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War Economy

Shortages of Vegetables

Shortages of Vegetables

Prior to the war, the Internal Marketing Division had been concerned with alleviating shortages of potatoes and onions, or disposing of surpluses. This continued to be an important function in wartime. Whether in peace or in war, potatoes and onions have always been difficult crops for New Zealand, with variable seasonal conditions producing surpluses or shortages which are largely unpredictable. To a limited extent shortages can be filled from Australia, or surpluses exported there.

In 1942, because of an increasing demand for food for the armed forces, including American forces stationed in New Zealand, there was a period of short supply of most household vegetables. It was possibly aggravated by the fact that a large proportion of home gardeners were occupied with Home Guard duties at the weekends.3 To meet these shortages, the Department of Agriculture page 463 started a Services Vegetable Production Scheme in July 1942 and entered the vegetable growing business on a large scale.1 The Internal Marketing Division was called upon to dispose of surpluses left over from the scheme after the armed forces' requirements had been met. On occasions, when civilian supplies were short, surpluses were placed on the market in New Zealand.

In August 1942, following a potato shortage, and with the Services Vegetable Production Scheme not yet effective, ceiling prices were put on kumeras, pumpkins, parsnips, swedes and white turnips, which were regarded as possible potato substitutes. These ceiling prices, while helping the consumer to cope with the potato shortage, created marketing difficulties in the commodities concerned.

Early in 1943 still greater increases in vegetable production became necessary. The demands from allied troops in New Zealand and in the Pacific could not be met fully from the Department of Agriculture's Services Vegetable Production Scheme, even though the acreage used had been increased nearly threefold. To meet the position the Internal Marketing Division arranged for vegetables to be grown on contract, and then packed them for distribution. After using temporary premises for a while, the trimming and packing of vegetables was concentrated at Pukekohe and Hastings.

From late 1943, plants were set up at Riccarton, Pukekohe, and Hastings, to provide dehydrated vegetables for the United States forces in the Pacific and, in November 1944, a plant was opened at Pukekohe to supply canned vegetables. In the same month, units to provide quick-frozen vegetables were installed at Pukekohe. Many of these wartime developments were to lead to commercial undertakings which, after the war, would provide food for the domestic market or in some cases for export.

3 103,000 were in the Home Guard by July 1942.

1 See also p. 218.