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War Economy

Rationing of New Zealand-Grown Foods

Rationing of New Zealand-Grown Foods

Ultimately even New Zealand-grown foods were rationed. Increasing pressure to supply maximum quantities of bacon and ham to United States forces in the Pacific led to the first restrictions on purchases of meat by New Zealanders. From May 1943 consumption of fresh pork was prohibited.1 Rationing of dairy products and of other types of meat followed, after repeated representations from the United Kingdom for extra food supplies from New Zealand.

Butter rationing commenced in October 1943 with an allowance of 8 oz per person per week.2 By way of comparison, the ration for consumers in Britain was 8 oz per week of all fats, including butter, margarine, lard and vegetable oils.

Rationing of butter gave rise to requests for special consideration for workers in heavy industries; in fact, in some cases, the requests became vigorous protests, and the Minister of Supply was moved to reply publicly. The Dominion reported:3

‘The threat by the West Coast timber workers to strike unless the butter ration was increased to 1 lb a week for all workers engaged in the timber industry was the subject of a statement last night by the Minister of Supply, Mr Sullivan.

‘Actually, prior to the annual meeting of the Union at Grey-mouth representations in the normal way had been received on behalf of the timber workers from Mr F. Craig, National Secretary of the Timber Workers Union, and along with representations from the Federation of Labour on behalf of other groups of workers in heavy industries, the timber workers' case was being considered by the Government. These investigations are not yet complete, but when they are the Government will make its decision in respect of all representations received, solely on the merit of the respective cases and on no other basis.

‘“I desire to make it perfectly clear that the Government has no intention of allowing its consideration of the matter or its judgment to be diverted in any way by threats or inflammatory language….”

1 Some minor exceptions were made. In the following month bacon and ham curers were placed on a quota of a certain number of pigs per month. The restrictions on pork were lifted on 17 December 1945, although this class of meat remained subject to general meat-rationing.

2 The ration was reduced for most consumers to 6 oz. a week in June 1945 and raised again to 8 oz. in October 1949. Rationing ended in June 1950.

3 13 November 1943.

page 470

‘The Minister paid a tribute to the splendid war effort of the timber workers in both Islands throughout the war, specially the forest companies who went to Britain, where the services they rendered earned the highest praise from the British authorities.’

Discussions then became much less public, but a fortnight later the same paper reported:1

‘It has been decided to grant coal miners an extra ration of four ounces of butter a head a week, according to information received in Christchurch today. Sawmillers and bush workers living in isolated districts will also qualify for this additional ration, especially those in localities where their diet is restricted because of lack of normal shopping and other facilities.’

Thereafter criticism of the Government waxed eloquent.

This extra ration was continued for the duration of butter rationing. Some other groups, such as freezing chamber hands, were also given the extra ration.

It was estimated that restrictions on the use of butter by consumers and by manufacturers reduced per head consumption in New Zealand by a quarter, and made available an extra 8000 tons a year for export or supply to the United States Forces.

Cheese was not officially rationed to consumers, but available supplies were shared out by individual grocers. The amount of cheese released by factories for local consumption was subject to regulation by the Food and Rationing Controller. Cream could not be sold to consumers except to persons suffering from certain ailments.

Meat was rationed from March 1944 on a value basis. The original adult ration was estimated to purchase 2½ pounds of meat a week.2 There was an estimated reduction of roughly 10,000 tons

1 Christchurch message dated 26 November.

2 Rationing applied to practically all fresh carcass meat, an exception being mutton skirts. The value of the original adult weekly ration, estimated to purchase on the average 2½ lb of meat, was fixed at 1s. 9d., increasing to a maximum of 2s. according to seasonal price changes. Children under five years (excluding infants under six months) were allowed half-rations. On 11 June 1945, the ration was reduced to 1s. 6d. – 1s. 9d. (2 1/7; lb) per week. With the removal of the meat subsidy on 29 September 1947, a corresponding increase was made in the value of the ration to bring it up to 1s. 11d. – 2s. 2d. so that it would still yield 2 1/7; lb of meat.

Additional allowances were granted to certain classes of workers because of special working conditions, and to persons suffering from certain ailments. Manufacturers (of pies, etc.) were allowed two-thirds of their pre-rationing usages. Canned corned beef and corned mutton were not available for local consumption except by workers in isolated districts where there was difficulty in obtaining fresh meat. Although there was no restriction on the local sale of canned tongues they were practically unobtainable. There was no restriction on wet packs, that is, mixtures of meat and vegetables. Freezing companies were instructed to limit their deliveries of edible offal to the local market to the pre-rationing level. Poultry and fish were not rationed. Information from New Zealand Official Yearbooks.

page 471 a year in local consumption through rationing. Meat rationing ceased in September 1948.

Arrangements for the less formal sharing of supplies of eggs and other essential food items have been discussed earlier in this chapter. For most of the widely used essential items, the Government introduced some method of equitable distribution, unless, as in the case for example of flour and bread,1 supplies remained adequate for all users.

1 See also p. 143.