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

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 3 September 1940, 5.40 p.m.

MEAT Position has been exhaustively discussed with Ministry of Food down the lines of your cables 13th [1], 24th August. [2] It has been impossible to induce Ministry to agree to contract purchase of quantity in excess of 225,000 tons although they are prepared to retain clause in the present contract governing additional quantities.

In discussion we have strongly pressed every argument for acceptance of your figure. I am convinced that nothing further can be done with the Food Ministry and the matter will have to be taken to a higher plane if any increase is to be obtained. Broad arguments employed by Ministry are the following:-that stocks of meat had been built up in the United Kingdom and cold stores were substantially full; that the new stores that were being built could not be expected to add greatly to the present capacity as they would be required to make good the stores which it must be anticipated would be destroyed by enemy action. That Port facilities were already reduced and would be further reduced as air warfare intensified; that in view of these facts it would not be necessary or practicable to import into United Kingdom in the second year of the war quantity of meat as great as those [sic] imported in the first year. That in these circumstances it was necessary to reduce supplies from all sources; that New Zealand was being reduced to 275,000 tons; that this figure and 225,000 tons for Australia was based on average proportion of imports of the two countries over three years 1936/38. That Argentine imports, the reduction of which was strongly pressed to make room for full Dominion imports, were being reduced even more drastically. On this point, see later; that there was likely to be an increase in canned meat requirements which probably would be not less than 10,000 tons representing approximately 28,000 tons of frozen meat; that a carry over was brought into the estimate and that the carry over at the end of the contract period must also be taken into account.

Summarising they argue that if all the above factors are taken into consideration plus bacon figures which now agreed at 24,000 tons, see separate cables [3], Australia's position substantially met.

Throughout the discussion we maintained that 225,000 tons was insufficient even as a basis for discussion. In pressing for 290,000, We stressed steps taken to reduce our estimate to this figure, that it may be essential for Australia to protect beef, mutton, lamb, industries and that you were not prepared to increase pork at the expense of former categories.

We stressed war effort was costing Australia vast sums of money and to continue that effort, it was necessary to maintain Australian industries. We emphasised that Australia was in the war and that Argentine was not and that any necessity for a cut should be imposed on the latter. We asked for Argentine figures but Ministry indicated that they were not authorised to disclose these. These figures we could probably obtain, but I doubt their usefulness, as unofficially we have ascertained that Argentine, since French collapse, cut to something in the region of 55% of pre-war supplies.

Present position is that we have refused to accept Ministry's proposal.

Before taking matter up on a higher level will wait your comments and instructions.

BRUCE

1 Not found.

2 AA:A3196, 1940, 0.6061.

3 The only other cablegram concerning meat received from Bruce on 4 September is AA:A3195, 1940, 1.7523.

[AA: A3195, 1940, 1.7501]