Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

War Economy

Shipping and Storage Difficulties

Shipping and Storage Difficulties

In pre-war years, fears had been freely expressed of a possible six months' break in shipping should New Zealand become involved in a war with Japan. The obvious precaution of providing extra storage space for perishable food exports, especially butter, had been pointed out and discussed but nothing effective was done before the war.3

At the outbreak of war the Government brought its influence to bear to see that some extra storage space was provided. As a condition of their licences to slaughter and export meat, it required all freezing works to provide at their own expense sufficient cool storage space for holding 60 per cent of their average kill of meat.4 This extra storage space became available for the 1940–41 season.

A further indication of the Government's mounting anxiety to provide extra storage space was the trouble taken to salvage refrigerating equipment from a wrecked vessel, the Port Bowen, and use it to provide cool-storage space in an abandoned meat works.5

It was most fortunate for New Zealand that Japan did not enter the war until December 1941. Consequently, the immediate disruption of shipping which had been feared did not eventuate. In the early months of war, shipping losses were not serious, and most of New Zealand's surplus production was sent to the United Kingdom. By March 1940 ‘the food stock position in England was an all time record’.6

The German invasion of Norway, in April 1940, and the capitulation of France in June 1940, threatened to change the whole shipping position. Britain now had hostile U-boat and air bases on either flank. By December 1940, shipping losses forced her to reduce the amount of refrigerated shipping serving New Zealand and Australia.

3 As late as May 1939, all ONS could report was that its Primary Industries Committee ‘has now produced a report on the question of refrigerated space in the event of a stoppage of exports, and is consulting with the various Companies concerned.’—ONS 124, 18 May 1939, ‘Activities of the Organisation for National Security’. See also p. 43.

4 See also p. 45.

5 See also p. 119.

6 Hamilton, The Dairy Industry in New Zealand, p. 14.

page 186 Wherever possible shipping was diverted to the shorter Canadian, United States and South American hauls, where it could be more effectively used. In New Zealand, to make the best possible use of reduced refrigerated shipping space, the despatch of some lower grades of meat was delayed, while beef was boned out and lamb and mutton carcasses were telescoped.1

In 1941 the shortage of shipping became so acute that there was a serious accumulation of food in New Zealand. At that time it seemed probable that storage for this food would be necessary for a considerable period, and, in the emergency, the Government built large cool-store warehouses at high speed.

All this came at a time when New Zealand meat production was rapidly increasing. For a time it looked as if there might be an undue accumulation, followed by post-war dumping, as had happened after World War I. Further emergency cool stores were constructed, dehydration was resorted to, and more meat was canned. Canned meat did not need refrigerated space and there was considerable expansion of production in the later years of the war.

For the meat industry, the greatest relief came in 1942 with the need to provide food for the United States Forces in the Pacific. The first United States forces arrived in New Zealand in June 1942, and from then onwards New Zealand supplied considerable quantities of food under Reserve Lend-Lease for use in New Zealand and in other parts of the Pacific.

In the second half of 1942 the United States Joint Purchasing Board took more than 10,000 tons of New Zealand meat. It was to require about 6000 tons a month, and considerable quantities of other foodstuffs, for the rest of the war. These orders took about a quarter of New Zealand's exportable surplus of meat. Meat supplied to the Joint Purchasing Board was not recorded as exports, yet meat exports, in spite of shipping difficulties in 1942, were no lower that year than the average of the preceding five years.

As an exporting year, 1942 was, on the whole, surprisingly good. Wool exports were the highest for six years and record quantities of cheese were shipped; but butter exports, though higher than in 1941, were well below normal.2

Commenting on overseas trade in 1942, a Wellington daily paper said:3

1 ‘Telescoping means severing the carcass crosswise at the pin-bone joint, and then packing the leg portion inside the trunk. This results in a considerable saving in storage and shipping space.’—Parliamentary Paper H-30b, Food and Other Supplies to the United Kingdom during the War, p. 13.

2 See also p. 199.

3 Dominion, leading article, 3 February 1943.

page 187

‘The outstanding feature of the preliminary (trade) returns is the proof they afford of the sustained ability of the British shipping authorities to lift the produce. In the third year of a World War they have provided shipping facilities for this distant source of supply which have enabled record quantities to be dispatched. There may be even more difficult days ahead, with intensification of the submarine menace, but what has already been achieved by the Merchant Marine constitutes a wonderful record, and shows plainly the success that has followed the unremitting efforts of the Navy to keep the sea lanes open. The figures also provide convincing evidence of a sustained effort to maintain, and where possible increase, production. The results have been obtained despite shortages of labour and material. Prices for our chief exports have moved little since the outbreak of war, so that an increase of £22·8 millions since 1939 must have been chiefly due to larger quantities. However viewed, the figures relating to our overseas trade for the past year give grounds for satisfaction, although probably many producers will make the reservation that the increase may to some extent have been made at the cost of future productive capacity.’

In fact, the volume of exports in 1942 was a record, and 6 per cent above the previous highest figure.

This high volume of trade was carried in spite of the fact that allied shipping losses were at their highest in the first half of 1942. It was not until well into 1943 that the Allies started to win the battle against the U-boats. Actually, a much lower shipping tonnage was available in 1942 than in the previous two years but, by extending the practice of deboning meat and telescoping carcasses, by canning and dehydrating, and in various other ways, it was used more intensively.1

1 See also Chapter 14. Of imports into the United Kingdom, R. J. Hammond writes:

‘The other principal contribution to ship-saving was by the boning of imported beef before shipment and the “telescoping” of frozen mutton and lamb carcases in the refrigerated holds. In the calendar year 1939 only about one-tenth of beef imported was boned; in the twelve months ended September 1942 more than nine-tenths of the beef was boned, and all mutton and lamb telescoped. The average stowage factor for all meat was reduced from 100 cubic feet to 85 cubic feet; only by this means were imports maintained at the pre-war level despite an acute shortage of refrigerated shipping.’ History of the Second World War. Food. Vol. I: The Growth of Policy, p. 224.