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

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 30 July 1940, 4.27 [p.m.]

United Kingdom Food policy. My telegram 23rd July. [1] I have now received from Woolton 12] a considered reply [3] of which the following is a summary:-

'After expressing appreciation of the desire of the Commonwealth Government to adapt Australian agriculture to war needs, it is explained that the reply must be tentative owing to the danger of enemy action substantially altering the shipping position or severely damaging United Kingdom port facilities. Subject to the above qualifications Woolton then forecast food imports programme from Australia in the coming year.

Owing to the loss of source of supply [in] [4] Europe, dairy produce given first priority under which head the United Kingdom prepared to receive, subject to freight space being available, all eggs Australia can supply. For butter, contract arranged for 100,000 tons but this figure intended to be minimum and again subject to shipping considerations. The United Kingdom desires to import all Australia can supply. For cheese, contract under negotiation specifies 20,000 tons which is believed to be maximum quantity Australian factories can supply. Equal importance attached to dried milk, but difficult at present to specify definite quantities. It is hoped Australia will be able to supply Malaya and Hong Kong with increased quantities of full cream sweetened condensed milk.

Regarding wheat, over 1,000,000 tons remain unshipped from purchases already made and doubtful whether it will be possible to lift more than this quantity before the middle of 1941. A reasonable estimate is that the United Kingdom will be able to import between 1,000,000 and 1,250,000 tons in twelve months ending July 1st, 194[1]. Unless the shipping position greatly improved cannot hope to take other cereals or wheat offals.

Sugar-to ease shipping have arranged the diversion of part of Australian supplies to Canada, New Zealand. Hope that 500,000 tons may be lifted of which 300,000 tons for United Kingdom. Impossible to give dear indication regarding meat at present. Since European events dictate substantial revision of policy position will be indicated as soon as possible.

Of fruit, dried fruit accorded first grade priority. The United Kingdom still bound to buy from Turkey, but unlikely to be able to lift substantial quantities from the Mediterranean.

The Minister hopes to maintain the scale of purchase from Australia and has budgeted for 55,000 tons and hopes to take that quantity subject to unforeseeable developments. Fresh fruit has a lower priority, and only if shipping eases can imports of apples and pears be maintained although in most favourable circumstances might ship 40,000 tons. Canned fruit on lower priority than fresh.

If situation serious Ministry prepared to do without such imports on most favourable assumption that imports limited to 20,000 tons.

Wine has lowest priority since shipping cannot be made available for wine imports from any country.

No wish you should increase lard production but subject to prices prepared to take such quantities as become available. Not likely to need tallow. Rice to come forward under licence in quantities equivalent to first year of War, but reluctant to accord rice high priority. All foregoing subject not only to shipping but agreement on satisfactory prices.' Summary ends.

I have advised Woolton that I have cabled summary to you, and pending your comments do not propose to reply to points he makes.

1 On file AA: AA1973/362, Box 46, item A39.

2 U.K. Minister of Food.

3 This refers to a request for clarification of U.K. food import policy made by Menzies in an unnumbered cablegram dispatched to Bruce on 9 July (on file cited in note 1).

4 Corrected from the copy on file cited in note 1.

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.6060]