2020s >> 2020 >> no-1389-may-2020

50 Years Ago: Canada to grow no wheat in 1970

Canada to grow no wheat in 1970

Canada is planning to follow America in its notorious policy of paying farmers not to grow wheat.

Last year the world produced more of this essential foodstuff than could be sold profitably. There was what is often misleadingly called a wheat “glut” or “surplus”.

There had been a bumper harvest in 1968 too so that the already huge stocks of wheat were piled up even higher. In Australia there was talk of leaving some of the wheat to rot unharvested on the farms. The International Grains Agreement, under which the five major wheat-exporting countries fix prices and carve up the world market, was threatened as its members tried to sell their wheat below the agreed prices.

Representatives of these five countries — America, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina — met in London last August and agreed that in 1970 there should be a cut-back in world wheat production. The new Canadian policy is part of this bargain, a restrictive practice forced on its government by the economics of production for sale.

The Canadian prairies are particularly suited to growing wheat and in a rationally-organised world (one based on common ownership and production solely for use) could make a major contribution towards abolishing hunger. Even now the 1,300m. bushels of wheat lying unused, some of it going to rot, in warehouses and on farms throughout Canada amounts to nearly three years’ consumption.

Under capitalism such potential abundance presents a problem, since if profits are to be made output must be restricted. The man in charge of Canada’s wheat sales. Minister without Portfolio Otto Lang, has suggested that no wheat should be grown in Canada for at least one year. He told the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa on 27 February how the government planned to tackle this “problem” of potential plenty.

They would spend $100m. on paying farmers to take up to 22m. acres out of wheat production in 1970 (…)

So Canada is to pay its farmers $100m. not to grow 500m. bushels of wheat in 1970. Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you that world poverty is caused by over-population. Tell him it’s caused by the underproduction that goes with capitalism’s profit motive.

(Socialist Standard, May 1970)


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