asked the Minister of Food for what reasons he agreed that 90 per cent. instead of the former 97 per cent. of the exportable surplus of New Zealand cheese should be purchased by the United Kingdom; and how much cheese this country has lost thereby.
Under the terms of our contract, which runs until 1955, our New Zealand suppliers have the right to reserve a small proportion of their butter and cheese for export to other countries in order to maintain their pre-war markets. The quantity retained is a matter for annual negotiation. Last year the New Zealand Dairy Commission asked for my agreement to increase the proportion to 10 per cent. and in view of the very strong demand they made to me, I felt, in the interests of good relations, that I must accede to their request. As the 10 per cent. applies to the total quantity of butter and cheese, based on butter-fat, it is not possible to state the precise effect on our cheese imports, but under the present agreement the quantity retained may not exceed 12,000 tons a year.
asked the Minister of Food if he has purchased all the cheese that was offered to him or was available from any source during the last two years; and what supplies he has refused owing either to the high price asked or the shortage of currency.
During the last two years my Department has purchased all the cheese suitable for the ration that has been available from Southern Dominion, Canadian and home sources. From the United States we bought enough in 1949 to maintain a two-ounce ration, and in 1950 all that was available—so that we were able to have a three-ounce ration for a short while. The only offer refused on account of price was a small quantity from South Africa. Other types of cheese are, of course, imported by the private trade and sold off the ration.