HC Deb 23 May 1946 vol 423 cc551-4

20TH MAY, 1946.

Discussions of the world food situation have taken place over the weekend between members of the Canadian Government and Mr. Herbert Morrison, M.P., Lord President of the Council, of the United Kingdom, who came to Ottawa for this purpose following similar discussions with United States representatives in Washington at which the Canadian Ambassador was present.

The Canadian Government has taken note of the joint statement issued by the United Kingdom and the United States on 17th May, following Mr. Morrison's discussions in Washington and has expressed general agreement with the proposals it contains for continuing consultation and collaboration to meet the world food crisis

During the discussions in Ottawa the steps already taken by Canada and the United Kingdom to alleviate the disastrous effects of world food shortages were reviewed and broad lines of future policy were discussed.

The maximum supplies of bread grains that are at present likely to be available from May through September, 1946. have been assessed at some ten million tons, of which Canada expects to supply 2.3 million tons. Screened requirements for the same period were expected to total 13.4 million tons leaving a deficiency of 3.4 million tons or about 25 per cent A further intensive review and scaling down of these requirements to the barest minimum needs are likely to reduce the gap over this five month period to something under one million tons. Inevitably severe hardship will result and great danger of famine will continue. The Canadian Government has agreed to associate itself with the United Kingdom and the United States Governments in maintaining constant review of the situation, and to put forth its best efforts to secure and make available additional supplies of grain.

The Canadian Ministers described the comprehensive programme of agricultural production and of conservation of food which their Government is carrying out to meet this situation. In anticipation of the urgent work need for food that would arise immediately following the conclusion of the war, Canadiar food production had been expanded during the war years. This high rate of expanded production has been maintained and in some cases even increased. Wheat acreage has been raised to a very high level. Rationing ant restrictions on sales of certain foods to help provide more for export were continued and even extended; meat rationing was reimposed Complete control of agricultural products it particular grains has been retained in order to ensure that as much food as possible ma; be made available to tin hungry of other nations.

When, some months ago, it became apparen that the expected serious food situation in the world would be greatly aggravated by drough in large areas, and by other difficulties, the Canadian Government took still further step to meet the threat of famine. On March 17 the Prime Minister, Mr. Mackenzie King, an nounced a nine-point programme upon which the Canadian Government had decided in order to increase supplies of foodstuffs for export. This programme included:

  1. (1) Reduction by 10 per cent. below 1945 of wheat released for human consumption in Canada.
  2. (2) Reduction by 50 per cent. of wheat released for distilleries.
  3. (3) Special income tax arrangements to encourage immediate marketing of wheat stored on farms.
  4. (4) Measures to release increased quantities of oats and No, 4 wheat for export.
  5. (5) Special priorities for rail transport of wheat for export.
  6. (6) Modification of regulations affecting bulk shipment of flour and feed.
  7. (7) A campaign to urge Canadian farmers to plan their production to obtain the maximum yield of foodstuffs over the next four years.
  8. (8) A campaign for the reduction of inventories of wheat and wheat products.
  9. (9) A campaign to encourage consumer savings, avoidance of waste and development of home gardens.

This programme has been put into effect and is already producing encouraging results. Other special action has also been taken by the Government. For example, further wheat is being diverted from the producers of both potable and industrial alcohol to the extent that substitutes becomes available; additional efforts to reduce use of wheat for animal feeds are being made.

The United Kingdom representatives described the efforts being put forth in the United Kingdom. Consumer rationing has been continued and over a wide field rations are now below low wartime levels. The rations of home based United Kingdom forces have been reduced. The extraction rate of flour has been raised several times and will be maintained at 90 per cent, during the critical May to September period. Supplies of grain for distilling have been cut from 300,000 tons to 130,000 tons. The size of loaves has been reduced, while production of biscuits, cakes and pastry has been substantially curtailed. Beer production has been set at 90 per cent. of prewar production. Cereal production is being encouraged and a number of special directions and inducements have recently been introduced to this end. Feeding of millable wheat to livestock remains prohibited and rations for livestock have been cut down. Consumers are being encouraged to conserve food and to reduce waste.

Further, the United Kingdom has recently agreed to forego another 200,000 tons of imports which will thus be released for use elsewhere. This has been done with full awareness of the dangers to the United Kingdom in the way of still further interruptions of distribution or restrictions on the austere diet obtaining in the United Kingdom for the six years since the beginning of the war.

The Canadian and United Kingdom Governments agree that every effort must be put forth to remove completely the threat of world famine, a threat which will continue at least until the harvests of 1947 become available. The two Governments agree that they will continue to collaborate through the Combined Food Board or other appropriate agencies to this end. They will continue to consult on measures of major importance which may be found necessary to meet the present world food shortage.