5 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr Tatsuo Kawai, Japanese Minister to Australia
Letter MELBOURNE, 11 July 1941
The Government has given very careful consideration to your letter
of 27th June  regarding the desire of your Government to secure
supplies of copra from the Territory of New Guinea, and has made
enquiries regarding the position.
You are doubtless aware that Japan is normally an exporter of oils
and fats. Our advices are that recently Japan has been importing
very large quantities of copra, coconut oil, castor seed oil,
etc., and has been exporting fish oil, whale oil, coconut oil,
soya oil, and soya beans to Germany. Japan has also, we are
advised, acted as a channel for the supply to Germany of foreign
lard and tallow.
Australia has contributed to Japan's imports of oil by permitting
the export of certain quantities of copra to Japan, despite the
fact that, normally, Australia supplies to Japan negligible
quantities of this commodity. In these circumstances it does not
at present appear practicable for the Australian Government to
issue any further licences for the export of copra to Japan.
Recently the Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs 
informed the Australian Minister at Tokyo  that the shortage of
food oil in Japan was due to the failure of the soya bean crop in
Manchoukuo, whereas your understanding appears to be that it is
due to a reduced production of fish oil. I feel bound to say that
on the facts before it, it seems to the Australian Government that
any shortage in food oil in Japan is due to substantial exports to
Germany with whom we are engaged in war.
On this question of Japan's food supplies, I earnestly hope that
your Government does not overlook the ready co-operation that has
been forthcoming from Australia. Since the outbreak of the war,
Australia has supplied to Japan very large quantities of wheat,
flour, and barley, and has granted credit for long periods on
liberal terms. The most recent evidence of our desire to assist
Japan is the decision to permit the export to Japan of Corriedale
Sheep to the total of 20,000 during the present year. Your request
in this instance was gladly granted because you emphasised that
the sheep were required for distribution to small farmers, whose
general economy depends partly on the possession of a few sheep.
[ROBERT G. MENZIES]