Hamburg, 14th Jan. 1920.
The food situation in Hamburg has become very bad and it is expected that it will become much worse in the near future.
As you know, potatoes and bread are our principal means of subsistence. Only three pounds of potatoes a head each week can be distributed in Hamburg. The stock has become so low that in all probability the week after next this nation can no longer be maintained. A considerable quantity of Danish potatoes were allotted to Hamburg, but they have all been distributed already. With the help of these it was possible for a long time to give five pounds a week and then three pounds. Only small quantities of potatoes have reached Hamburg from the interior of the country. According to all information which has reached the office, it is to be feared that even if the warm weather lasts for a considerable time, not enough potatoes will reach Hamburg. The reason for this state of affairs is the great shortage in all towns, the lack of transport facilities, and because, apparently, in those districts which have been left to Germany, the potato crop was not a good one.
No one knows what the people are to live on if large quantities of potatoes cannot be placed at their disposal very soon. Special account must be taken of the fact that fresh vegetables are to be had at present, but it cannot be supposed that this will be the case in February and March. The early frost destroyed too many vegetables and made others easily perishable.
The bread situation in Hamburg is not a good one either. While [page 2] in earlier years Hamburg had large quantities of flour stored in the town in reserve, we are living this year, as far as flour is concerned, from hand to mouth. A short time ago the situation in Hamburg had become so critical that -- apart from the bakers' stores -- there was flour for only three days. Apparently the mills do not receive enough corn. But in part, owing to the shortage of coal, the mills are not able to grind the corn quickly enough. As far as the undersigned can judge of the situation in the Reich, it is scarcely any better in the other parts of the country. It is to be feared that there is far less corn in Germany than the optimistic Government in Berlin has hitherto supposed. As far as is known to the undersigned, the Authorities in Berlin are again considering the expediency of obtaining a higher percentage of flour from the corn.
Very bad is the meat situation. In earlier years Hamburg, which lies in the [neighborhood] of the province of Schleswig-Holstein -- where there was a surplus of food -- could procure in Autumn, when the cattle came from the meadows, large quantities of meat, which was preserved for the Winter in cold-storage. This year that was not possible. Hamburg possesses no stores of meat of any kind. At the end of a week is not to be known what can be distributed in the next week. It is true that the meat ration in Hamburg amounts to 200 grs. a week of which 40 grs. have to be of inferior fresh sausage. But it has repeatedly happened that not even this week's ration could be distributed. The special distribution of American cured bacon, promised earlier by the Government, has long been discontinued. [page 3] Should Hamburg receive American meat, it would have to be used to keep up the regular meat ration. The reason for the bad meat situation is that the number of beef-cattle in Germany has greatly [decreased], and above all because young animals have frequently had to be slaughtered so that any meat at all could be distributed. How the number of German cattle has shrunk may be realized from the fact that the cattle collected in three weeks by the Hamburg Association of Cattle Dealers does not even suffice to meet the regular requirements for a week.
As for fat, the regular ration in Hamburg is 100 gr., but only 20 gr. of this ration can be given in butter. The rest till a short time ago, was always inferior home produced margarine. After prolonged negotiations with the Berlin Central Authorities, Hamburg succeeded in procuring for a certain length of time 30 grs. of dripping and only 50 grs. of margarine in addition to the 20 grs. of butter. The margarine offered for distribution is quite unsuitable for eating with bread. Consequently the inhabitants have repeatedly asked for something else in place of this margarine. But Hamburg is not able to comply with their wishes, as, owing to the scarcity of sugar, hardly anything containing sugar can be manufactured to spread on their bread.
As you will probably know, the cultivation of the sugar beet in Germany has greatly decreased. Through the Peace Treaty, Germany has lost its most important sugar producing district, just as it has lost its important corn and potato growing areas.
Hamburg War Food Office.