HC Deb 30 March 1949 vol 463 cc1191-3
7 and 12. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) what is the estimated financial loss to date of groundnuts in West Africa affected by beetle infestation; what steps are being taken to compensate African growers' agents; and what is the estimated value of West African groundnuts landed in the United Kingdom since September, 1948;

(2) what is the present approximate quantity of groundnuts in store at Kano, including French new crop; how much of this total is so severely infested by beetle as not to be capable of transport; what tonnage the Nigerian Railway can clear during the month of March; and how long will it be before this and last year's crop can be shipped, excluding 6,000 tons of lightly infested nuts.

21. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many tons of groundnuts have been exported from Nigeria in the last six months; how many tons are in stock; how many tons have been damaged by weevils; and what are the comparable figures for 1948.

Mr. Rees-Williams

The total export of groundnuts from Nigeria during the six months up to 17th March, 1949, was approximately 180,000 tons. During the corresponding period last year it was 140,000 tons. The value of the groundnuts which have arrived in the United Kingdom from British West Africa since the 1st October, 1948, is £9,365,000. Stocks of groundnuts at present awaiting export from Nigeria amount approximately to 398,500 tons. Of this total some 365,000 tons are at Kano, made up of 48,500 tons of the 1947–48 crop and 277,000 tons British and 40,000 tons French 1948–49 crop.

The stocks damaged by the beetle trogoderma have amounted to 13,900 tons of the 1947–48 crop and 3,500 tons of the 1948–49 crop. Five thousand five hundred tons of the stocks attacked have been railed to port and have been fumigated. Fumigation of the remainder is proceeding. In addition 75 tons, costing the West African Produce Control Board about £1,500, have so far proved to be a total loss. The loss arising from less severely infested nuts cannot at present be determined. Except in cases of negligence, these losses will not fall on the buying agents, to whom I assume the hon. Baronet, the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) refers.

Some 14,000 tons were railed during the first two weeks of March, and it is reasonable to expect that the total railings for this month will be at least 30,000 tons. There is no necessity to exclude the quantity of lightly infested nuts to which the hon. Baronet, the Member for Abingdon, refers. The increased monthly railings to be expected as additional locomotives and rolling stock coming into use suggest that the whole of the stocks in Nigeria at present awaiting transport will have been cleared by the end of January, 1950.

Sir R. Glyn

Might I thank the hon. Gentleman for that very full reply and ask him if he can state whether the capacity of the railway will ever be equal to the task of dealing with the stocks at Kano?

Mr. Rees-Williams

The whole of the stock will be cleared by January, 1950.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether a good, carefully chosen exhibit for the Colonial Exhibition would not be of some of these West African groundnuts produced by private enterprise which cannot be shipped here because of the diversion of transport and machinery to the Government scheme in the East?

Mr. Rees-Williams

That is entirely erroneous. No diversion whatever has taken place.

Sir Frank Sanderson

Is it proposed to ship the infested nuts to this country?

Mr. Rees-Williams

They are here now.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is the Minister satisfied that there will not be any serious deleterious effect upon the oil contained in the nuts?

Mr. Rees-Williams

It may have a slight effect, but not one of any consequence.