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Colonial Sugar

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, for the information of the House, he will state the disparity in the present value of the special preferences allocated to the different sugar-producing Colonies; and what, if the recommendations of the West India Royal Commission were adopted, would be the allotment of these preferences to the same Colonies?

The existing special preference is at the rate of 3s. per cwt. on quotas fixed for each Colony. Its average value per cwt. of total exports in any year depends, therefore, on the proportion between the quota and the actual export. The figures below show the average values on the basis of exports during the three years ended 31st August, 1939. They would be different if any other period were chosen.

British Guiana11½
East Africa7
Leeward Islands (Antigua and St. Kitts)1
Trinidad and Tobago1
Windward Islands (St. Lucia and St. Vincent)1
Average for whole Colonial Empire1
The recommendations of the Royal Commission were, as the Commissioners themselves pointed out in their report, framed in the light of pre-war conditions, and the Commissioners expressly stated that they left open the question how far they could be applied under war-time conditions. The Commission's recommendation was that the special preference should be granted at the basic rate of 3s. per cwt. on an amount equal to 50 per cent. of each Colony's actual exports. The basic value of this special preference would accordingly have been 1s. 6d. per cwt. of the total export. This basic rate was, however, to be subject to reduction if the price exceeded 7s. per cwt. c.i.f. United Kingdom. Owing to the change in the whole basis of marketing brought about by the war, it is very difficult to say how this would work in current conditions, but if an adjustment is made on the basis of the price now actually being paid for Colonial sugar, including the extra freights which are being paid by the Ministry of Food, the value of the special preference payable to Colonial exporters would, had the Royal Commission's recommendations been literally followed, be reduced to nothing.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the heavy increase in the production costs of Colonial sugar since the outbreak of war, owing to the raising of freight rates for outgoing supplies; and whether he is satisfied that the present sugar price obtainable by producers is sufficient to make possible that improvement in living and housing conditions generally regarded as essential in the West Indian sugar-producing Colonies?

The expectation that increased costs would result from the war was taken into account in the price which was offered to and accepted by the Colonial sugar producers for the purchase by the Ministry of Food of their exportable surplus for the current season. Whether this price will be sufficient for the coming season, having regard among other matters to the producers' obligations towards their labour, will have to be considered when arrangements are made for the purchase of that season's crop.