asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what amount has been spent by the Government of Malaya on Government farms opened up for the cultivation of rice substitute crops; what acreage has been planted; what are the weight and value of the crops harvested to date; and whether he is satisfied with the results of this experiment.
The Government of the Malayan Union has spent 4,200,000 Straits dollars on short-term food production for crops, including rice, during the period April, 1946, to June, 1947, of which over 2,000,000 dollars is capital expenditure. Five thousand, three hundred and twenty-three acres have been planted, the weight of crops harvested being 196 tons, value at 20,000 dollars. Heavy expenditure has been entailed in the preliminary work of clearing and preparing land for cultivation, and it must be some time before the full benefits of this development become apparent. Nevertheless, in the Governor's view, the results have so far been disappointing.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there seems to be some difference of opinion between the experts of the Department of Agriculture and the short-term food production committee with regard to the cutting down of the tropical Malayan forest whose natural productions are tropical trees and rubber, and that, consequently, the 80,000 acres of highland that were put down for rice will not yield sufficient rice to make it worth while?
I am fully aware of the importance of conserving the Malayan forests. On the other hand, there is a tremendous drive by the Agricultural Department to grow more food wherever that can be done.
Will the Minister confirm, as he has done before, that there is a large part of the population for whom no substitute for rice can be obtained?