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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Co-Operative Movement in New Zealand Agriculture — Introduction

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The Co-Operative Movement in New Zealand Agriculture


New Zealand is essentially an agricultural country, and there is every reason to believe that it must long remain so. It possesses many advantages for the raising of stock, much of the land is very fertile and is well watered. Extending as it does for over a thousand miles, from north to south, between the 340 and 480 south latitude, the country has a great variety of temperate climates, and a fairly even and well distributed rainfall, making it possible to raise almost any kind of agricultural produce and fruits that can be grown in the temperate zones.

In the south island heavy crops of wheat, oats, barley etc., are grown. In the northern parts of the dominion excellent semi-tropical crops and fruits can be produced, while in both islands there are large areas that are most eminently adapted for dairy farming and raising stock. As the cattle can live in the field for the whole of the year practically no housing and little artificial feeding are necessary.

The total population in 1911 was 1,008,468 and had risen to 1,095,994 by the end of 1914. the whole of the people being practically dependent on agriculture. Out of 454,117 breadwinners more than 11,000 were engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The other primary producers and miners numbered 20,556 and a large proportion of the rest of the people were engaged in working up and handling the primary products. Excluding gold and specie, the primary products constitute about 98½percent. of the exports.

The success of agriculture in New Zealand is almost entirely due to refrigeration and co-operation.

The development of co-operation, however, is of comparatively recent date. For many years after the foundation of the colony, the farmers were almost entirely dependent on the local market and the exports were small.

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In 1869 the value of the exports (apart from gold) only amounted to £1,727,139. The chief items were :
Flax (Phormium) 45,245
Grain 96.441
Wool 1,371,230
Tallow 13,935
Kauri Gum 111,307
Timber 22,378
Other Produce (including Butter and Cheese) 66,603
Gold. 3,362,995
Total. £4,090,134

At that time (1869) the settlers could dispose of their stock, outside the colony, only in the form of tinned meat, tallow, wool and hides. Not a pound of frozen meat had been landed in England, though Mr. James Harrison had been successful in manufacturing ice, and Mr. Thomas Suteliffe Mort of Sydney, had started the first freezing works in the world in New South Wales, and was attempting (with the aid of the French engineer, M. Nicolle) to freeze meat for export. After spending £80,000 on experiments, he died in 1878 without achieving success. His death was hastened by the failure of a trial shipment by the sailing ship "Northam". A year later a cargo of frozen meat, shipped from Australia in the "Strathleven", was landed in London in a perfectly sound state, frozen quite hard, and covered with an artificial rime. This revolutionized not only agriculture in New Zealand, but also the meat trade of the whole world.

In 1881 agriculture (the staple industry of the country) was in a critical position. The supply of meat exceeded the local demand. The flocks had increased from 233,000 sheep in 1851 to 12,985,085. The market was glutted and sheep were being boiled down for their tallow. As the profit from boiling down was small, the settler's returns depended mainly on the wool, and the increase in his stock. The price of wool at that time was low, and a succession of bad harvests had intensified the general depression.

The first attempt to send frozen meat from New Zealand was made by Messrs. W. S. Davidson and Thomas Brydone, the managers of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, who shipped 3521 sheep, 450 lambs and 22 pigs by the sailing ship "Dunedin" in February 1882. This meat was frozen on board and was successfully landed in London in good condition, after a passage of 98 days. The whole sliipment was sold in a few days at 6d to 7d page 5 per lb., which gave a net return to the farmers in New Zealand of about 3½ d per lb. The first refrigerating company formed in New Zealand erected works at Burnside near Dunedin in 1881. The second, the Canterbury Frozen Meat and Dairy Co., was started on November 11th 1881, with a capital of £20,000. These works could only deal with about 300 sheep a day, but fears were expressed that exporting that number would soon deplete the flocks of Canterbury. But Mr. Thomas Brydone, who superintend-ed the shipping of the first cargo, predicted that the day was not far distant when New Zealand would be able to export 4,000,000 carcases per annum. Over 80,000,000 sheep and lambs have been sent away from the dominion since then. New Zealand now ranks second only to the Argentine among the 14 countries producing the world's meat supply. The Canterbury works alone can now freeze 150,000 sheep per week and there are 33 freezing works operating in various parts of the dominion with a storage capacity for over 3,000,000 carcases, while seven more are being erected. The number of sheep and lambs slaughtered during the year ending 31 March 1915 was 8,471,321 besides 347,353 cattle and 241,683 pigs. In 1881 there were only 12,985,085 sheep in the country. These had increased to 24,901,421 by 30 April 1915. The annual value of the New Zealand exports of animal produce (without reckoning butter and cheese) is now £14,550,000. As the business grew, more attention was paid to working up the by-pro-ducts. Besides provision of cold storage for butter, cheese, fruit, poultry and other perishable goods, there are now in connection with most of the freezing works, such industries as meat canning, fell-mongering, wool classing, tallow and oleo-refining and factories turning out manures, glue, gelatine, sausage skins and fiddle strings. oil and pelts etc.

All recent discoveries and modern knowledge are brought to bear to eliminate waste, to make the most of all by-products, rapidly to remove all animal matter and to ensure the most perfect sanitary conditions.

In this way the cost of freezing and shipping has been so reduced that the consolidated charges etc., were prior to the war under 2d per lb. or little more than half that of some of the early shipments.

The farmers have gradually adopted a system of selling their stock on the farm to the buyers of large companies instead of shipping it at their own risk; and as special attention is given to grading both for quality and weight, the large English importers can now make contracts in advance for the supply of meat in England and cover them by C. I, F. purchases from the freezing companies and pastoralists in New Zealand.

Soon after the outbreak of war, the British government expressed a desire to secure the whole supply of mutton, lamb, and beef available for export, for the soldiers and the civilian population of England. The New Zealand government at once took the necessary steps to give effect to this request. Conferences of meat exporting interests, the freezing companies, the farmers' representatives, and the shipping companies were convened. A workable scheme was drawn up, a system of grading and a schedule of prices were agreed upon, and the cheerful co-operation of the freezing companies and suppliers was obtained.

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The schedule of prices to be paid for the meat per lb. was as follows :
Wethers and maiden ewes first quality 721 lbs. and under. 4½d
Wethers and maiden ewes first quality over 72 lbs. 4¼d
Wethers and maiden second quality including quarters and sides 4¼d
Ewes frist quality 72 Ibs. and under 4 d
Ewes frist quality over 72 lbs. 3¾ d
Ewes second quality 3¾d
Lambs special prime and Canterbury quality 121 lbs. and under 5¾ d
Lambs first quality 42 lbs. and under 5½ d
Lambs first quality over 42 lbs. 5¼ d
Lambs second quality including quarters and sides 5¼ d
Beef prime on 4¾d
Beef second and heifer 4½d
Beef boning in quarters 4d
Beef cow, prime 4½d
Beef cow, second 4d
Beef boneless 5d
(odd hind quarters ½d above and odd fore quarters ½d below schedule prices.)
Mutton, lees 5½d
Mutton, shoulders. 4½d
Mutton, loins 4½d
Mutton, haunches 5d

The scheme drawn up provided for the setting up of an Imperial Government Meat Supply Branch, and the purchase of all the meat available for export. The freezing companies supplied statements as to all meat in store, showing what was held on both their own and their clients' accounts. All meat was consigned to the British Board of Trade. Contracts between the shipping companies and the freezing companies were left intact. A board of reference was also appointed to adjust any disputes, and the whole business was carried out under the Prime Minister's personal supervision, with the assistance of Mr. R. Triggs, one of the Public Service Commissioners, and Dr. C. J. Reakes, Director of the Live Stock Division of the Department of Agriculture. The inspection and grading, the checking of weights and fixing of prices, etc. were carried out by the Live Stock Division of the Department of Agriculture.

Thus the biggest thing in the way of the disposal of surplus meat ever attempted in New Zealand was started on 3 March 1915, and before the end of that year (3 March 1916), 2,641,140 carcases of mutton, page 7 3,777,299 of lamb and 490,301 quarters of beef, valued at over £7,440,000 sterling, were taken over for the British government, besides what was use d in the dominion; while the scheme ran so smoothly that the board of reference was not called upon to arbitrate in a single dispute.

In addition some 7,236 tons of cheese (the purchase of which was begun by the government on 4 November 1915) were acquired in the same way, the payments to 2 March 1916 aggregating £481,359.

Thus it will be seen that the New Zealand pastoralists were compelled to seek an outside market. In England, co-operation grew out of co-operative distribution; in New Zealand its first development was in the direction of co-operative production and co-operative marketing.

The expenditure and risk of sending frozen meat to England were so heavy and many of the sheep farmers were so involved, that freezing companies had to be started by the large farmers, stock owners, and land companies, and but for them the frozen meat trade could not at that time have been established at all.

Some of these early companies worked on co-operative lines. They were started and controlled by farmers. They reduced the cost of freezing, made better use of the by-products, secured lower freights, and so obtained for the farmers a better price for their stock, and made cornering by great trusts difficult.

But the large amount of capital required led in some cases to the inclusion of the ordinary investor; and companies were formed which, while they secured lower charges and better prices for stock, departed from the true co-operative method of working.

This caused the farmers to erect other plants to compete with those in existence. Appended is a list of the New Zealand freezing companies. Those marked "F" are for the most part owned and controlled by the farmers.

From this it will be seen that the New Zealand freezing works can slaughter 109,650 sheep and over 3000 head of cattle per day and can keep in cold storage 3,516,450 carcases of mutton.

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District Locality of works Beef-killing capacity per day Sheep- killing Capacity per Day Storage Capacity, in 60 lb. Carcases Mutton Products of Works THE CO- OPERA TIVE MOVE- MENT IN AGRICU- LTURE Auckland——Whangarei Freezing Company, Ltd., Auckland. Whangarei Hds.150 1,000 50,000 Frozen meat, preserved meat, hides, wool, pells, tallow, manures, &c. Auckland Farmers' Freezing Com- Southdown ., 200 3,000 66,000 Frozen meat, tallow, dried flesh, manures, wool, pelts, glue, &c. Auckland Farmers' Freezing Company, Ltd., Auckland. Horotiu .... 200 3,000 66,000 Frozen meal, tallow, dried flesh, manures, wool, pelts, glue, &c R.and W. Hellaby, Ltd., Auckland. F West field ... 120 500 3,000 Frozen meat, tallow, manure, wool, pells, &c. Poverty Bay, &c. Tokomaru Sheep-farmers' Freez- Tokomaru ing Company, Ltd. F Bay. 45 2,500 60,000 Frozen meat, wool, pells, tallow, manure. Poverty Bay Farmers' Meat Company, Ltd., Gisbonic. F Kailcratahi, 100 2,000 120,000 Frozen meat, preserved meat, tallow, manure, wool, pells, casings. Gisbornc Sheep-fanners' Frozen Meat Company, Ltd.,Gisborne.F Kaiti....... 150 6,000 150,000 Frozen meat, preserved meat, tallow, pells, oil, manure. Nelson Bros., Ltd., Gisbornc. Taniheru ... 85 2,500 82,050 Frozen meat, casings, bungs, tallow, wool, pelts, hides, oil, manure. Hawke's Bay. North British and Hawke's Bay Freezing Company, Ltd., Napier. West shore .. 40 1,500 36,000 Frozen meat, wool, tallow, pells, casings, manure. Thomas Borthwick & Sons (Aus.), Ltd., Christchurch. Pakipaki .... 3 1,500 50,000 Frozen meal, tallow, pells, oleo, manures. &c. Nelson Bros., Ltd., Tomoana. . . Tomoana.... 80 3,000 92,400 Frozen meat, preserved meat, mcat-exlrncl, tallow, wool, pelts, hides, oil, manures, &c. Hawke's Bay Farmers' Meat Company, Ltd., Hastings. F Whakalu----- 80 2,000 40,000 Frozen meat, tallow, wool, pelts, manures. Tarannkt .... Thomas Borthwick & Sons (Aus), Ltd., Christchurch. Waitara..... 200 2,000 90,000 Frozen meat, tallow, oleo, runners, pells, wool, &c. Patea Fanners' Co-op. Freezing Company., Ltd. F Patea....... 120 1,000 52,000 Frozen meat, preserved meat, tallow, manures, &c. Wellington. . .I Wanganui Meat-freezing Company, Castlehiff. .. Ltd.. Wanganui. F 100 2,200 70,000 Frozen and preserved meat, meat-extract, tallow, manures, wool, &c. Otaihape farmers meat company, Ltd, Masterton F. 50 1,200 30,000 Frozen meat and sundries, wool pelts, hides, manures, tallow oil, hides preserved meat, meat-extract, manures.hides, preserve.! ureal, meat-extract, manures. Gear Meat Preserving and FreezFetone......I loo 10,000 300,000 Frozen meat, preserved meat, meal-extract, ing Company, Ltd., Wellington. tallow, manure, wool, oil, hides, pelts, &c. Wellington Meat Export Coin- Ngahauranga. 120 j 8,000 i 240,000 Frozen and preserved meat, (allow, manure, pany, Ltd., Wellington. wool, pelts, casings, &c. Marlborough . Christ chu re h Merit Company, Ltd. Ficton......! 30 1,000 ! 23,000 Frozen men!, wool, pelts, tallow, casing?, ma- nures, &c. Nelson....... Nelson Freezing Company, Ltd., Stoke....... —35: 10,000 FtozeBineat, tallow, manure, 'fie. Nelson. F ?, Canterbury .. Canterbury Frozen Meat Company, Belfast...... 50 7,000 130,000 Frozen and preserved meal, wool, pelts, tallow, Ltd., Christ church. F and manures. Canterbury Frozen Meal Company, Fairfield .... —I 4,000 100,000 Frozen meat, tallow, wool, pells, manures. Ltd., Chiistcliurch. F Canterbury Frozen Meal Company, Paicora.....I 25 I 4,500 125,000 Frozen meal, tallow, wool, pelfs, manures, Ltd., Christchurch. Christ church Merit Company, Ltd., Islington-----! 50. 7,000 235,000 Frozen and preserved meal, wool, pells, till- Christchurch. low, oleo, casings, manures. Sec. Christ elm nil Meal Company, Ltd., SinithtkM... : go 6,000 126,000 : Frozen meat, wool, pelts, tallow, ok, casings, Christ church. F manures, &c. II.ago....... Chrislclurcli Meat Company, Ltd., Pukeuri..... j — 3,000 80,000; Frozen meat, wool, pelts, tallow, oleo, casings, j Christchurch. j manures, &e. ' Christchurch Meal Company, Ltd., Bumside----- 50 3,500 136,000] Frozen meat, wool, pells, tallow, oleo, casings, Christchurch. j manures, &c. 1 South Qtago Freezing Company, l'inegand___ 30 1,200 85,000! Frozen meat, wool, tallow, oil, manures, pelts. : Ltd., Ealclulha. F trialtiiiinil .-.. Birt and Co., Ltd., Invercargill. . Ocean Beach ' IOO 2,500 110,000 '? Frozen meat, rabbit, casings, &c, : Southland Frozen Meat Company, Mataura . ... 50; 2,000 87,000. Frozen meal, rabbits, wool, pells, tallow, oil, Ltd., Invercargill. manures. Soutliland Frozen Mi at Company, Makarewa... 70 I 2,000 i 14,000' Frozen meal, rabbits, wool, pelts, tallow, oil, Ltd., Invercargill. manures. Orona & West Coast 1'ti -iv.iiiy Co. F Fielding..... 100 2,200 I 70,000 Frozen meal, rabbits, wool, pelts, tallow, oil, Westfieki Freezing Co. West field___ 200 3,000 I 75,000 Frozen meat, rabbits, wool, pelts, tallow, oil, The total capacity of the meat-breezing works in New Zealand is shown to be as fallows: Sheep-slaughtering, 109,650 head per day; beef--slaughtering 3,085 head per day; cold storage, 3,516,450 60 lb. carcases of mutton.

Meat-Freezing Works in New Zealand (May 1916).