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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

Pastoral Exports

Pastoral Exports.

Wool.—Timber and the other indigenous exports to which I have referred are not properly speaking the off springs of colonization—they belong to the class of products that nature has provided ready made in every country. The first fruits of settlement in New Zealand are the wool exports. According to information furnished by Mr. Seed, the first direct shipment to England took place in 1846, the port of departure being Wellington. In 1853 the exports had increased to £66,508, and it is curious to observe that of this amount only £300 was credited to Otago and nothing whatever to Canterbury. The northern districts of the Middle Island and the south-eastern districts of the North Island produced the great bulk of the wool in the early days. But the position was soon reversed, for in 1861 the two southern Provinces exported two-thirds of the total for the Colony, and the proportion remains much the same to this day.

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In dealing with the progress of the pastoral industries a correct result is not obtained by taking the values only of the exports, as the price of wool fluctuates so much. For instance: 59,853,454 pounds exported in 1876 were valued at £3,395,816, whereas 66,860,150 pounds in 1880 were only valued at £3,169,300. Although the value is the main point in interchange, as it determines our buying power, it does not shew correctly the progress of pastoral settlement. With the exception of a slight decrease in 1878 and 1879, the export of wool has grown steadily from 1,071,340 pounds in 1853 to 66,860,150 in 1880. The figures for 1881 and 1882 are 59,415,940 and 65,322,707 respectively; but it is estimated that the cloth factories work up 2,150,000 pounds annually, consequently the maximum production was reached in 1882. We now grow 130 pounds of wool for every man, woman, and child in the Colony, as against 154 pounds in 1877, 150 in 1872, and 124 in 1867. When we consider the rapid spread of agricultural settlement and the destruction of the natural pastures by rabbits, the figures I have given shew that the colonists of New Zealand are zealously carrying out the laudable policy of "making two blades of grass grow where one only had grown before."

Tallow, Hides, and Sheepskins.—Although the principal one, wool is by no means the only product of our flocks and herds, tallow, hides, and sheepskins have long figured largely in our exports, and meat of all kinds, together with dairy produce, are of considerable proportions. With some slight fluctuations the exports of tallow have risen from £1,865 in 1864 to £178,502 in 1878. Since then they have ranged from £120,611 to £165,938; the decrease during the last four years is probably due to the large quantities used in the manufacture of soap and candles.

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The trade in hides and sheepskins is more irregular; it has within the last ten years varied from £25,810 to £77,105, the amount at which it stood in 1882. The export of these articles is, of course, greatly influenced by the manufacture of leather, but it is satisfactory to find that both industries are steadily progressing.

Meats and Dairy Produce.—The low price of beef and mutton in 1870 and 1871 caused the establishment of six meat-preserving works in Canterbury and Otago, and in the three following years the value of their manufactures ranged from £161,840 to £100,245. The great tide of immigration brought consumers for the meat in its natural state, so in 1875 the exports fell suddenly to £7,180. Since then they have ranged from £21,953 to £74,225.

Frozen meat, on which at present hangs the hopes of pastoral New Zealand, appears in the 1882 returns for the first time, the amount of the exports being £15,244. It is estimated that they will total up to £150,000 for 1883, and the shipping arrangements for 1884 are made on the assumption that the exports will be £350,000.

There is no more fluctuating trade in the Colony than the export of ordinary cured meats and dairy produce. It goes up and down in fits and starts without apparent cause. Although it has been in existence for upwards of twenty years it is not yet upon a permanent basis. The exports in 1879 were only £8,113, as against £7,542 in 1871. The highest year of all was 1882, with £76,494; the next being 1877, with £55,809. The establishment of the butter and cheese factories now commencing in various parts of the Colony will undoubtedly put this industry on a more satisfactory footing.

Rabbitskins.—Under the pastoral exports there has of late years appeared an item which might, with advantage to the Colony, be absent, viz., rabbitskins. page 12 It has increased, without a single intermission, from £1,263 in 1873 to £88,725 in 1882. The returns from this export is the only entry on the credit side in the doleful records of the rabbit plague.