117 Beasley to Chifley

Cablegram 50 LONDON, 5 March 1946, 4.08 p.m.


I visited the Foreign Office at the invitation of the Foreign Secretary for an informal discussion of the future food supply position. Lord Addison was present.

Mr. Bevin stressed that the effects of the present world shortage would be definitely felt, particularly in India and the Far East for the next three years. An outline of the present serious conditions has been graphically presented to you in several telegrams from the Prime Minister. [1] Furthermore, the future is viewed with such gravity that the Foreign Secretary is considering the desirability of a personal approach to Mr. Truman with the object of appealing for a greater effort by the United States of America for increased wheat production for this and the next two seasons. At this juncture, however, he feels that an appeal for alleviation of distress in British Far Eastern territories in general, and in India in particular, will probably not meet with the desired response.

Mr. Bevin has therefore discussed with me the possibility of Australia increasing her wheat acreage to the absolute maximum for this and the following two seasons. He informed me that the United Kingdom Government in order to stimulate every possible effort was prepared to enter into a long term contract to purchase the whole exportable surplus of Australian wheat at a price to be determined for harvests 1946/7 1947/8 and such price to be tapered down for the season 1948/9.

I agreed to place Mr. Bevin's proposal before you for consideration and I would be glad to have your views at the earliest possible moment with some indication if the suggestion is acceptable, of the price which would be favourable to producers and if possible a tentative estimate of increased production which is likely [to] accrue from this stimulus in order that I may resume my discussions.

Mr. Bevin was hoping for not less than a million, and two million tons if he can get it, over and above the 3.5 million tons which he estimates to be available as things are.

The Government here is concerned about India and the idea behind this proposal is to link India and Australia closer together. It is a short haul for a start and the feeling that the British Dominions are rallying together in this crisis will have a great psychological effect upon India. The Cripps Mission to India [2] would benefit from any announcement of this kind. There is also added possible advantage of increased trade on manufactured goods between our two countries. Bevin feels there is sound Empire politics in this proposal for it will cause the Indian people to look more towards the British Commonwealth as a whole rather than to constantly be directing their thoughts to the United Kingdom.

For us I feel it will possibly have great advantages in markets for the future and it also lifts our status in that part of the world. Bevin's idea is that the arrangement might be considered out there rather than here in London so as to add to local advantages. You will best judge the value of Australian politics [3] if I may say it could have two aspects, firm market for farmers and good prospects for our secondary industries. [4]

1 Documents 31, 69, 80 and 111.

2 A British Cabinet Mission, comprising Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and A. V. Alexander, visited India from March to June in an attempt to resolve constitutional issues prior to self- government.

3 An unexplained symbol inserted here appears to indicate a difficulty in decoding the text.

4 Chifley replied (cablegram 51 of 8 March) that he was interested in the suggestion but wanted more information on some points.

[AA:A3195, 1946, 1.5797]