107 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 19 March 1940

SECRET

DRIED FRUITS

My secret cable 6th March. [1] I have now received official communication from the United Kingdom Government. [2] After referring to representations I made on 21st December that the question should be considered on the grounds of high policy and that such consideration has now been given to the matter, it indicates that the United Kingdom Government so far as can be foreseen would not be in a position to make further purchases from the present Australian crop. The reason given for this decision is that what are described as pre-emptive purchases, e.g. Turkey, together with purchases made elsewhere sufficient to meet the United Kingdom requirements. The letter adds 'if it should be found later in the year that further purchases of dried fruits could be justified in relation to our requirements and our ability to finance and ship them, we should take the initiative in re- opening the matter. I am afraid however that little prospect can be seen that this will be the case'.

It is now disclosed that the United Kingdom Government has committed itself to acquire approximately 40,000 tons of sultanas from Turkey annually for the duration of the war and one year after. The present decision, in view of the grounds upon which it is based, would therefore, if adhered to, mean that not only for this year but for all subsequent years covered by the Turkish agreement, the United Kingdom would not purchase more than 20,000 to 25,000 tons of Australian exportable surplus.

Upon receipt of the United Kingdom Government's communication I offered most vigorous protest and insisted that I should have an opportunity of discussing the question because not only of its economic and financial repercussions but also because of the effect on Australian public opinion. This meeting will probably be arranged within the next few days.

I have in mind the following arguments:-

(a) The number both of the United Kingdom and Australian Returned Soldiers engaged in the industry.

(b) The impression created by Food Ministry officials during the negotiations for the 24,500 tons purchased that further large purchases would be made.

(c) That over the past six years, Australia has supplied 39% of United Kingdom requirements whereas Turkey has only supplied 11%.

(d) That the burden of the policy of economic warfare is being thrown entirely on Australia's shoulders.

(e) That the argument that the Australian Government could financially assist the dried fruits industry in the same way as the United Kingdom Government assisted her agricultural industries not sound because production assisted by United Kingdom Government can be sold whereas there is no alternative market for dried fruits and this Position would be intensified according to the length of the war.

(f) The value of dried fruits in war because of (1) concentrated nature (2) food value (3) good stowage.

(g) Possibilities of disposal of greatly increased quantities by public drive in the United Kingdom as demonstrated by the marked increase in the retail demand already apparent.

Can you supply any further arguments.

BRUCE

1 In series FA: A3195, 1.1567. It foreshadowed the information contained in this cablegram.

2 Not found.

[FA: A3195, 1.1840]