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War Economy

Export Volumes

Export Volumes

Chart 65 shows changes in the volume of New Zealand's exports from 1936 to 1947.

chart of exports

Chart 65

page 370

Export volumes rose to a record level in 1940, when the United Kingdom was building up food reserves and there was an exceptional increase in the quantity of frozen meat exported. Cheese exports were also a record in this year. The following year saw a very substantial drop in the quantity of wool exported and the volume of exports overall fell to 1938 levels. In 1942, however, export volumes, aided by a full recovery for wool, a partial recovery for frozen meat, and record exports of cheese, moved 5 per cent above the previous record level attained in 1940; this in spite of the fact that United States forces, first seen in New Zealand in substantial numbers in June 1942, were eating considerable quantities of New Zealand food.

For the next three years, 1943 to 1945, with the United States Forces in New Zealand and the Pacific taking larger quantities of foodstuffs, the recorded volume of exports fell to modest levels. The position was influenced also by the fact that wool exports were low during each of these three years. With wool production exceeding allied requirements, its shipment was not urgent.1

An interesting wartime development was the upsurge of exports of manufactured articles, which prior to the war had been valued at under £1 million a year. A good proportion of these extra manufactured goods went to the Mediterranean area, where about three-quarters of New Zealand's overseas forces were serving. Another important destination was India, the headquarters of the Eastern Group Supply Council.2 Demands by the armed forces for clothing, footwear, fire-fighting appliances, hardware, electrical goods, wireless receivers and transmitters, and ordnance and other supplies, pushed the value of exports of manufactured goods to over £4 million by 1943, and to £13 million in 1944. These exports were valued at £8 million in 1945, and between £3 million and £4 million in each of the years 1946 and 1947.

Reverse Lend-Lease supplies, valued for the whole of the war at £81 million, were excluded from export figures. From the point of view of reciprocal aid they helped to keep the balance against the Lend-Lease supplies which were flowing in from the United States. However, the record of wartime trading is distorted by inclusion of much of the inflow as imports, while the outflow did not affect the export figures. Approximately two-thirds of all food-stuffs supplied to the United States Forces were shipped out of New Zealand by them without being recorded as exports. At a rough estimate these unrecorded food exports may have been worth page 371 some £25 to £30 million. Large numbers of prefabricated huts and other supplies from New Zealand were similarly treated.

Supplies for New Zealand forces overseas were usually recorded as exports, though some supplies sent direct to New Zealand forces were excluded. While not themselves exchange earners, all these exports helped to reduce the direct cost in foreign exchange of maintaining New Zealand forces overseas.

1 See also Chapter 8

2 An Indian official war history gives a detailed list of items in the £17.0 million (Stg.) of supplies from New Zealand. (N. G. Sinha and P. N. Khera, Indian War Economy, p. 420.)