Five years after the end of WWII, food rationing finally ended. While sugar and meat had been freely available for some years, butter was rationed until June 1950. The last restrictions on the sale of tea were removed in July 1950 – the end of wartime rationing.
Under the wartime rationing regulations, Australians had to exchange coupons for tea, sugar, butter and meat and other commodities like eggs and milk were restricted from time to time. Many popular foods, including chocolate and Vegemite, were in short supply as stocks went to feed the military. Petrol and clothing were also rationed.
When the war ended in 1945, it took some time for food supplies to return to normal. Sugar was the first commodity to have restrictions lifted, in July 1947. In June the following year, wartime rationing of meat ended. It was another year before butter, which had been restricted to 1lb (453g) per week per adult, was removed from the list of rationed commodities. Tea followed soon after.
Between 1939 and 1948 price control had been introduced by the Commonwealth as part of its defence responsibilities, to help prevent inflation created through wartime profiteering. Positions of Deputy Price Commissioner were created in each state to report to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner.
One of the Australian Government’s fears was that the return of peace would be accompanied by soaring inflation, as demand outstripped supply. Although wartime rationing ended, price controls continued for many years. In 1948 legislation transferred responsibility for controlling prices to the States.
While consumers were happy, farmers protested that the political imperative to guarantee cheap food, as well as low contracted prices for exports to Britain, meant they were producing at a loss.