HC Deb 06 March 1941 vol 369 cc1017-8
54. Major Sir George Davies

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can make any statement in connection with the reduction announced to take effect next month in the value of the unit of animal feeding-stuffs under the rationing arrangements?

Mr. Hudson

Owing to increasing demands upon shipping space for the transport of essential war materials, further reductions in imports of animal feeding-stuffs must take place. In these circumstances steps have to be taken to effect a corresponding reduction in the releases of cereals and other concentrated food for livestock from 1st April. Coupons entitling the holder to purchase feeding-stuffs during each of the three months ending 30th April have already been issued to owners of livestock, and therefore the only way to effect a reduction in the quantities purchased is to reduce the value of the coupon unit as from 1st April. As from that date the unit will accordingly be reduced by 50 per cent., from 1 cwt. to 56 lbs., and the reduction will apply both to the coupons valid for cereal foods and to those valid for protein foods. Special arrangements will be made, by the issue of additional coupons, to maintain as nearly as possible at their present scale the rations allowed to those classes of stock which, in the national interest, have been given first priority in the allocation of feeding-stuffs. These include dairy cows and working horses. It is proposed to make similar arrangements in respect of approved pedigree breeding stock of all kinds, and selected poultry stock; the selection of the latter will be carried out by an independent panel in each county.

Under the rationing scheme a farmer who sells, or uses for seed, grain and pulse of his own growing is given credit for the quantities sold. Provided that he has previously disposed of the whole of the quantity which is estimated to have been in excess of the needs of his livestock, on the scale of rations laid down in the scheme, he is allowed coupons to the extent of such sales. The devaluation of the unit will not prejudice this arrangement, as it is proposed that the seller in April shall be given additional coupons to compensate for the reduction in their unit value. The measures to which I have referred will, I am aware, fall with particular severity upon owners of pigs and poultry, whose supplies of feeding-stuffs have already been heavily reduced. It will be necessary to effect substantial reductions in the numbers of these classes of stock. To facilitate this process, adjustments are being made in prices of pigs and of boiling fowls.

The devaluation of the unit in April is the forerunner of other restrictions in the supply of feeding-stuffs. The scale of rations available in the summer months will involve still further reductions. Farm livestock draw the bulk of their sustenance in summer from grazing, and the management of grassland will this year be more important than ever. We cannot afford to allow any grass to be wasted. All pastures should be fully stocked, and the largest possible quantity of grass should be conserved for silage or hay to help to meet the inevitable deficiency in supplies of concentrates next autumn and winter.