26 MAY 1939, Page 54

IT is fortunate for the prestige of His Majesty's Government

that it so seldom has to cross swords with the Republic of Cuba. The controversy over the stocks and prices of sugar has ended in a compromise by which the British Government got a substantial part of what it asked for, but the world has been left in no doubt that Cuba has not yielded and that the British Lion has its tail between its legs. The trouble has arisen because the British Government is quite naturally in a hurry to build up a defence reserve of sugar, and the Cuban sugar producers who have at last achieved the remunerative prices which the International Sugar agreement promised them, are in no hurry to relinquish that position.

It now transpires that the Executive of the International Sugar Council proposed to cope with the sugar shortage by two expedients : (a) that the British Empire should be allowed to produce in the present quota year the additional 153,265 metric tons to which they are entitled in the next quota year ; and (b) that 239,000 metric tons of quotas taken away in July last should be handed back to the producers. Cuba, although supported for obvious reasons by Germany, failed to secure enough votes to defeat the proposals, and the second recom- mendation has become effective. On the first recommenda- tion, however, the Cubans have won on a technical point. They discovered that the Executive has no power to put it through by a telegraphic vote and have insisted in a full meet- ing of the Council.

The full meeting will be held on June 13th and the necessary votes will doubtless be obtained. But Cuba's sense of frustra- tion will hardly be smoothed over so quickly. Great Britain has an urgent need to build up sugar stocks, but Cuba has an excellent moral case. They were promised a remunerative price if they entered the agreement, and as soon as the remunerative price was obtained the British Government asked the International Sugar Council to release extra sugar. What rankles as much as anything is the knowledge that if extra sugar is to be provided quickly, it will have to come -mainly from Cuba, since not much extra sugar can be expected from the beet-sugar countries, and shipment from Java will take considerably longer than from Cuba.