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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 60

Imports and Exports

Imports and Exports.

Notwithstanding that for a portion of the time under review, commerce throughout the world was paralysed by the prospect of impending war with Russia, and active preparations for defence were of necessity commenced by our own Government at this port, in common with similar preparations at every important strategic or naval centre in the Empire, an examination of these page 18 statistics cannot but afford subject for congratulation, for they indicate substantial progress in the total volume of our trade, in the amount of tonnage visiting our ports, in the traffic on our railways, in the extent of land under crop or grass, in the export of wool and some other staple products. Had we closed our statistical observations on 31st December, the results would have been more favourable, as is shown by-such Customs returns as have been laid before Parliament; but by extending our year to 31st March, there is apparently a slight shrinkage in value in one or two of our exports, amounting in all to £76,000, as compared with previous corresponding twelve months. The decrease is chiefly shown on the export of gold. But we must remember that the previous year showed an increase of £92,000 in our exports. For the twelve months under review our imports have increased by £90,000, the total imports amounting to £2,000,000 sterling, and the total exports, foreign, showing £1,125,000. I think it is necessary that I should attempt to give some explanation of this large balance in favour of imports, as the bare statistics might be misconstrued by those who are not familiar with certain facts in connection with the distribution of merchandise and manufacturing industry at this port. Take, for instance, the item of sugar, the imports of which amounted to £700,000 in 1884. A large proportion of this is raw sugar, which, after being subjected to the refining process, and greatly increased in value, is partly distributed to southern ports of this colony, and is not recorded as an export. The value of these southern shipments is estimated at £250,000 for the current year. Then, again, although we are aware that this port is growing in importance as a manufacturing centre, and as a depôt for valuable merchandise, we have as yet to share with coastal ports the honour of exporting the raw produce of our district, which will not bear the expense of transhipment. I am of opinion that the proportion of these figures will be greatly altered during the present twelve months; for owing to the successful starting of meat-freezing works on a large scale we shall be in a position to claim a share of that export, which in 1884 amounted to £345,000 for the colony. But the increasing expansion of our import trade cannot but be viewed satisfactorily, providing that we can observe along with it that increasing industry and prosperity which indicates our ability to pay for the balance of trade. This, I think, members of the Chamber will have no difficulty in doing. Look at the numerous indications which we have that labour is daily creating wealth—viz., in the building of substantial houses, for which, within the limits of the city, 1539 permits were issued within the past year; by the breaking in of 112,000 acres of virgin land; the building of 16 new registered vessels of medium tonnage; the manning and freighting of 240 sailing vessels and page 60 60 steamers belonging to the port; the constructing and completion of 37 additional miles of railway; by our large new graving dock, our tramways, and by the industrial work of a permanent nature to which all these improvements tend. Briefly stated, our imports amount to rather over one-fourth of that of the whole colony. Time, I think, will show that our exports and manufactures will assume proportionate figures. It is said that the average proportion of the imports and exports of all nations shows the declared value of imports to be 12 per cent, in excess of exports. Some free-traders call the apparently difficult problem of the deficiency the pons asinorum, and say that communities maintaining the highest difference are the most industrially prosperous.