66. Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS
asked the Minister for Agriculture whether he is aware that the price bid on Bury St. Edmund's market for British wheat of sound milling quality has for several weeks past been less than 90s., owing to the reluctance of millers to buy; whether the sales of British wheat at 173 markets from 1st September, 1920, to 21st March, 1921, were 1,839,000 quarters, as against 2,104,000 quarters the previous year; and whether, in view of this evidence that farmers have not been selling more heavily than usual, he will take steps to enable millers to pay the guaranteed price, and to reimburse them the difference between that and the average price payable for foreign wheat of the same quality?
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)
The particulars given in the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question are substantially correct, but with regard to the total sales of British wheat at the scheduled markets, I may point out that although the total quantity sold this season is less than that sold in the corresponding period last year, it represents 29.0 per cent, of the total crop of 1920, whereas the quantity sold last year amounted to only 27.8 per cent, of the crop of 1919. Steps have already been taken by the Wheat Commission to induce millers to pay 90s. 6d. per statutory quarter of 480 lbs., or 95s. per customary quarter of 504 lbs., for wheat of sound milling quality, but it is not possible to guarantee that millers will be able to purchase all the wheat that may be offered to them at any given time.
Is not the difficulty really caused by the unwillingness of the millers to buy on a falling market and to fill up their stocks in advance, in view of the possibility of foreign wheat falling; and cannot this be met by making up the difference between the market price of foreign wheat and the 95s., not at the price of the month of purchase, but the difference between the prices in the month in which the milling takes place, so as to remove the deterrent from the miller to take up normal supplies of wheat?