been given to a scheme under which advances will be made by the banks, with the support of the Government of Palestine, to enable citrus groves to be maintained for the year 1941–42. The arrangements concluded between the Government of Palestine and the banks in respect of these advances and of the settlement of the advances made last year for the 1940–41 crop, provide for the assumption by that Government of a maximum additional liability, over the two years, of £517,000. My Noble Friend has informed the High Commissioner for Palestine that, if the resources of Palestine should prove to be insufficient to meet any liability incurred under this guarantee, His Majesty's Government will be ready to afford such financial assistance as may be required. Further advances, up to a maximum of £100,000, will be made by the Government of Palestine direct, in order to encourage the development of other branches of agricultural production in substitution for citrus. Full details are contained in an announcement which is being released for publication in Palestine to-day, the text of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Stokes

What interest is to be paid on the loans?

Mr. Mathers

In view of the importance of this industry to Palestine, are steps being taken to provide increased facilities for the taking up of the crop?

Mr. Hall

If my hon. Friend will read the scheme, as outlined in the announcement, he will see what is being done.

Following is the text of the announcement: The Government of Palestine has reviewed the position of the citrus industry in relation to the financial assistance given in 1940, in collaboration with certain of the principal banks operating in Palestine, and to the issue of cultivation advances for the year 1941–42. Last year financial aid was afforded by these banks, under a limited guarantee by the Government, to help the industry tide over the crisis which it then faced. In the event it was not found possible to export any appreciable part of the crop and in consequence growers have not been able to meet their obligation to the banks. The Government of Palestine, with the approval of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, has now decided to reimburse the participating banks to the full extent of the outstanding amount of 1940 advances and the amount involved will then become a debt due by growers concerned to the Government. In consideration of this reimbursement the banks have agreed to make advances for the year 1941–42 on substantially the same terms as to Government guarantee as were applied to the 1940–41 advances. The 1940–41 advances, which now become wholly a Government charge, will, however, be made a first charge on the 1941–42 crop. The following conditions are an essential part of the scheme:—
  1. (a) The area to be covered by the advances to be limited to 170,000 dunums.
  2. (b) Only groves planted before the end of 1935 and in good condition will be considered.
  3. (c) Credit-worthiness of growers
  4. (d) Interest at the rate of 6 per cent, will be payable.
The first year's interest, i.e., approximately 200 mils out of each £P.3.200 mils advanced, will be deducted when advances are issued. No additional charge will be levied by the banks in respect of administration expenses. It is intended that advances shall be issued in two equal instalments, the first before the end of April and the second at the end of June. The Government realises that limitation to 170,000 dunums may mean that it will not be possible for every bearing dunum of groves in good condition to qualify for an advance and furthermore that advances at the maximum rate approved may be insufficient to do more than keep the trees alive but not at full bearing capacity. It must be appreciated by the growers, however, that the amount of public funds which can be made available, by guaranteeing loans or otherwise, is necessarily limited. Further, the necessity for grove-owners to diversify their activities and so broaden the basis of farming in the citrus area, with advantage to the growers who would become more self-supporting, is obvious. To further this purpose the Government of Palestine will provide loans to an amount not exceeding £P. 100,000 to approved grove-owners for the acquisition of stock and poultry, the erection of cattle-houses and poultry-houses, ploughs, the purchase of seeds and fertilisers and the extension of irrigation. In this way it is hoped not only to secure a considerable increase in the production of foodstuffs in Palestine but also to give more stability to those who, as producers, are fundamental to the citrus industry itself.
Forward to