• U.S.

COMMODITIES: Fats, Oils & Franco

3 minute read

The State Department last week wastrying desperately to mix fats & oils with high politics, and having a greasy time of it.

U.S. exporters launched a gusty blast at Government controls which banned the shipment of U.S. fats & oils to Mediterranean importers. They were angry because fats & oil needs in the Middle East are being supplied by British exporters exclusively. Joint Anglo-American economic strategy and shipping shortages dictated this allocation, but the exporters still feared a sellout to shrewd British traders.

Then the State Department caught a hook to the head from U.S. importers, notably the Olive Oil Association of America, Inc. From their agents, olive oil importers learned that the entire Mediterranean area—Spain, Portugal, Tunisia—has a record olive oil crop this year. Spain alone could ship to the U.S. three million gallons of olive oil. (Total “normal” U.S. yearly imports: 9,000,000 gal.) To olive oil importers this Spanish offer looked like good business. And since three Spanish merchant ships a month are making scheduled sailings to U.S. ports, and Allied Nations ships returning from the Mediterranean recently have been allowed to bring back such nonessentials as a thousand bags of briarwood for pipe makers, the problem of westbound shipping space seemed no obstacle. But the State Department said No to imports of Spanish olive oil.

The Department could not see its way to give clear and specific reasons for its act. The foreign traders got only mumbled explanations of shipping arrangements between the U.S. and Britain, and generalities about the more sophisticated implications of all-out economic warfare.

But what the foreign traders do not know, and what only the State Department does know, are the answers to three questions:

>What kind of imports does Fascist Franco want for Spain in exchange for his olive oil?

>How much of the 123-million-gallon Spanish olive oil crop not exported to the U.S. will go to Hitler’s Germany unless the United Nations, through preclusive buying, obtain the entire supply over & above Spain’s domestic needs?

>Cannot the olive oil be held and later shipped to liberated European countries(whose needs have been reported to UNRRA as one million metric tons of fats & oils for the first six months after war’s end)?

The foreign traders’ fears of permanently losing their market to the British for certain types of goods, and the importers’ desire to re-establish trade are understandable. In the meantime, they can only hope that cagey Cordell Hull knows what he’s doing.

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