Food for Europe

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Food for Europe

On 23 October 1945 the Cabinet discussed the line to be taken at a forthcoming debate in the House of Commons on supplies for Europe.  There was great concern that people in Europe might either die of starvation or cold during the winter.  The conditions differed widely from one part of Europe to another, and people in some parts of Europe were better off in some respects than in the UK.  It was realised that, although there was some sympathy for the suffering in Germany and Austria, there was also a large body of public opinion which would protest against the diversion to ex-enemy countries of food which might have been made available to the UK public and which had long been either scarce or unobtainable in the UK.  The Cabinet also discussed the number of calories which were available at that time in the various European countries.  They also discussed the world shortage of wheat which could have been alleviated if the US fed less wheat to their cattle and imported maize from Argentina for this purpose; however, this solution was difficult to achieve because of the strained relations between the two countries at the time.  They also discussed the problem of coal production in the Ruhr, the supply of transport and the difficulties being caused by Soviet policy in South-Eastern Europe where Russia was taking any surplus food for itself.

The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:


I've said my 1st duty = maintain rations at home.
  Motion deals with transport coal etc., - food only incidental.
  Figures of supplies of food sent, or commn to send: 1.110.000 t. from
  stocks by end '45.
  Calory levels – being maintained in practice save in Germany – where
  only 1300/1400 calories.
  Vitamin C: supplies in Switz. wh. cd. be bought for Francs.  If Fr. have
  shd. have to replace at cost of dollars.
  Wheat for Germany: shd. be explored.  First: reduce stocks below W.
  Agricult. minimum: Second, U.S. to use maize rice wheat for feeding
  250.000+ programmed for G – 112.000 for B. Zone.  Trying to
  procure. But Canada unwilling to supply: may have to buy from U.S.
  Other diffies: Wavell wants 2 m tons/wheat if he can't get rice.
  Possible concession para 10(b). 2m of these Arctic packs.  Others are
  in Pacific & wd. have to be brought back.
  The dried fruits are L. Lease.
  Potatoes: 50.000 tons on assumption of favourable harvest.
  Total 10(b) & 7lbs per head for popn of B. homes of G & Austria.
  From stocks – cd. not be repeated.
  Para 10(a). Late Govt. opposed to parcels.  Hope we shall be. too. But
  a scheme for giving up points goods (not points) & collectg. thro' a
  voluntary organisation wd. be practicable; and I wd. ship it.


Draw attention to terms of Motion.
a) Can't generalise re Europe. Some countries are better off in some things than U.K.  The House must be informed of facts.
b) Politics v. awkward.  Contents of packs in 10(b) – many people here wd. like those foods.  But posn will deteriorate as winter goes on; & pressure will increase.
c) Calory.  1500 not enough to work on.
d) Motion: drafting is awkward: can't easily accept as it stands.
  First ques.: shd. U.K. try to act uni-laterally or seek international
Hynd.  1550 cal. is not accepted by Robertson as minimum in present condns
  in G.
  2000 cal. = the mark to prevent serious trouble in G. & A.
  These packs contain little calory value.
  Fish coming in, but can't be distributed.
  Our people say - diffies esp. fr. B. troops giving their rations to children
  who are prof. collectors for the black market.
  Addl. 7lbs p. head won't take them thro' winter.
  Motion refers to adl. coal fr. Ruhr.  This is crucial, & can't be secured
  w'out more food.
  Two ques. on Motion:
a) Public opinion.  Resolution.  Tense feeling in H/C even on Stokes' adjournment.  Comparison wrong – with rations in U.K. etc. where other food available.  Need for proper standard of comparison.
b) Govt. shd. have clear, long-term policy on this ques.


What shall be my line?  In A.P.W. days, we said Europe can't be fed
  unless treated as a whole.  Think that must be declared – with implicn
  tht. any Govt. acting to contrary is perpetuatg. these condns.  At C.F.M.
  tried to ascertain what surpluses fr. Romania & Bulgaria (natural larder
  for S.E. Europe incldg. Vienna).  No satisfy. answer:  they now have
  deficiency because R. policy there. Hungary too: Treaty ties 50% of
  prodn to Russia, if it goes through.  That is why I've had to protest.  All
  these policies are for benefit of Russia wh. in normal times is surplus
  Para.(3) of 'Motion'.  R. have declined to co-operate in work of E.E.
  Also waterways, wh. cd. have bn condn to this.  Shd. like to say what
  U.S. offered at C.F.M. & refer to R. attitude.
  Two views in H/C.
a) go carefully & mend threads b) Come out with truth.  This motion suggests want to force it out.


We shdn't cloak the facts.  People shd. know – and shd. appreciate
  consequences of a policy wh. perpetuates war after its over.  Epidemics
  – takg. our occupying troops & pos. spreading to U.K.
  Mistake for E.B. to speak.  Foreign policy significance.  Better keep it
  factual. Avoid dipl. significance attachg. to what is said.  Then we can
  talk plainly about effect on R. policy.
  Agree with H.M.  Shldn't try to solve unilaterally.  We shd. approach
  R & U.S. & seek for concerted action.


Don't be too sentimental.
a) Epidemics.  Good precautionary services at work.  Not a great risk unless we have something new.
    b) Talking in terms of calories p. head over whole popn ignores fact that many people in G. are doing quite well – e.g. farmers & untouched towns.  Real problem = children in town.  Recommend concentrate our efforts entirely on them.  Old people will die anyhow.
E.Sh.  Let's get some points clear.
a) Can't settle uni-laterally.  If that's agreed, who but E.B. cd. speak. And somethg. must be said about R. policy of forcing people in W. Zones.
b) Feeding wheat to cattle in U.S. ought to be brought out.
c) Wheat policy internationally – can be settled later.  What our approach shd. be.
d) Coal. Production in Ruhr is improving – we are doing all we can eg. by sending out techn. experts.  Don't give G. miners more food – because B. miners cd. do with it.
e) Argentine maize.  If fuel export needed to extract it, we may have to do it.  But tell B. public.
f) Don't believe B. people wd. react v. contents of parcels if facts re W. Germany known.


Argentine.  Trouble is with U.S. & it's political.
  Tried in Arg. to get U.S. to give us a truce with Argentine while we get
  food out. Still worth an effort to get sensible U.S. attitude twds.
  Believe they might send us food on credit., in spite of large sterling
  Actions of U.S. re L.L. makes it easier to deal with such countries.
  Will take it up again.
  Diffy. over U.N.R.R.A. – not hopeful of getting 1% from U.S.
  $4.500.000 Congress may adjourn w'out dealing with this until Jan.
  And it be broke by then.
  Mustn't fall betwn. 2 stools.  We've undertaken to go to the 1%.

Taken from C.M. 45(45) - Meeting held on 23 October 1945.