The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50
Wheat—Next to the pastoral industry, and following close in its wake in every respect, comes the various branches of agriculture. Although the trade did not continue long, the Australian gold rush is to be credited with giving this industry a considerable impetus. This is specially pointed out in the first report by the Registrar-General for the four years ending 1856. In 1853 the export of wheat and flour was £6,163; it went up next year to £22,240, and in 1855 to £67,765. Then on to 1861, the New Zealand Gold-fields year, it fluctuated from £25,101 in 1856 to £4,531 in 1860. Up to this time the great proportion of the grain exports of every kind was from Auckland, the produce of that Province. From 1861 to 1865 the wheat and flour exports were practically nil, and in one of those years, 1863, the only grain export of any kind was 3,238 bushels of barley. The imports of wheat and flour in the non-exporting years reached a minimum in 1865, when they amounted to £512,732. The export trade resumed in 1867 with £31,367; went up to £75,966 in 1871, and £263,684 in 1874. Next year there was a fall to £112,793; but since then it has advanced uniformly to its present high figure, £856,029.
There is no more striking circumstance in the industrial history of New Zealand than the rapidity with which its bread producing resources were developed. In 1867 we imported £145,959 worth of wheat and flour more than we exported, and in 1882, fifteen years afterwards, the exports exceeded the imports by £839,297. The first direct exportation of wheat to page 13 England was only made in 1868, and in 1882 we dispatched to various parts of the world an amount equal to the full cargoes of eighty ships. One of the strongest arguments brought by Mr. A. T. Wilson, the author of "Resources of Modern Countries," and one of the city editors of the Times, against the Public Works Scheme of Sir Julius Vogel, was that New Zealand could not grow its own wheat. How quickly and effectually has this reproach been removed. After amply providing for our own wants we had in 1882 £856,029 worth of wheat and flour to send abroad—a contribution of 33 shillings worth from every inhabitant of New Zealand to the hungry of other lands. Curiously enough the point at which we became able to grow our own wheat was reached simultaneously with the opening of the first section of railway under the Public Works Scheme, when the exports became equal to the imports. In 1871 the imports of wheat and flour exceeded the exports by £56,794. The following year there was a balance of £39,397 on the other side; consequently the tide had turned late in 1872, and the first section of Sir Julius Vogel's railways was opened in April of that year. As showing the rapidity of agricultural settlement in Canterbury, I may state that the only "topographical features" on some of the railway plans across the plains were the dogs that kept the boundaries—the only landmarks in a wilderness of tussock. Compare this with the continuous panorama of well cultivated farms and thriving villages seen to-day from the railway trains. I came overland from Christchurch in July, 1872, and none of the rivers between the Selwyn and the Waikouaiti were bridged. In 1882 every river between the Northern Waiau in Nelson and the Southern Waiau in Southland, a distance of 500 miles, was bridged both for road and railway.
Oats.—After wheat the most important agricultural page 14 product in the Colony is oats, and the history of the industry is somewhat similar, only that the increase has been far less and that there is practically no trade with the Old Country. Within the last ten years the highest exports of oats and oatmeal were in 1880, when they reached £183,117. The highest imports at any time were in 1863, the goldfields year, when they amounted to £181,815.
Potatoes.—Like cured meats and dairy produce the export trade in potatoes is exceedingly fluctuating and uncertain. In 1855 it was £91,509; in 1872, £827; and in 1882, £62,806. Considerable capital has been made of the lapsus linguœ, of a well-known public man who suggested the export of frozen potatoes. While admitting that the popular vegetable would not be palatable as an ice, I have no doubt the exportation of potatoes in a fresh state would be greatly facilitated by sending a current of cold air among them in the ship's hold.