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War Economy

‘Pre-war action in the United Kingdom

‘Pre-war action in the United Kingdom

‘In the United Kingdom the Food (Defence Plans) Department, then a Department of the Board of Trade (but later on to become the Ministry of Food), was set up in 1936. In June of that year,2 Dominion Ministers then being present in London for the Imperial Conference, the opportunity was taken by the United Kingdom Government to make a first approach to the question of possible war-time purchases of supplies from New Zealand. It was indicated that, in the event of war, the United Kingdom Government might become the sole purchaser of imported foodstuffs, and in this connection meat and dairy produce was specifically mentioned.

‘At this time it was also indicated that fresh fruit would not be especially controlled, and would therefore have to take its chance in the ordinary way.

‘Again, in August of 1938, at which time the crisis over Czechoslovakia was developing, the United Kingdom Government submitted through the New Zealand High Commissioner a more detailed memorandum outlining plans for food control in the event of war—this envisaged the bulk purchase of meat and dairy produce on long term contracts. This memorandum also stated (with special reference to New Zealand) that “since the New Zealand Government now acts as the sole exporter of butter and cheese and the New Zealand Meat Producers' Board regulates the shipments of meat, it would be a simple matter to inaugurate both contracts in the event of war”.

‘Again, as in the case of the preliminary discussions at the time of the Imperial Conference, questions of prices and quantities were left for detailed negotiation should hostilities actually commence.

‘This August 1938 memorandum, having been examined by the New Zealand Government, was accepted in principle by the Prime Minister on the 28th February 1939, and the United Kingdom Government was advised to this effect.

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‘In June 1939, early after the arrival of the Minister of Finance in London and when the European situation was again deteriorating, discussions were resumed at the instance of the Food (Defence Plans) Department in the United Kingdom. On this occasion it was again reiterated that dairy produce and meat must take priority in any direct purchase from New Zealand, whilst fresh fruit could be exported as long as shipping space was available. Tentative discussions were also held between Board of Trade Officials and the Minister concerning the possible purchase of New Zealand's wool clip, although this subject could only be broadly discussed as a possibility at that time.