Volume 426: debated on Monday 29 July 1946
India (Food Situation)
asked the Undersecretary of State for India if he is in a position to make a general statement on the food situation in India.
The Under-Secrctary of State for India (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
As the reply is somewhat long, I will, with the hon. Member’s permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the general position regarding food is as serious as it was a few months ago, and whether he anticipates that there will be widespread famine during the coming months?
I said on 24th June that the food position continued to be precarious, and that remains the position today.
Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
As the hon. and learned Gentleman is no doubt aware, there is wide interest in this subject in all parts of the House, and would he consider the advisability of keeping the country informed every few weeks of the situation during the Recess? It is a most vital question.
I will look into that suggestion.
Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether the circulated answer will contain anything about rice from Siamâ€”how much was got out, and how much was got for India, and whether he alludes in it to the fact that people in South India are now beginning to die from starvation?
No, Sir, there is no reference in the reply to the importation of rice from Siam, but if the hon. Member puts down a Question I will give him the information.
Following is the statement:
Food distribution in India is still being maintained. In recent months there has been some improvement in procurement particularly in United Provinces. But stocks held by Provincial and State Governments in Southern India are low. The Government of India report that their ability to hold the situation depends on avoidance of large scale strikes or civil disorder, the continuance of internal procurement on anticipated scale with no serious additional demand on Government controlled stocks and in addition upon an increased flow of imports during the period August to October. In some deficit districts in Bengal there was a sharp rise in the price of rice. This has been due to local apprehension based on knowledge of the seriousness of the food situation in India and the world generally and to reports that the aus rice crop in Bengal will be below normal. This crop is harvested in September and represents about one-fifth of Bengal’s annual rice production. The latest information is that taken as a whole the crop should be about normal. The situation is being closely watched by the Governments of India and Bengal and in some affected areas a fall in prices has already been reported. It is too early yet to assess the effect of the current monsoon. There have been floods this month in Assam and East Bengal and some damage to crops there. But the all-India food position should not be materially affected by these local disasters. Energetic relief measures have been taken by the Government of Bengal. Inadequacy of rains in July in the Deccan areas of Bombay and Madras is causing some anxiety, but there have been some showers during the week ending 24th July. A statement of shipments of food-grains to India has been placed in the library of the House and it is proposed to bring this statement up-to-date at the beginning of each month. Shipments have been running at a higher level since April but are less than the Government of India’s estimate of their requirements.