Oral Answers to Questions — Gold Coast (Cocoa Tree Disease)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1949.

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Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury 12:00 am, 7th December 1949

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) how many cocoa trees in the Gold Coast were cut out in the latest 12 months for which figures are now available; and how many trees contracted the swollen shoot disease during the same period;

(2) how many cocoa trees in the Gold Coast it is now estimated will be cut out in the next 12 months; and how many will become affected by the swollen shoot disease in the same period.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

The number of trees cut out in the 12 months ended 30th September, 1949, was slightly over 3,300,000. It was estimated that during the first five months of that period about 4 million trees had become infected. It is not possible to foretell how many trees will be infected during the next 12 months, nor can an estimate be given at present of the number of diseased trees which are likely to be cut out during that period. Preparations are, however, now being made for a greatly intensified campaign against the disease as soon as the current harvest is over.

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

Is it true to say that the number of trees which are to be cut out during the next year will not be as' great as the number of trees which will be diseased, and can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what active steps His Majesty's Government are taking in order to prevent this very serious decline in the tree population out there?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

It is possible that what the hon. Gentleman says in the first part of his supplementary question is true because the object of the campaign is to cut belts in order to prevent the disease spreading into new areas. It may be that in certain parts the disease will gain more rapidly than the number of trees cut out. As to the second part of the supplementary question, it is proposed, subject to the approval of the Legislative Council, to introduce compulsion in areas where the majority of the farmers are in favour of cutting out.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

When my hon. Friend speaks of an intensified campaign, it is obvious that it will be more intense than the campaign up to now. Does he mean that it now involves the active co-operation of the native authorities and large numbers of Africans who were previously hostile to the campaign?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

I do not remember using the word in that sense, but it means that there is an increasing participation by Africans in the cutting out campaign, and therefore it means that the minority can have compulsion applied to them.

Photo of Professor Douglas Savory Professor Douglas Savory , Queen's University of Belfast

Have specimens of these trees been submitted to the School of Tropical Medicine in connection with the University of London in Keppell Street?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

I do not know. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put a question down.

Photo of Mr Thomas Scollan Mr Thomas Scollan , Renfrewshire Western

As it must be over 12 months since first these cuttings took place, has there been any appreciable improvement in the places where the heaviest cutting out took place in coping with this disease?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

Of course, nothing at all remains in those places where they are cut out. The campaign has not gone as rapidly as we had hoped. We had to get the support of the farmers and I think we have now got the support of the majority.

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

In view of the considerable opposition with which the policy has met from farmers in the Gold Coast, can the hon. Gentleman hold out any hope that there will be large areas in which the majority of farmers will support the policy?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams Lieut-Colonel David Rees-Williams , Croydon South

Yes, I think that may well be so.