20 SEPTEMBER 1940, Page 8



THE facts about French food resources are important. Quite 1 apart from political considerations they might—and indeed do—prove that the French people are in no danger from famine through our refusal to relax our blockade of the Hitler-dominated continent.

An examination of all known factors which will shape the food supply for France this winter and information gathered shortly before the war, in the armistice period, and since—all indicates that Frenchmen need not suffer provided the Nazis cannot plunder the country to the full extent they would wish to do it and provided the transport system is restored to work- ing order. It seems unlikely that the Germans will succeed in carrying off all they desire ; the ca-canny methods of peasants and workers will prevent that ; and transport conditions will improve, albeit slowly. In theory France should even be in a posi- tion to export at least two commodities, wheat and sugar-beet, that is to say supply Germany or other neighbouring countries in a normal way. In practice, the Nazis will plunder to a certain extent. France will require more sugar and bread than would normally be the case in order to make up for such plunder, and she will thus need all of her wheat and all of her beetroots.

In the spring of 1939, M. Benaerts, managing director of the French Federation of Food Industries and Trades, assisted by an army of experts, was charged with examining the con- sumption, stocks and supply figures in the principal commodi- ties. The resulting survey formed the basis of Government measures taken to adjust stocks and to distribute them all over the country. In the first place the figures proved at the time, if proof were needed, that no other country in Europe can as easily be self-sufficient as can France. Normally French people consumed about 19.1 million tons of foodstuffs in a year. Well over 18 million of this total were grown, or made, in the country. The position may not have been as simple in all food sections as it was in milk for instance—r,o13 million gallons consumed in each year and every drop of it produced in the country, the position in cream, cheese, and butter being analogous—but there was no doubt that even the absence of North African supplies would leave the mother-country well supplied in cereals, fruit, meat, eggs, poultry, vegetables and wine. Imports of chilled and frozen meat, tea, spices, coffee and tinned fruit seemed necessary, and the Government pro- ceeded to secure large stocks in these lines. It was also dear that the reduction in cattle herds and in all cereal acreages caused by mobilisation and war, made it desirable to hold stocks in the other food groups as well. Aided by the record crops of 1938, the Government bought and stored enormous quantities of food. Allowing for (a) the destruction of stocks in the regions which were theatres of war—and the losses in this respect must not be overrated and were in no way compar- able to the corresponding devastations in 1914-1918---and for (b) the considerable excess of consumption over production in the 1939-40 season, there is still enough essential food in France to prevent any approach to famine conditions.

Bread is the staple food of the Frenchman. Of flour and other farinaceous materials, biscuits, bread, cake and similar products, France consumed in a year an average of 4.75 million tons. The stocks, both in wheat and rye, had reached such proportions before the outbreak of the war that new silos had to be built and filled continuously whilst the new process of storing wheat with the aid of chloropicrine made it possible for the Wheat Office to establish stocks even in sheds, hangars and similar provisional buildings. Making the allowances required for the present state of France, we may estimate that there are at least ten million quintals of wheat still available from the total stocks accumulated before the German invasion. Stocks of barley may be unsatisfactory, but in rye, maize and oats (taking stocks as at September 1st, consumption since then, drastic reduction of this year's crops caused by war), there must still be ample quantities for France's own needs. In potatoes, France consumes normally 4.8 million tons per annum, of whiCh total only 153,500 tons were imported from her colonies and from abroad. The damage caused to potato fields in the war areas is even less than the average 4o per cent. assumed for destruction in the present war. Applying to the crop that remains in these areas and in the rest of the country a further reduction quotient caused by lack of harvesting hands and similar factors, the country may be short of two million tons if the most pessimistic view is taken. Such a shortage can be made up by the large cereal supplies.

Cereals then are the crux of the matter, and there is twofold evidence that our view of their sufficiency is correct. The man who demanded early in 1939 that exceptional efforts should be made to obtain wheat security stocks of 25 million quintals was Pierre Caziot. His authority was supreme ; he was con- troller of the Cereals Office at the end of the last war ; and we know that the Government strained every nerve to comply with his requirements. They had more than a year to do it in, and a Wheat Office embarrassed by its tremendous stocks to help them. It is this same M. Pierre Caziot who is today Minister of Agriculture at Vichy, and who has somewhat spoiled the tirades of the German Government, and of his Cabinet col- league M. Baudouin, by stating that France was fully supplied with essential foodstuffs and that it was merely a problem of distribution to ensure that these foodstuffs reach the population in time.

France's peace-time consumption of butcher's meat was 1,100,000 tons and that of meat of the pork-bacon group 610,000 tons a year. In both groups together only 58,000 tons were imported. It must be remembered that meat-consumption has fallen as a result of falling or disappearing private incomes, apart from rationing, and that war developments have caused the slaughter of an exceptionally large number of cattle, with resulting abnormal meat-supplies. Add to that vast stocks of frozen and chilled which had been built up by the Government and renewed systematically since 1935—and by the Military Intendance since 1938—and' of which only one-fifth appears to have been destroyed, and it becomes evident that the country ought to have more than enough for its present meat con- sumption.

Of sugar, nearly half a million tons were stored in France at all times. By a special import rebate, made available from May to October, 1939 (and maintained throughout the war by sul?sequent decrees), merchants were encouraged to bring further large stocks into the country. They did so independsmtly of official buying. There was in fact no need to ration sugar, and the measure was never contemplated, not even at Tours or Bordeaux. If large sugar-beet stocks are rotting in certain areas, this is caused by the closing of sugar refineries, but I here will still be encugh sugar and to spare for the population's needs this winter. The country will be short of barley, of seed- cakes and other imported feedstuffs, of chemical fertilisers, particularly in the phosphate group, and of spices, tea and coffee. And that is about alL