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Distribution Costs

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1943

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asked the Minister of Food whether he is aware that food, either imported or sold off the farm, valued at £650,000,000 costs the consumer £1,500,000,000; and whether he will re-examine the whole agricultural distribution system of the country, giving special consideration to the cost of the distribution of milk, for which the farmer obtains under 1s. 6d. per gallon, but which is sold to the consumer at 3s. a gallon or more?

I am unable to accept the figures quoted by my hon. Friend as a measure of the cost of distributing food to consumers in this country. The difference between the two figures quoted includes the entire cost of processing, manufacturing and otherwise preparing for sale, whether for consumption in the home or in catering establishments, and also the entire amount of Customs and Excise duties. It is estimated that the present cost of distributing to the consumer all foods, with the exception of chocolate, sugar confectionery, alcoholic beverages and mineral waters, is not greatly in excess of £400,000,000 against a total retail cost to the consumer of £1,350,000,000. As regards the second part of the Question, the average price paid to milk producers in England and Wales for non-designated milk during the 12 months ended 30th September, 1943, was 1s. 10¼d. per gallon and not 1s. 6d. as my hon. Friend suggests, while the average cost of distribution, including the remuneration of depot proprietors, wholesalers and retailers was 1s. 0½d. per gallon. The costs of milk distribution are under constant investigation by my Department, and the distributors' margins are reviewed from time to time in the light of these investigations.