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Imported Meat (Prices)

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1947

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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.