71 Chifley to Attlee

Cablegram 64 CANBERRA, 7 February 1946


I have your cable No. 43 of 4th February [1] on subject of world food supplies with particular reference to wheat and flour. My Government is very much impressed with the gravity of the food situation as described in your message and is most anxious to do what it can to assist. I note that it is particularly important that the greatest possible quantity of wheat and flour be shipped in the first half of 1946 and attention has been given to this aspect. It has been decided to at once divert five million bushels of wheat to export from the quantity set aside for feed for stock.

There is doubt whether it will be possible to transport any further quantity to the ports. Instructions have been given however that any additional quantities that can be handled by our inland transport systems shall be made available either by further transfers from stock feed reserves or by a reduction in the quantity held for carryover. Our advisers are of the view that the quantity provided for carryover is already much below normal and that until next season's prospects are clearer it can only be reduced at a risk. We have decided however that if the railways can move the extra quantity the risk should be taken.

It will be recognised therefore that in the light of these arrangements the quantity we can supply over the next six months is governed by the capacity of our railways systems to move maximum quantities to the ports and I have communicated with the Premiers of the Wheat Exporting States giving them the information contained in your cables and asking them to do all they can to have maximum quantities of wheat transported over their railways.

I am quite sure they will do their utmost to assist in this direction.

It will be recognised that it is necessary that overseas shipping be kept well up to requirements. If because of congestion at ports due to delays in the presentation of ships inland transport is slowed down, it cannot be picked up when such transport is working to full capacity. As most of our wheat and flour is being sold F.O.B. to British Countries this is a matter for your Government.

No doubt your appropriate Departments have this fully in mind.

I note your reference to rice. During the war years we have withheld rice from our civilians, our supplies being diverted to the services, and to meet priority demands from indentured labour in Pacific areas. With the reduction in these demands we had contemplated restoring civilian consumption. in the light of your advices however we have decided to continue withholding of rice from our civil population, and after meeting priority claims to export the surplus.

We have stopped further exports of barley both malting and feed grades with a view to their supplementing stock feeds.

I am having the position of these and other grains examined. We might possibly be able to send you some of these coarse grains which could be used by you for stock feed or food.

We have already urged farmers to sow wheat to the maximum for the forthcoming season and will give this question further attention.

You may rest assured that my Government is fully seized with the seriousness of the situation and will keep it under review with the object of doing all that it can to assist.


1 Document 69.

[AA:A3196,1946, 0.2601]