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From 1917 onwards, enemy blockades and attacks on merchant ships threatened the regular supply of food for everyone in the country. The government introduced voluntary restrictions but this measure failed. In January 1918, the Ministry of Food introduced rationing to try and make sure that existing stocks and new harvests were distributed fairly.
Price increases in food
In March 1917, the Board of Trade Labour Gazette published an article on the steady rise of the retail price of food across Britain. In comparing the price of food from March 1916 to March 1917, the journal reported that there was an average increase of 32%. Potatoes had more than doubled in price; cheese and eggs were 45% dearer; meat, bacon and butter rose by 30%-35%, flour, milk and sugar by 20%-25%; bread, margarine and fish by 13%-18% and tea by 7%. Those with money could afford the higher prices but ordinary working people suffered the most.
Comparison with July, 1914.
In the following Table is given a percentage comparison of the level of prices at 1st March, 1917, in relation to the normal prices of July, 1914:
Producing more food in Scotland
The Government set up local agricultural committees in every county in mainland Scotland to monitor crop production and to advise on how to increase each year's harvest. In April 1917, the Scottish Departmental Committee on Food Production published its third report on progress in maintaining and if possible, in increasing food production in Scotland.
The committee reported that most farmers were doing their best and 49,116 additional acres had been brought under the plough. The army released 1500 experienced ploughmen for a period of work in spring 1917 to cultivate as much land as possible. Money was set aside to provide some training for women volunteers to work on the land. Many School Boards arranged Easter holidays to coincide with the needs of local farmers and about 340 boys from Edinburgh and Glasgow secondary schools volunteered to help out but few farmers actually took up the offer. Local people were encouraged to set up allotments and grow their own food.
(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/24/12 p7-8)
1. That district executive committees should at an early date reconsider the available areas of grass lands in their districts so that a much larger area may be ploughed in the ensuing season than in the present year, and that where it is thought desirable timeous notice may be given to the occupiers that the ploughing up of such lands will be required in the national interests. District agricultural committees should be asked to report on this subject to the Board not later than November 1, 1917.
2. That the right to enter woodlands between July 1 and April 30 for the purpose of killing rabbits should be given to all tenants of agricultural and pastoral holdings contiguous to such woodlands.
3. That the right of agricultural tenants to kill pheasants found destroying crops should be extended to Scotland, and should be made to include grouse and blackgame.
4. That the Board of Agriculture should continue to encourage schemes for the destruction of rats by paying a proportion of the cost, and that they should provide the necessary funds to enable district agricultural committees to support schemes for the destruction of sparrows and sparrows' eggs.
5. That a representation be made to the Food Controller that much fruit grown or picked for home consumption will be wasted unless some provision of a supply of sugar for jam-preserving be made, and that such supplies should be granted on the recommendation or licence of the district agricultural committees.
6. That the Army Council be requested to continue to release from time to time the skilled farm hands who are serving in the Home Forces and, so far as consistent with military necessities, leave on the land the men who have had training and experience in agricultural work.
7. That the steam-threshing plants should be kept fully staffed, and, where possible, to economise farm labour, a team of five men should be available for and accompany each mill.
8. That the Board of Agriculture should endeavour to extend the use of labour-saving implements, and where necessary should supply grubbers, cultivators and binders, which would be operated by the tractors now in committees' hands.
9. That steps be taken to give effect to the Committee's previous recommendations that restriction of the price of milk should from time to time be kept in relation to the cost of feeding stuffs and labour.
10. That the survey of deer forests be completed by the Board of Agriculture without delay, and that the Board at once arrange with the owners of forests in respect of stock-grazing.
11. That steps should be taken to secure an adequate supply of superphosphates for next season.
12. That the attention of district agricultural committees be again called to the 5th recommendation of our second report:-
13. That the use of wheat, barley, oats and maize, except small and damaged grain, as food for live stock other than draught horses, be prohibited unless under special licence until the forthcoming harvest.
Rationing Order, 1918
As the war continued, trade and the transport of goods with overseas countries were affected. Certain foodstuffs were in short supply. Sugar supplies were affected and in February 1918, the Ministry of Food approved a scheme for rationing butter, margarine and tea to maintain levels of distribution throughout the country.
Until the Food Controller otherwise prescribes the Rationed Foods shall be:
Print the image and transcript for the National Ration Book (Rich Text Format, 1.22MB, new window)
The image shows the instructions and retailers' stamps in a National Ration Book (Serial No. Ab2 No. 044279) issued to Harriet CJ Mackay on 14 July 1918.
Print the image and transcript for the Leave or Duty Ration Book (Rich Text Format, 1.32MB, new window)
The image shows the holders name and the instructions from a Leave or Duty Ration Book for a Soldier or Sailor (Serial No.L17 No.112163) issued to R Boyce, Private No.32938.
INSTRUCTIONS TO HOLDER
(National Records of Scotland reference: GD1/1265/3/1)