World Food Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st May 1946.

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Photo of Sir John Boyd-Orr Sir John Boyd-Orr , Combined Scottish Universities 12:00 am, 31st May 1946

I would like to express my sympathy with the right hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Sir Ben Smith), the late Minister of Food. He was the victim of circumstances. He was driven by events over which he had no control.

This Debate has been largely concerned with what happened in the immediate past and what is to happen in the immediate future. So much publicity was given to the immediate world food crisis that it was thought it was a 90 day crisis and that it would finish as soon as the 1946 harvest was gathered. The facts are that when we get in the 1946 harvest the world will be as badly off for food as it was when we got in the 1945 harvest. Unless measures are taken immediately to conserve the 1946 harvest and to spread it over the year and distribute it according to our needs, at this time next year we shall be in the same desperate plight as we are today. The shortage might even continue beyond 1947 into 1948. In order to get into the position of having sufficient wheat to satisfy hunger and prevent starvation, it will be necessary next year to continue diverting grain from animals for direct consumption by human beings. Therefore, there will be a delay in building up animal stocks on farms. So when there is sufficient food to satisfy hunger there will then be a shortage of the animal products which are so valuable and important for health.. We are not dealing with a 90 day crisis but with a shortage of food which will last for three or four years.

With the stepping up of production of cereals in the exporting countries, when production in European countries comes back to the pre-war level, the world may be faced suddenly with piled up stocks in the exporting countries for which there is no economic demand. There is the rise in prices during the scarcity and that will be followed by a fall in prices which may be the prelude to another economic crisis such as happened after the last war.

Such is the grim picture of the world food position. In view of the gravity of the situation, the F.A.O. called a conference of representatives of the temporary organisation dealing with food, the Combined Food Board, U.N.R.R.A., and the Emergency Economic Committee for Europe and of the Governments who can make a major contribution to the solution of the world food problem. I hope it will be in Order—