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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Manila and Sisal Fibres

page 12

Manila and Sisal Fibres.

It was difficult to obtain any reliable figures as to the lowest cost at which these fibres can be profitably produced, but it is instructive to peruse Mr. Stuart's report to the Bahamian Government, which is contained it Report No. 5 of the United States Department of Agriculture. Referring to sisal, it reads as follows: "The yield of fibre per acre is from 1,000lb. to 1,470 lb. per annum. The number of plants usually set out in an acts is 750, giving an average of 33 leaves for each plant, and from 50lb. to 70 lb. of clean fibre for each 1,000 leaves. Making an average calculation of 650 plants to the acre, 33 leaves from each plant, yielding 60lb. of fibre, to the 1,000 leaves, the return would be as follows: 33 × 650 = 21,450 leaves, yielding 60 × 21 450/1000 = 1,287 lb. clean fibre per annum."

In view of the small percentage of clean fibre obtained from the sisal-plant, and the length of time occupied in its preparation, together with the heavy outlay for machinery and plant, I see no reason why New Zealand hemp should not be able to successfully compete with sisal in supplying the requirements of binder-twine and cordage manufacturers. Notwithstanding the fact that both fibres were occasionally sold at very low figures, it was contended that producers must net the following figures, c.i.f., London: Fair current manila, £23 per ton; sisal, £16 per ton: and if these figures were maintained no large supply could be depended on. Like our own hemp, the increased production depends largely upon the improved prices obtained therefor.

I also found that, although the supply of the two fibres had increased during the past ten years, the extension of trade in the manufacture of rope, cordage, and binder-twine had kept pace with the supply.