GENERAL ARTICLES

What Will We Eat This Year?

Says Canada's Minister of Agriculture: No Canadian consumer should be worried about having a well-supplied table in 1943

HON. JAMES G. GARDINER May 1 1943
GENERAL ARTICLES

What Will We Eat This Year?

Says Canada's Minister of Agriculture: No Canadian consumer should be worried about having a well-supplied table in 1943

HON. JAMES G. GARDINER May 1 1943

What Will We Eat This Year?

GENERAL ARTICLES

HON. JAMES G. GARDINER

THERE is no part of our war effort about which more loose talking has been done than the production of food.

It seems to be a common theory that since the beginning of the war Canada has been begged to supply food which she did not have available. The fact is that during the first eighteen months of the war Canada found it difficult to market her farm products. It was not until May, 1941, that Britain began to look to Canada for greater supplies of cheese and bacon. During the first two years of war all our contracts read "not more than,” except those for cheese which read "not less than.”

During the third year of the war, while our contracts read "not less than” in relation to cheese and pork products, Canada was approached to reduce her supplies of cheese below the contracted amount because of the possibility of the importer receiving supplies from elsewhere.

During the third year of the war we thought we had a market for all the feed grain we could produce. At the end of the season we had feed grain and wheat piled on fields all over western Canada for which there was no immediate market.

During the third year of the war we rushed to completion egg and vegetable dehydration plants, in order to get those foods into a form which could be shipped so we would not have an unsold surplus —which would drive our prices on these products below costs of production. We have been unable until recently to sell half the surplus of white beans produced in this country in 1942.

If Canadian farmers had been compelled to market their products without Government assistance since the beginning of the war in countries other than the United States, they could not

Says Canada's Minister of Agriculture: No Canadian consumer should be worried about having a well-supplied table in 1943

have received more at any time than eighteen cents for cheese, thirty-four cents for butter; thirty-five cents for eggs at Montreal; eighty cents a bushel for wheat and nine cents a pound for hogs live weight at Winnipeg; and whatever Canadians cared to pay for beef which would have been a glut upon our market.

This should make it plain to everyone that there has been no government off this continent sufficiently anxious to obtain increased quantities of our food to be able or willing to pay a price for it which would cover the wartime cost of production.

I will be asked: "Then why should the farmer have received prices higher than those which could have been obtained in Britain, with the result that consumers in Canada paid more?”

Demand Was From U.S.

T^HE answer is obvious. At any time since early in 1941 the United States would have taken every pound of animal products which left Canadian farms at a higher price than Britain was prepared to pay and at a higher price than Canadians were asked to pay. To make sure the products would remain in Canada or go to Britain at the lower cost, the Government placed export of cheese, beef, lamb, live cattle, sheep and pork products and a number of other food products under permit.

When the Americans were anxious to purchase Canadian feed grain and mill feeds at prices higher than our farmers could afford to pay as a result of the prices received for livestock products, we placed feed which would have gone to the United States under permit.

We persuaded our farmers to agree to these policies on the ground that we were fighting shoulder to shoulder with Britain and our position should not be compared with the position of farmers in another country. In other words we contended that our food should go to Britain no matter what it cost Canada. The farmers replied: "We agree, provided Canada and not the farmer alone pays the cost.”

If anyone doubts what would have happened to other foods all he has to do is recall what did happen in beef. There was no obstruction placed on the shipment of cattle into the United States until June, 1942. As a result from January 1, 1941, until July 1, 1942, 295,000 head of beef cattle went to the United States. The boundary line had to be closed to cattle shipments to prevent all beef going to the States. Cattle could have gone at times to the farmer’s advantage even when the full duty of three cents a pound was on. If the permit system had not been applied all feeds and food products would have gone unless Canadians had been prepared to pay much higher prices.

Can We Permit American Competition?

T>EFORE answering the question: "What Will We Eat This Year?” perhaps we should consider the advisability of preventing Americans from competing with our consumers for the products of Canadian farms.

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The Americans until quite re| cently have allowed prices for farm products to remain almost uncontrolled. If the boundary line were not controlled by export permits Canadian farmers would obtain much more for their products than they are now receiving. The Canadian consumer would be compelled to match these prices to retain the product in Canada. This would increase the cost of living index and would disrupt the present inflation control policy.

The closing of the American boundary retains food supplies and the imposition of ceiling prices at home maintains the cost of living index. Assuming a continuance of the anti-inflationary policy, these two measures must be a part of Government policy in relation to farm products. It is, therefore, safe to assume that it is not intended to open the boundary. If that be so Canadian consumers need not be afraid they will be denied enough to eat because of American competition for our Canadian food products.

Our Available Food

THE position on the high seas is serious. If it does not grow worse Canadians should obtain as much imported food as we are now allowed, principally sugar, tea, coffee, fruits and oils. The staple foods are supplied from our own farms.

We have in storage fifteen times as much wheat as we can consume in a year. We have almost twice as much coarse grains as we can .use. We are marketing four times as much cheese and twice as much bacon and other pork products as our home market demands annually. We are marketing twenty per cent j more cattle, twelve per cent more j eggs, and ten per cent more milk i products than our home market

demands annually. We are marketing— with the importation of seasonal supplies—all the vegetables, fruit, poultry and butter our home market demands. We are consuming more of all food than in previous years.

There is, therefore, no reason why Canada, which has closed its boundary to the export of food to one of its best markets, should deny Canadians the right to eat anything because of a shortage of production or supply in 1943 as compared with 1942.

Effect of Exports to Britain

THE Government, early in the war, took the position that anything which Britain declared to be essential to the feeding of her people, and which we could supply,would be supplied so far as our general position made it possible.

It is, therefore, necessary to answer the further question:

Does Canada intend to continue this policy? I think we can assume that the great majority of Canadians would answer “yes” to that question.

Britain takes practically all her imported wheat from Canada. Even if she doubled her requirements it would not affect what we eat of that product. One can safely say: Eat

all the cereals you want this year and Canada still will be able to supply Britain.

Britain takes the product of more than half of our hogs marketed through commercial channels. She takes the Wiltshire sides from seventy per cent of our marketed hogs. We consume what is not Wiltshire sides from these as well as all the products from the other thirty per cent. Although we deny ourselves the cuts which make up Wiltshire sides from which cured ham and bacon are made, we eat more pork now than we ever ate before. There is no hardship, therefore, in denying

ourselvespart of the hog, that Britain may have what she considers essential.

Britain takes more than seventy per cent of our cheese. She did in peacetime. She considers this essential although this is only a fraction of her total cheese imports. We are not great cheese eaters at any time. There will be as much left as we ever ate. There is, therefore, no reason why we should not either increase our supplies to Britain or eat our usual amount.

Britain has made some recent enquiries as to the possibility of our supplying frozen beef. No amount of beef which can be frozen and shipped to Britain this year is likely to cause Canadians to go easy on beef. Canada’s stocks of beef cattle were never higher in numbers and are greatly increased in weight over recent years. The only possibility of our finding it necessary to curtail consumption of beef this year will be either because of British demands limiting pork supplies and hence total meat supplies, or some other ally requiring part of our beef cattle.

Britain has not indicated that she considers any of our other foods essential. We are producing at least as much of each of them as ever. It does not appear to me, therefore, that any consumer should be concerned about having a well supplied table this year.

Regulation May Be Necessary

EVEN though supplies may be sufficient after Britain and our other allies have been satisfied, regulation of purchase may be necessary. Canadians do not expect more than enough to feed our people to be left in Canada. If just enough to go round is provided, unless there is regulation some are going to get too much and some too little.

Some people have not yet learned that they cannot throw away the fat and eat the lean in wartime just because they can afford to.

Some have not yet learned that if they store butter in their cellar in excess of their needs in December and bring it out in March, there will be a shortage in January and a surplus in April.

Some have not yet learned that if they plead shortage in January and February and by so doing induce the British Food Ministry to release butter from other countries to Canada they are taking butter out of the mouths of bombed women and children in Britain.

Therefore there may have to be regulations to assure that some do not go without, even in a nation which is producing as it never produced before.

What About the Farmer?

WE ARE inclined to reckon without the farmer when considering the needs of our stomachs.

The farmer who has his land paid for can live as a subsistence farmer on very little. A man who is past middle life and who has always lived on a farm may be satisfied with subsistence in a home to which he has become accustomed. But the younger people are not satisfied with subsistence farming. If they leave the

farm in too great numbers we may have to ask either our own people or Britain to take less.

When this war started they left the farms voluntarily by hundreds of thousands. They are still leaving voluntarily by thousands. Some of them welcome the compulsory call up as a means of helping them away from the farms. These farms cannot maintain their production on a subsistence basis.

Canadian farmers claim that since they are one third of the population they are entitled to one third of the ¡ net national income. They claim further that if the allied countries cannot pay as much for Canadian products as they pay for those of j their own farms and the Canadian Government agrees to provide them for less, all the people of Canada should pay the difference. They claim most of all that the Canadian urban consumers are as well able as any consumers in the world to pay well for what they eat. They think that if it is given to them for less all the people of Canada should make up the difference.

The Government has been attempting to have this very thing done. They have taken delivery of the farmer’s apples and wheat and allowed him an advance or allowance when there was no immediate market in the hope he would be producing when demand does appear. They have subsidized changes from one kind of crop production to another. They have subsidized shipment of fertilizer so production of feed might be increased. They have subsidized shipment of feeds from one part of Canada to another so livestock might be finished at less cost. They have subsidized the distribution of protein-content feeds to lessen the cost to producers.

Finally the Government—through the Prices Board—has been attempting with some success to keep the J prices of things a farmer has to buy from rising. By this means costs of producing have been held down. To the extent that they have been held j below the cost in the United States or Britain they have helped to balance the net position of the Canadian farmers with those of the United States and Britain.

It will be the Government’s duty to consider and deal with all the difficulties placed in the way of agriculture because of a desire to place comparatively low-cost food in the mouths of our people and allies in 1943. However successful the Govj ernment is in that task, Canadians can rest assured that if they are regulated in their consumption of food during the fourth year of the war it will not be because Canadians plus all the allies we have fed in the past cannot be fully supplied from the produce of our farms, but only because new hungry stomachs are crying out for food that we in the midst of our plenty will deny ourj selves to assure victory.

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