Oral Answers to Questions — French North Africa (Enemy Supplies)

– in the House of Commons on 17th November 1942.

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Photo of Mr George Ridley Mr George Ridley , Clay Cross

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he can make any statement as to the effect of recent events in French North Africa upon the supply position of the enemy?

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Dundee

While it would be difficult to give a precise estimate of their full value to the enemy, there is no doubt that ever since 1940 imports into French Mediterranean ports from North and West Africa have been an extremely useful source of supply, while there have been occasional shipments of phosphates direct to Italy. As the House is aware, a German-Italian Purchasing Commission has been present at Marseilles and has requisitioned a very large proportion of these imports. Much of the remainder which was not requisitioned was of considerable service to the Axis, since they provided the raw materials for French factories which were producing on enemy account. During the months January to August, 1942, these imports into France and Italy included:

2,400tons of rubber.
271,000tons of minerals.
1,600,000tons of phosphates.
157,000tons of oilseeds and vegetable oils.
1,600tons of wool.
9,800tons of raw cotton.
2,000tons of hides, skins and leather.
850,000tons of foodstuffs.
The importance of the mineral imports in particular cannot be judged by quantities, since they included small but important consignments of high-grade iron ore, while the Axis were making strenuous endeavours to obtain from North Africa cargoes of molybdenum, antimony and especially cobalt. Certain industrial developments which have been observed in North Africa in recent months have appeared to show an intention to develop the resources of this area for the benefit of the Axis. For example, the Axis authorities have shown a keen interest in the extension and development of fish canning factories, and in fact provided sufficient tin plate to cover the whole estimated catch for this year.