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Canada and the War
Food we Must Have But Farmers Need Help! - AN19920196-160 [PCDN=3309-2011-0592-064]
Food we Must Have But Farmers Need Help!

The War Economy and Controls: Agriculture

By 1939 Canadian agriculture was recovering from the worst of the Great Depression. There was some additional production on hand, particularly wheat, to meet the requirements of war. The federal government in Ottawa immediately set up an Agricultural Supplies Board to meet the food needs of Canada as well as overseas orders. In March 1943, the government created the more powerful Agricultural Food Board to bring together all production in a single programme. Canada received a seat on the Allied Combined Food Board in 1943, in recognition of its gigantic contribution to this vital part of the war.

As the Germans overran continental Europe, Britain looked across the Atlantic for food. Despite heavy losses inflicted among food-carrying ships by German U-boats, nearly 1.5 billion kilograms of bacon, more than 325 million kilograms of cheddar cheese and similarly large quantities of other meats and butter were sent to Britain during the war. Whole eggs were converted to egg powder and milk was condensed, making it easier to ship. Processing plants in Canada dehydrated cabbages, carrots, onions and potatoes. It was hardly gourmet food, but it helped Britons to keep going in a hard war in which they were on the front line.

Canadian farmers made these prodigious wartime efforts in spite of a steady shortage of labour. Young people left farms for the armed forces or better-paying jobs in industry. However, temporary help from students, home defence soldiers and prisoners of war, along with a group of harvesters who moved from one region to another, eased the shortages. So too did the putting off of compulsory military service for farmers' sons and farm labourers ( see Conscription ).

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