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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Shipper's Work

page 9

Shipper's Work.

Having no authority to open for examination the cases of fruit being shipped, I had no means of judging of the quality; but when the tops fell off some cases I was then enabled to examine the contents of those cases, and I much regret to report that in one instance at least apples were packed that were utterly unfit for export. How the shipper could expect a profitable return for such fruit is more than one can comprehend. The variety was Reinette du Canada, the fruit small and inferior; in addition, about one apple out of every three was so misshaped, cracked, and blemished as to be rendered quite unfit for sale.

This I think a matter of great moment, and one calculated to do much injury to this young industry, the shipper of such inferior fruit not only damaging his own brand, but likewise blemishing the good name that New Zealand fruit has already made for itself in the London market. If this pernicious practice prevails to any extent it is hopeless to expect to gain the premier position in the English fruit market, which experts, who have been highly-pleased with the trial-shipments of previous years, have promised us.

In the other cases which I examined the fruit was of good quality, but no attempt at grading was apparent, large and small being packed in the same case. The London fruiterers prefer, and will pay a higher price for, fruit graded to an even size. It is a somewhat difficult matter sometimes to pack tightly with fruit of one size. When such is the case a few smaller fruit are admissible to finish off the ends of rows. Very few cases were packed so tight as not to move when the ease was shaken. This was to be expected, as a large number of the cases had been packed for two, some three, weeks before shipment: this was owing to uncertainty in the movements of the direct steamers. As all fruit shrinks a little after being picked, it was to be expected that cases which doubtless were tight when packed should shake a little two weeks afterwards; but some lots just packed were observed to be very loose. In some cases there was a space of 2in. between the fruit and the top of the case. I fear such will be badly bruised ere reaching market. As to the packing, almost all had the apples rolled up separately in white tissue-paper. Some, in addition, had the eases lined with paper, while the tightest and best-packed lot I saw was one which, in addition to the above, had a handful or two of paper-shavings, such as accumulate in a publisher's workshop, spread at bottom and top of case. This was a good idea, the shavings serving as a spring-buffer, and saving the fruit from many a bruising jar.

In conclusion, I am of opinion that in order to foster the fruit-export industry it would be advisable to have the shipments, for a time at least, superintended by an expert, in order to prevent rough handling, which is fatal to such tender produce as fruit. If I am in the service of your department next shipping season I shall make it my duty to undertake this work as far as possible. In case of steamers loading fruit at distant ports at or about the same time, I should endeavour to get some competent person to undertake the work when I was unable to be present.

Some growers seem to think it would be much for the benefit of page 10 the industry if the Government were to inspect all fruit shipped, and brand all that was of a standard quality with a Government brand; but I fail to see how this idea can be worked. First, it would cause great loss of time, opening and branding each lot as it was brought forward; secondly, considerable damage to cases and fruit would most certainly occur; thirdly, it would entail considerable expenditure without, I fear, an adequate return.

I have much more faith in the establishment of active fruitgrowers' associations in all the centres of fruit-culture, one of the duties of such associations being to inspect and work up to a high standard of quality all the fruit shipped by the members of such associations. This with the assistance of your fruit expert, it being part of his duties to visit and confer with the secretaries and members of all associations on the best methods of preparing fruit for export, and giving demonstration of picking, packing, &c., and so organizing that eventually these associations may meet in conference in the chief centres of population for the purpose of furthering the industry by co-operation in every way. When they have attained a fairly uniform standard of quality, then a registered brand might be given to each association for the use of its members.

The chief work of fruit-growers' associations devolves upon the secretary. Hitherto the office has been an honorary one; but, as it is unfair to expect a man to devote much of his time without remuneration, it would be a great encouragement if a small subsidy, of, say, £10, were granted to each association representing at least fifty acres of orchard.

In other colonies the Governments have granted considerable amounts for the encouragement of horticulture, in the shape of a bonus on each case of fruit exported, and grants to the horticultural societies. In my opinion the colony may attain as good, if not better, results by far less expenditure on the lines here indicated. The encouraging of these associations as a method of fostering the fruit industry is of the greatest importance, and I hope it will receive consideration from you.

When the bulk of the fruit exported from this colony is sent under a registered brand buyers will be chary of purchasing lots without the brand, and this alone would soon cause the careless packer to mend his ways, or cease shipping. Inferior fruit simply aids in depressing markets, and interferes seriously with the sale of good fruit, and it is neither profitable to the shipper nor creditable to the colony.

I have, &c.,

Lionel Hanlon,

Instructor in Fruit-culture. The Hon. the Minister of Lands and Agriculture.

P.S.—I attach copy of letter I wrote to the New Zealand Herald, re shipment of fruit per ss. "Tainui."—L. H.