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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Hints to Colonial Fruit-Exporters

Hints to Colonial Fruit-Exporters.

Our London correspondent, writing on the 16th April, says,—

Mr. L. Hanlon's letter in your journal a few weeks ago, warning fruit growers and packers to "see to it that you ship only first-class fruit; the expense on a case of poor fruit is just as great as on a case of fine fruit," and to "handle these cases of fruit like you would new-born babes," was very opportune, and had his judicious advice been followed the first cargoes of fruit received from New Zealand this season would have turned out more remunerative than they have done. They afford a practical illustration of what he means. Nearly every case has been gathered before the apples were suitable for eating, and the consequence is that the colour and flavour, as well as size—all qualities essential to good prices—are far below last year's produce. There are great complaints among buyers of the lack of that flavour which formerly was so tempting a characteristic of New Zealand fruit, and which largely contributed to the eagerness with which the apples were sought for. It is useless gathering unripe fruit and sending it here, expecting the flavour and bloom to develop on the voyage. The result is, the apples are soft, and inclined to woolliness, with a distinctly unripe flavour attaching to them. They also have a partially-shrivelled appearance, which does not at all add to their attractiveness. In addition to this deterioration in quality, the condition of all New Zealand apples which have arrived this season is very poor. This is due to two causes. The codlin-moth has committed great ravages, and in many cases over 50 per cent, of the apples are worm-eaten. This is a defect that care in selection before packing could easily have removed. The worm-holes are as visible in New Zealand as in London, and all fruit thus affected should be kept at home, as a few worm-eaten apples destroy the value of a whole case. The prices of the "Ionic's" cargo are ample proof of the poor condition of the apples. The bulk of them realised about 8s. or 9s. Some cases were sold as low as 4s. One case of fine fruit was sold for 20s., thus illustrating the doctrine that fine-quality apples in London will always realise high prices. In the case of the "Ruapehu's" apples the condition complained of above was aggravated by the temperature to which they were subjected during the voyage. To all appearance they were not kept sufficiently cool. In many of the cases fully half were rotten, and many were black as balls of soot, and dry as can be. The porters who unloaded them from the ship's hold declare the page 13 cases were quite warm when handled, and the appearance of the fruit fully bears out this statement. No doubt many of the apples that were found to be rotten were bruised before or during packing. This is a matter requiring the greatest care, as fermentation rapidly spreads from bruises, and contaminates the whole case. Apples require very careful gathering from the trees, and should be packed there and then into the cases, care of course being taken as to their being perfectly dry. Some of the cases when opened looked as if the lids were forced down by great pressure, as it frequently happens every apple on one side of a case has a flattened face. There appears to be more care in grading the sizes and colours than last year, but there is much room for improvement in this matter. The small size of many of the apples sent will always prevent them from realising paying prices. Large and highly-coloured apples always find a ready sale. Of course, colour does not matter so much for cooking varieties; but it is a valuable quality even for this purpose. Cooking-apples should be large and evenly graded for size, and then they will pay for sending. The condition of some of the "Ruapehu's" apples may be gauged by the fact that a hundred boxes sold for less than 3d. a box. Buyers are hoping that the next cargo will be far better than the present, or low prices will be the rule. The salesmen have been doing their best to get good prices, some refusing to sell a box for less than 10s., and have still a large quantity on their hands. The Tasmanian apples this year are open to much of the same criticism as the New Zealand; but good cases of these have averaged 15s. to 17s. 6d., while New Zealand cases must average at least 7s. 6d. a case lower.

I append the remarks contained in the circular of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company upon the fruit, as they largely bear out my own independent inquiries : "Shipments have been received from New Zealand by the 'Ionic,' 'Otarama,' and 'Ruapehu,' aggregating 1,962 cases of apples. We regret to have to report that the majority was landed more or less out of condition. This, in the opinion of those conversant with the trade, is owing, for the most part, to their having been subjected to an unsuitable temperature on the voyage. Another cause assigned for the unfortunate outturn of these shipments is the presence of worm in the fruit, due to growers having neglected to take proper precautions for the destruction of the codlin-moth. Shippers would do well to consign to this market only the very finest fruit, in perfect condition. The ranges of prices obtained was, for the 'Ionic' shipments, from 4s. per case to 20s. per case (the latter price being paid for one case of fine showy fruit in sound condition); for the 'Otarama' shipments, from 5s. per case to 12s. 6d. per case; and for the ' Ruapehu ' shipments, from 1s. per case to 6s. 6d. per case. It was not possible to bring the 'Ruapehu' apples to market until the 11th instant, and on the same day the first arrivals of Tasmanian, per 'Victoria,' were offered. The 'Victoria ' landed her cargo in excellent condition, and very full prices, ranging from 10s. per case to 17s. 6d. per case, were obtained."

By Authority: George Didsbury, Government Printer, Wellington,—1802.