Arrangements by the United Kingdom to buy New Zealand farm produce in bulk and wartime plans for more orderly marketing of scarce commodities in New Zealand were facilitated by the existence at the outbreak of war of an experienced Marketing Department.
The introduction of the guaranteed price for dairy products would not have been feasible without controlled marketing arrangements. The Government had decided to achieve this by itself entering into the field of marketing, and accordingly the Primary Products Marketing Act 1936 had made provision for the Government to buy in these products at fixed prices and to control their sale and distribution. The Primary Products Marketing Department was set up for this purpose.
The Act gave power to the Department to market any primary product, but in the early years its function was limited to the control of marketing of dairy produce so that the guaranteed price scheme could be put into effect.
Within a few days of the outbreak of war, agreement was reached on the arrangements, which had already been discussed, for the United Kingdom Government to purchase New Zealand's exportable surplus of meat, wool, butter and cheese. A special New Zealand purchasing agency was needed and the Marketing Amendment Act 19391 provided the necessary machinery for the Department to deal with meat and wool and other products on similar lines to those already in operation for dairy produce. The Act changed the Department's name to the Marketing Department, and its functions were extended so that it could deal with any specified goods instead of with primary products only.
No bulk purchase arrangement was made for fruits. The United Kingdom Government regarded these as comparatively low priority food items, which could be done without when shipping was scarce. It became apparent that war conditions would probably lead to the loss of most of the overseas market for apples and pears. In the circumstances the New Zealand Government undertook to purchase the entire crop of graded fruit for the 1939–40 season at agreed prices. As anticipated, available shipping space had to be conserved for more essential commodities and very little fruit could be sent overseas.
1 Issued 7 October 1939.
There was a short postponement of the full impact of the United Kingdom's decision in the first wartime season and, in 1940, rather more than half the normal quantity of fruit was exported. However, from 1941 to 1945 less than one per cent of normal exports could be sent. The disposal of crops of apples and pears within New Zealand became a major internal marketing undertaking.1
Chart 11 gives an impression of the effect of the United Kingdom Government's decision to treat fruits as a low priority food item.
Just as the bulk purchasing arrangements with the United Kingdom were dealt with by an organisation already experienced in handling dairy produce, so too experience was not lacking in internal marketing.
2 The Primary Products Marketing Amendment Act 1937.