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Food Supplies

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1947

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Royal Agricultural Show, Lincoln (Allocations)


asked the Minister of Food what extra food allocations he proposes to make in Lincoln for the Royal Agricultural Show commencing 1st July, to which over 100,000 visitors are expected; and if he will make a statement and allay the fears of a local food shortage.

I have had inquiries made and am satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made locally for supplying food at the show itself, and that there will be enough in the shops to meet ration documents. Catering establishments will be given supplementary permits where necessary.

Poultry Imports


asked the Minister of Food if he will give comparative figures showing the money and nutritive value of poultry imported during the past 18 months, as against the money and nutritive value of egg production estimated to be lost during the next 18 months through the slaughter of fowls owing to fowl pest.

Imports of poultry in the 18 months to the end of April, 1947, were valued at £7,558,450 (c.i.f.) and were equivalent to 1.2 calories and 0.16 grams of protein per head of the civilian population per day. The estimated loss of egg production over the next 18 months resulting from the slaughter of fowls owing to fowl pest, is about £47,000, valued at existing packing station prices for first quality eggs. In nutritive terms this is equivalent to 0.01 of a calorie and 0.001 of a gram of protein per head of the civilian population per day.

None the less is it not obvious from those figures that it would be very much better to import the feedingstuffs than to import the poultry?

Can the Minister say what is the difference between a first-class and a second-class egg?

Dutch Strawberries And Spinach


asked the Minister of Food why he purchased the total strawberry crop in Holland; and why he refused to import spinach from Holland, which food has since been burned, as it was grown for the English market.

The hon. Member has, I am afraid, been misinformed. No strawberries have been purchased from Holland by my Department, nor have I placed any embargo on the import of spinach from Holland; but the Importation of Plants Order, made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture as a safeguard against Colorado Beetle, has stopped imports of spinach from Holland since 1st May, when it came into effect.

Imports From Australia


asked the Minister of Food why His Majesty's Government have refused to buy certain breakfast foods, macaroni, wheatmeal, plum puddings, semolina, tomato sauce. fruit cake, custard powder and ice-cream powder from Australia; and what amounts of each were offered for sale to add to the quantity and variety of our food supplies.

Our balance-of-payments position does not permit us to buy these comparatively expensive foods in Australia. With the exception of 1,200 tons of pastry mix and 230 tons of fruit cake, offers have either been tentative, without specifying quantities, or have been made to private importers.

Would the Minister consider the advantages of importing more food from Australia and fewer American films from America, or does the Government contend that the British housewife prefers Clark Gable to breakfast?

No, Sir. The British housewife prefers us to import the maximum tonnage we can of dairy produce, meat and other staple products of Australia, of which we get every ounce we can.

Milk Distribution


asked the Minister of Food when he expects to be able to restore to the consumer freedom of choice of milkman.

As I have already informed the House, there is a Committee reviewing milk distribution. My hon. Friend can rest assured when I consider its report and recommendations, I shall keep this aspect of the matter in mind.

Is it a fact that the main opposition to the restoration comes from the dairymen's association?

Bottled Fruit


asked the Minister of Food under what conditions the owners of private gardens and garden orchards may be allowed to bottle fruit and sell it to the public.

At present, anyone who sells bottled fruit to the public must have a retail licence, and there is also a maximum price. But I am reconsidering the position to see whether in the case of fruit which is not subject to price control or pre-empted for jam making, we cannot dispense with the controls of bottling for sale.

Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that some incentive is given to the owners of private gardens and orchards, as many thousands of tons of fruit are lost every year because it is not worth while bottling it?

There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend says but there is the other side of the story, that it may produce some increase in prices; but I think it may be worth while.

Cheese (Varieties)


asked the Minister of Food for what reason Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Lancashire, Leicester, Wensleydale and Dunlop cheese is sold on the ration at 10d. a pound, while Stilton is sold on points at 6s. a pound; and what is the present subsidy per pound for the first-named cheeses.

Varieties of cheese which are suitable for sale on the ration are subsidised in accordance with the Government's stabilisation policy. Stilton cheese is not suitable for the ration. The subsidy on British cheese is about 1s. 7¼d. per lb.

is the Minister aware that all the English cheese which could be produced could be sold at a far higher price than 10d. to people who desire a change from imported "mouse-trap," and why should Wensleydale, Cheshire, and the other English cheeses mentioned be so heavily subsidised when Stilton is not subsidised?

The difference is that they are suitable for the ration while Stilton is not.

Groundnut Scheme, Kenya


asked the Minister of Food for what reasons it has been decided not to extend the East African Groundnut Scheme to Kenya.

No such decision has been taken. But certain areas in Kenya which were originally suggested for development have been found to be less suitable than was hoped, from the point of view of rainfall and other relevant factors. As a result, it is not now proposed to clear any acreage in Kenya this year. The question whether we can develop other areas in Kenya later on will be decided after further discussion with representatives of the Kenya Government. I have myself discussed the matter with Sir Philip Mitchell, the Governor of Kenya, and we both very much hope that suitable areas in Kenya will be found.

Imported Meat (Prices)


asked the Minister of Food why 30,000 tons of beef was recently bought from North America at 2s. per pound, while purchases from the Argentine were being made at 7d. per pound.

The exportable surplus of meat available to us from the usual meat exporting countries, namely, the the Southern Dominions and the Argentine is insufficient, and the United States is the other principal source from which we can at present secure the additional supplies we need. We are buying in the U.S. from individual shippers at the best price obtainable.

Would the Minister say whether there is any substance in the allegation that this contract with the United States shippers represents an increase of 300 per cent, in the price of United States beef imports? Would he also say whether there is any substance in the allegation that, if British importing firms were allowed to compete against one another in what is clearly a sellers' market, we should be able to purchase the meat more cheaply?

As to the first part of the supplementary question, it is very true that the price of United States meat, like other United States products, has gone up a very large percentage indeed, not only to us but also to the people of the United States. As far as the second part of the supplementary question is concerned, what my hon. Friend's Question shows is that the bulk contract part of our meat purchases from the Argentine has been secured at a very much more economical price.

Will the Minister confirm that while we are paying 7d. per pound for Argentine meat, we are paying is. 10½d. per pound for North American meat, which is approximately 300 per cent. more?

No, Sir. The figures are not quite right, but there is a very large differential. As I said, if that proves anything, it proves the very great success of bulk buying.

New Ration Books (Instructions)


asked the Minister of Food what supervision he exercises over matter contained in "Food Facts," published in all newspapers on 8th June; whether he is aware that "Food Facts" gives instructions relating to, he filling up of parts A and B on page 41 of the new ration books contrary to those contained in the ration books themselves; and which set of instructions he intends the public to observe.

The "Food Facts" advertisement is correct. Instructions for printing ration books have to be given months beforehand and this year we allowed for the possibility that we might be able to allow consumers to re-register with milk retailers.

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the holder of a ration book has to fill up parts A and B on page 41 as instructed to do on page 42 of the ration book, or whether he has to write nothing on page 41 as he is instructed to do in "Food Facts"?

It will do no harm if he fills them up, but it will do him no good either, because he will not be able to re-register this year.

If the Minister is sure, I wonder if he could make it clear to the consumer that it will do him no harm. At present a number of consumers have been baffled by the discrepancy between the book and the "Food Facts" advertisement.