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250 Minute from Casey to Plimsoll

Canberra, 8 April 1953

I took the opportunity in Sydney this morning of going to see the Food Technology Section of the New South Wales University of Technology, at Kensington. A Mr. Ayscough is in charge of it—a sensible youngish man. The Colombo Plan students were not there at the time, as they were attending lectures at some other University of Technology establishment. I went over several of their laboratories and had a talk to Ayscough. He tells me that the thirteen Colombo Plan students who are here to attend this course are a very mixed bag, with a wide range of knowledge and of age—ranging from two beard-less boys from Indonesia to an Indian who claims to be already a Professor of Food Technology. He tells me that a number of them (mostly he thinks from India) say that they want to specialise on various defined aspects of food technology, of which they already have an appreciable general knowledge. Ayscough thinks that particularly the Indians have been badly selected—or, he suspiciously remarks, very cunningly chosen so that they could get entry into some of our meat or vegetable or fruit canning plants and become possessed of trade secrets. However, I expect our food canning companies will be able to look after themselves in this regard. The main thing that I got from the conversation was that there will probably have to be a considerable amount of flexibility in the running of this first course, arising out of he wide range of knowledge or lack of it that these thirteen men possess. It would seem to be a waste of time to seek to teach the elementary side of food technology to men who at least claim to have done it all before.

Mr. Ayscough spent some little time telling me of the various processes of fruit and vegetable canning and of the methods of dehydration of milk and eggs etc. I asked him if they proposed to give attention to the conservation of stored grains, which, under the conditions obtaining in India, are very subject to deterioration through infestation by weevils, mice, etc. He said that they had not given much attention to this sort of thing. I told him that in my mind this was most important in India, where the conditions of heat and humidity for about half the year create ideal conditions for insect and other infestation, with consequent rapid and considerable deterioration of rice in particular. I asked him if they could simulate on a laboratory or pilot plant scale the conditions of heat and temperature that existed, say, in North East India. He said that this could very readily be done and weevils and the like introduced into the rice stored under these conditions. This small rice storage plant could then be subjected to a variety of insect-eliminating chemicals and the results demonstrated.

I expect we will learn a good deal about this subject generally as the next six or twelve months go by. However, I believe that it would probably be valuable for us to send one of the University of Technology people up to India etc. some time in the next six months or so, in order that he may see for himself the conditions obtaining, so that this Food Technology course for Colombo Plan students may be adjusted to meet the needs of the Colombo Plan countries.

As I have reflected to you before, I am afflicted with a certain amount of doubt as to whether we and the Colombo Plan countries are getting the best value for our money and efforts by the expensive process of conducting these seminars on various subjects in Australia. I am tending very much towards the view that we would be better advised to send some of our experts up to these countries to teach their particular subjects on the spot—even if this meant our having to establish (say) food technology laboratories as annexes to existing teaching institutions in Colombo Plan countries. After all, this Food Technology course in Sydney is going to be a pretty costly business—and it may well be that the handful of individuals that we train will just go into the service of private enterprise companies in Colombo Plan countries on their return and will have only limited opportunity to pass on their knowledge more generally to others.

1 sometimes wish that someone like yourself could visit some of the principal Colombo Plan countries and discuss this sort of subject with some high-level individuals in India etc.

[NAA: A 10299, Cl3]

1 James Plimsoll, Assistant Secretary, UN Division, Department of External Affairs.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History