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Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is, in West Africa, now the total tonnage of groundnuts that have been loaded for transport to the United Kingdom; what is the tonnage left in store; and how much of this has been destroyed or damaged by insect pests.

As the answer is long, and includes a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has there been an increase or a decrease since the last figures were given?

I do not recall, off-hand, when the last figures were given. There has been a considerable increase in the tonnage moved in the last eight months compared with that moved in the same period last year. In the first eight months of the present season, 236,000 tons were moved from Kano and in a similar period last year 162,000 tons were moved. It will be seen that there is a big change.

As the hon. Gentleman has taken quite a long time in answering the supplementary—longer than he would have taken to give the main answer—would he not now read that answer?

Is it not a fact that 10,000 acres of sunflower seeds have been ploughed back into the land? Would the hon. Gentleman consider giving fuller information to the House at the earliest possible opportunity?

I have no knowledge of any sunflower seeds being ploughed back in Nigeria. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me the information.

On a point of Order. The Under-Secretary asked leave to give these figures, and has not been refused leave. Ought he not, therefore, to give the figures?

Occasionally I am asked that an answer should be read after Questions; twice in the last week that has been done. As a matter of fact, I agree. I think it is a very good thing, when we have a long answer, to save it until after Questions, because it may give rise to a great many supplementaries. It would be rather unfair to those hon. Members who have Questions later in the list if a long answer is given, which might mean several minutes being taken away from them. I am rather between two stools. I do not propose to go back on it.

Has not great progress been made in moving the groundnuts from the Kano area, and is not the problem largely caused by a legacy of neglect of transport facilities in the past?

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and if it is the wish of the House, could the information be given at the end of Questions?


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present position in respect of groundnut production in Nigeria; how many tons are now stacked; what percentage of this is the present crop; and whether clearance has now been substantially accelerated.

As the answer includes a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would not my hon. Friend give the answer later, as he has agreed to do on the previous Question. Would not my hon. Friend agree that the same concession which he has granted to the Opposition should be granted to his hon. Friends?


I will now, with permission, give the answers to Questions Nos. 21 and 24. The 1948–49 groundnut crops in the Gambia and Sierra Leone amounting to 62,000 tons and 2,500 tons, respectively, have been shipped and there are no stocks remaining. Of the current crop in the Upper Benue region of Nigeria totalling 13,000 tons only 650 tons have been transported, but stocks consist entirely of the current crop, and will be moved when the Benue river is open for traffic in the autumn. In Northern Nigeria, 213,000 tons have been railed to the coast since the opening of the 1948–49 buying season on 1st November, 1948. This leaves total stocks at Kano on 2nd July, 1949, at 264,000 tons of which all but 7,000 tons were current crop.

Damage by insect pests is confined to Northern Nigeria. The position at Kano on 2nd July was as follows:

1947 to 1948 crop, total infested, 21,771 tons; total of infested stock railed, 21,083 tons; total destroyed, 264 tons; balance of infested stock, 424 tons.

The 1948 to 1949 crop, total infested, 63,369 tons; total of infested stock railed, 14,172 tons; total destroyed, 9 tons; balance of infested stock, 49,188 tons.

Purchase of the 1948 to 1949 groundnut crop for export is now complete and totals 315,000 tons in the northern Territory, and 13,000 tons in the Upper Benue. 257,000 tons were stacked at Kano on 30th June, and the bulk of the 13,000 tons Benue crop has not yet been moved. All but a very small quantity is the current crop. Clearance from Kano for the eight months from the beginning of the present season on 1st November totals 236,000 tons as compared with 162,000 tons in the same period last year.

In view of the fact that the shortage of railway transport has been under active consideration for some years, would the Under-Secretary consult with the Minister of Food to see that the railway transport that is used in East Africa is used where the nuts are waiting to be transported?

If the hon. Member had heard my reply he would have understood that the railways stocks position is in hand.

In view of the fact that there are only four months before the new buying season starts, and as I understand that 264,000 tons are lying at Kano, is it not a certainty that there will be a very big overlap, and that by November it will be impossible to move the new crop and the old crop at the same time?

That is normally so, but it is anticipated that by the end of March or April the whole of the old crop will have been moved. However, in these circumstances it is likely that the whole of the new stock will have been cleared by 1st November. There is always an overlap.

Can we take it, therefore, that there will be a considerable acceleration of clearance now, due to new locomotives or some such reason?

Yes. I gave the figures of a very great increase over those for the same period last year.

Is not infestation of 20 per cent. of the current crop a very high proportion? What steps are being taken to get it down?

That is infestation from all causes. It is higher than we should like, but we have taken very considerable measures to deal with the position and have flown out insecticides for that purpose.

Is it not a fact that on 30th April of 180 wagons promised for delivery, only 76 had been delivered, and that of those only 10 were fit for use? Is that not the real cause of the delay in moving stocks?

There was some difficulty over wagons, recently, but much of that difficulty has been overcome. It is one of the reasons for the delay, but by no means the only one.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statement and the figures of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. S. Lloyd)? If so, are they not rather serious?

I cannot accept those figures without looking into them, but a number of wagons which were railed were incomplete, and it caused some dislocation.