198 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 13 November 1940, 8.30 p.m.


Food Policy.

Since my telegram 30th July [1], discussions have been continued with the Minist[er] of Food [2] and with his officials on the probable trend of United Kingdom food imports policy. Have cabled you separately on canned fruits [3], but in view of the situation now existing and possibilities ahead, think it desirable to advise you comprehensively of the present indications as to other commodities.

Shipping dominates the whole position which has deteriorated for three major reasons.

(1) Increased severity of losses owing to enemy action.

(2) Increasing delay in discharging and loading cargo owing to unavoidable congestion at west coast ports and in transport and storage due, in part, to damage caused by enemy action and in part to the effect of air raids precautions.

(3) Shifting of military urgency from threatened invasion of the United Kingdom to the Eastern Mediterranean. This involves drain on shipping and, in particular, on refrigerated tonnage since many refrigerated ships considered specially suited as transports have been taken for Admiralty purposes. This, together with virtual closing of the Mediterranean for commercial shipping, is seriously decreasing the amount of tonnage available for food shipments to the United Kingdom.

The Ministry feel that even if under (1) there is an improvement, difficulties under (2) and (3) will probably increase.

Dairy Produce. While the Ministry continues to give first priority to dairy produce, not prepared having regard to the shipping situation to increase quantities already stipulated in the contract. They would, however, take greater quantities if they were available and could be shipped. Taking a longer view of both war and immediate post war situations, they anticipate increasing demands for Australian and New Zealand butter, cheese and other milk products. They are re-examining the question of their requirements of sweetened condensed, separated milks and dried separated milk for three to four years period and I will supplement this cable on these commodities shortly.

Meat. Ministry officials have intimated by way of warning that shipping situation may at some later date necessitate extreme economy in the use of refrigerated space for meat. In such an event they may have to ask for increased proportion of beef to be shipped bone out, for mutton and lamb to be prepared in forms admitting of increased stowage and perhaps also for increased proportion of canned beef In view of the possibility of the situation forcing shipping economies of the above nature in regard to all imports of meat, you will no doubt think it well to consider the matter with your Meat Board so that you may be prepared if contingencies ever arise.

Fruit. Ministry will not in the present situation commit themselves to any shipping whatever. In a healthier shipping position, they would agree to fruit coming forward up to say 1,000,000 cases but only if shipping position improved considerably. Have asked for a re-statement of the position early in January in the light of the situation then existing. They would be prepared however to purchase evaporated fruit probably up to 2,000 tons if it were available. This is tentative estimate but I am expecting definite figures after matter has been studied and will deal with this aspect more precisely in a later message.

Dried Vine Fruit will be accorded high priority owing to the established food value in relation to shipping space required.

Ministry, however, are unwilling to commence discussions for 1941 purchase until close estimate of Australian pack available.


1 Document 41.

2 Lord Woolton.

3 See Bruce's unnumbered cablegram of 27 September (AA:A3195, 1940,1.8449).

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.10499]