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Rice And Wheat Supplies, Bengal

Volume 414: debated on Monday 15 October 1945

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he is aware that the partial failure of the monsoon over wide tracts of Bengal's richest rice land portends a heavy deficit in the winter crop of the staple diet of 65,000,000 people; and what is his policy to meet the developing; situation

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he can make any statement with regard to the present position and future prospect of food in Bengal.

The question of the rice position in Bengal has been the subject of careful consideration on the part of the Provincial Government and the Government of India as well as by His Majesty's Government. Towards the end of August it was considered by the Bengal Government to be desirable to make a public statement regarding crop prospects which had caused some anxiety in Bengal following abnormal rainfall conditions. This statement explained that in South-West Bengal the rainfall was inadequate until about the first week of August. This adversely affected the yield of the aus crop in that area, but there was a bumper aus harvest in those other parts of the Province where aus is grown extensively, and taking all factors into consideration the total outturn of aus over the whole Province was estimated tobe73 per cent, of normal. This estimate has since been revised to 70 per cent., but it must be remembered that the aus crop in Bengal represents only about one-fifth of the total actual paddy harvest of the Province; the bulk of the rice being obtained from the a man crop, which produces approximately 75 per cent. of the whole. A man sowings were delayed in South-West Bengal by the late rains, but the Government of India and the Government of Bengal now consider that the a man crop should amount to 80 per cent. of normal, provided that the October rains are adequate. Taking all relevant factors into account, such as the carry-over by the producer as well as by the Provincial Government, the extension of rationing, and improved storage and transport facilities, any shortage which is likely to arise in Bengal as a result of damage to the crops is not likely to be one which cannot be met by an equitable distribution of resources in India if reinforced by adequate imports from Burma and the Far Eastern countries. The situation is one which, as the Government of India fully recognise, requires constant vigilance on their part, but they consider that there is no reason to take an unduly pessimistic view. The Government of Bengal holds considerable stocks of rice, and, in addition, arrangements have been made with His Majejsty's Government for the immediate movement of rice from Arakan without waiting for the question of the allocation of Burma supplies as a whole to be finally settled. The Secretary of State for India is in close contact with the Minister of Food with a view to securing from the Combined Food Board in Washington the best and earliest allocation possible for India of the rice becoming available from the liberated areas of South-East Asia.The supply of wheat to India has already been arranged. This is being shipped at the rate of 100,000 tons a month.