HC Deb 05 February 1918 vol 101 cc2127-8W

asked the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of the normal import of China tea into this country is represented by the 3,000,000 lbs. just sanctioned; whether, as this requires less than 1,400 tons accommodation, he can permit an increase if neutral tonnage can be arranged; whether British merchants in the Far East are in favour of generous action on these lines from reasons of sentiment and national trade interest; whether he can. state how the tea sanctioned will be purchased on the Chinese markets; what will be the profit allowed; whether this will be pooled among the firms in the business; and what will be the final price of the commodity to the British consumer?


I have been asked to reply. The proposed purchase of 3,000,000 lbs. is about 28 per cent. of the average annual net import of China tea during the years 1914–16; it is, however, only proposed to buy and import the better grades of China tea, whereas normally a large percentage of the imports was common tea. Moreover, the shipping space required will considerably exceed the 1,400 tons mentioned by my hon. Friend. The question of further purchases will be considered when the first purchase is completed. The tea will be purchased through Messrs. Matheson and Company on a commission to be agreed by the Ministry of Food; the commission will be pooled among the firms in the business. This was considered to be the most economical way of effecting the purchases. The final price of the commodity to the consumer will depend upon freight and other considerations which are not yet known.