General Alexander Wilson has signalled his intent to control farmers’ prices this year. It follows concerns over profiteering, with growers taking advantage of lucrative fixed rates paid by the British Army for Jersey Royals.
His target is the island’s famously early potato crop, which commands high prices on the UK market. In General Wilson’s view, such ‘fancy’ prices are unwarranted in wartime. Leaving the crop in the ground for longer, he argues, will mean larger potatoes, a heavier yield, and correspondingly more food to help feed Britain and its army. Of course, this will mean farmers missing out on the high value ‘earlies’, but so be it.
Having considered the general’s plans, the States’ Agricultural Committee is fighting back. They point out that potato size and the time to harvest is dictated by prevailing climate and weather conditions, not the decisions of farmers. If the crop is left in the ground too long it will simply rot, rather than keep on growing. While fully supporting the general’s sentiments, the committee asserts his plan will simply not work.
The scene is set for a potentially rancorous argument between military and civilian authorities.
A/E/10/7 contains extensive correspondence between the Lt Governor, British Government and Jersey States on the subject of potato prices in 1918.