HC Deb 23 May 1946 vol 423 cc548-51

British and American officials announced jointly today that they had reached agreement on guiding principles which their two Governments should adopt in their common effort to solve the many immediate and longer range problems arising in connection with the world food crisis.

The announcement was made on the departure of Mr. Herbert Morrison, M.P., Lord President of the Council, who had flown from London early this week to discuss the wheat crisis with President Truman and other high officials of the United States Government, including Mr. Anderson, the Secretary of Agriculture, and Mr. Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. Mr. L. B. Pearson, Canadian Ambassador in Washington, and other Canadian officials were also present at the Conferences. Mr. Herbert Morrison is now proceeding to Ottawa where he will discuss with the Canadian Government the matters discussed in Washington, and other food problems.

The object of Mr. Morrison's visit to Washington was to review the efforts which the two Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States have been making to combat world famine, to agree on general lines of future policy and to solve certain immediate problems of common concern.

The two Governments are agreed that even more energetic measures are needed throughout the world to secure effective and complete removal of all threat to world famine and that their plans in this respect must be based on the assumption that this threat will continue at least through the summer harvest of 1947. The two Governments are further agreed to consult together in the future as in the past on the initiation or removal of any measures of major importance undertaken by them as a contribution to the world effort to prevent famine. The two Governments have reviewed the requirements and availabilities of bread grains for the. period May-September, 1946. The maximum supplies presently in sight for this period amount to only 10,000,000 tons. The total stated requirements for this period were 13.4 million tons. There is an indicated deficiency, therefore, of 3.4 million tons or about 25 per cent.

This deficiency makes it inevitable that severe cuts should be made in requirements as previously stated. Recommendations to this end will be submitted to the Combined Food Board by the two Governments. In preparing these recommendations the two Governments have made regard to the extent to which the forthcoming new crops can be mobilised with sufficient speed to relieve the worst of the strain. Even after severe cuts there would be a gap of something under one million tons between such requirements and available supplies. It will have to be recognised that the cuts proposed in the recommendations must inevitably cause hardship and a risk of famine remains. This risk can be reduced in so far as other sources of supply can be found in addition to those at present in sight and the two Governments are resolved to do everything in their power to secure these additional supplies.

The United Kingdom representatives have reported fully on the measures of consumer rationing and other economies currently in effect in the United Kingdom which may be briefly summarised as follows:

Consumer rationing has been continued and in the case of fats, bacon, dried eggs, meat and preserves, rations have been reduced below the austere low wartime levels. Rations of the British forces in the United Kingdom have twice been cut since V.E. Day.

Since the beginning of 1946 the following measures have been introduced:

  1. (a) Increase in the extraction rate of flour:
    1. (1) From 80 per cent. to 82½ per cent. on 24th February;
    2. (2) From 82½ per cent. to 85 per cent. on 10th March;
    3. (3) From 85 per cent.to 90 per cent. during the most critical period May-September.
  2. (b) Reduction in supplies of grain for spirit distilling from 300,000 tons to 130,000 tons.
  3. (c) Reduction in the size of the standard loaf from lb. to 1¾ lb.
  4. (d) Reduction of 25 per cent.in production of biscuits and similar products.
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  6. (e) Reduction of production of cake and flour confectionery by reduction of 25 per cent. in allocations of sugar and fats for this purpose.
  7. (f) Reduction of beer production to 90 per cent. of prewar production in terms of standard barrels.
  8. (g) Inauguration of a campaign to secure a reduction in wastage of food.

In order to increase the output of bread grains the United Kingdom has continued its wartime policy of land utilisation, crop production and disposal with the effect of encouraging cereal production at the expense of livestock. The feeding of millable wheat to livestock continues to be prohibited.

The following measures have been introduced since the beginning of 1946:

  1. (1) Payment of a grant of £2 per acre in respect of the ploughing up for the 1946 harvest of grassland which has been down for three years or longer.
  2. (2) Increase of is. 9d. per cwt. in price of wheat from the 1947 harvest.
  3. (3) Reintroduction of directions to grow wheat for 1947 harvest in order to secure a minimum target of 2.5 million acres. This means return to the position prevailing up to and including the 1945 harvest. Directions to grow potatoes and sugar beet have been maintained throughout.
  4. (4) Reduction in rations for pigs and poultry as from the 1st of May from the basis of one-quarter of prewar numbers to one-sixth of prewar numbers and to one-twelfth as from 1st July. (It had been originally intended to increase the rations as from 1st May to the basis of one-third of prewar numbers).

As a part of the measures necessary to reduce the deficit in world supplies the United Kingdom has agreed to reduce it stated requirements already screened to the minimum necessary to maintain its lowered consumption level by another 200,000 tons. This may involve either a reduction in pipeline stocks to a point at which distribution may be interrupted with consequent disruption of the industrial economy or still further restrictions on the austere diet maintained in the United Kingdom for the six years since the beginning of the war.

The United States representatives reported on the measures taken in the United States to achieve greater production and to switch agriculture and available supplies away from the wartime emphasis on livestock products and over to a maximum production of bread grains directed to human consumption. Among other measures the United States has taken the following steps to attain maximum exports of grain:

  1. (1) Substantial increases in the ceiling prices of grain for export to replace earlier export premiums of 30 cents per bushel on wheat and corn.
  2. (2) Increase of the extraction rate of flour to 80 per cent.
  3. (3) Limitation on millers' inventories including grain purchased and in transit to a 21 day supply. Actual inventories are 551 in many cases even less, averaging two weeks supply, with some of the big mills already shut down.
  4. (4) Prohibition of the use of wheat and wheat products for alcoholic beverages and severe curtailment of such use of other grains including limitation to 24 hours run per month in the manufacture of alcohol and a cut in beer production to 70 per cent. of the 1945 level.
  5. (5) Restriction on the purchase of grain and grain products by livestock feeders to amounts designed to limit the weight of hogs and cattle and the numbers of poultry.
  6. (6) Limitation of the use of grain by mixed manufacturers to 80 per cent. of the 1945 use.
  7. (7) A similar 80 per cent limitation on the use of corn or sorgmun grain in syrups, etc.

The United States production problem differs from the British in that it requires an extensive change from agricultural policy established to meet wartime demands instead of a further development along wartime lines as in the case of Great Britain. The measures recently adopted for diverting grain into human consumption and for cutting down consumption in livestock are only now beginning to have their full effect.

The two Governments reaffirm their belief that common measures should be taken in all zones of Germany with respect to the collection of indigenous foodstuffs, the setting of common ration standards and the adoption of a common basis for calculating import requirements. Since the timing of these measures must be left to agreement in the field, the British and American Zone Commanders will be immediately requested to set in motion the necessary consultations to achieve these objectives in their respective zones and the French Zone (these being the areas for which the Combined Food Board makes allocations). It was also deemed desirable that the ration scale in the British and French Zones of Germany should be adjusted upwards to the level prevailing in the United States Zone at the earliest feasible date and to this end full and intensified efforts should be continued in each zone to achieve maximum utilisation of food resources. It is also agreed that special emphasis should be placed on miners' rations in order to secure a maximum output of coal.

The United States Government has reviewed the Japanese import programme in order to ensure that except to the extent that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers determines that imports are essential immediately for the safety of the occupation forces, no imports shall be permitted which will have the effect of giving to the Japanese a priority or preferential treatment over the requirements of the people of any Allied Power or liberated area. The conclusion has been reached in the discussions that the low level of feeding contemplated by the current programme may not suffice even if fully met, to provide the minimum essential for the safety of the occupation forces.