CHAPTER XI. EXPORTS AND MARKETS.
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EXPORTS AND MARKETS.
SOME misconception exists on the subject of a young colony's exports. It seems to be held that a young colony is like a man--the first duty and necessity of each being to produce something, to have means of living. But, in truth, a young colony is like a child--each being a consumer, growing-up to the producing state.
Except there be "Diggings," a young emigration field cannot, for many years, produce exports. The Pioneers who first venture thither, have to house and feed themselves, to clear patches of the stubborn forest and smooth them into corn-fields, to make roads and bridges, to lay out villages, and to rough-hew the infant colony out of the rugged wilderness. By the time the new land has thus been made to feed its first pioneers, others have arrived, to eat up all surplus. Emigrants of 1840 sell their surplus to emigrants of 1842, and both do the same by the emigrants of 1844. The young colony has no export, and needs no export; because all surplus produce is consumed by good customers at home. And it is only when Population has settled in the wilderness, and caused home-production to increase
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faster than home-consumption, that a young colony can have, or can need, foreign markets. A British colony's "manhood-exporting" state has seldom been attained under a quarter of a century. Zealandia, by the registrar, is "sweet fifteen;" but, owing to the stunting disasters of her infant days, she is virtually no more than a "miss of ten." The pioneer settlers who were risking their lives in New Zealand from 1840 to 1846, were not producers of anything. They were a handful of half-ruined men tilling patches of soil round their dwellings for necessary food; but wisely forbearing to cultivate those fertile lands from which a fatuous Government banded with a lawless savage might any day eject them. Virtually, therefore, New Zealand's age is ten; so that looking at the past progress of other colonies, a dozen years may well elapse before she becomes a great exporting colony.
But the artificial attainment of the "exporting age," and the natural "power of exporting," are two distinctly different things. In the latter, New Zealand may rank with any country in the world. She is by nature the granary, dairy-farm, brewery, and orchard of the South Pacific; and, unquestionably, is capable of producing for old-world markets an annual export of wool and tallow, alone, 1
The present chief exports of the colony are wool
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(with a little copper, oil, flax, and timber,) shipped to England; and agricultural exports (with a little kauri-gum and timber) shipped chiefly to Australia.
The four articles which I think will eventually figure in New Zealand exports, after wool, corn, and general agricultural exports (and perhaps ores) are these: ship provisions, cured-beef and pork; fine ales; spars and pine timber; and flax, or hemp. New Zealand is close to the Australian marine, not remote from the Indian marine, and central amid the whaling fleet; whilst, thanks to soil and climate combined, there is probably no country south of the equator where prime mess beef and pork could be produced so cheaply and so well. 2 worth four to five millions sterling.
As to Ale, there is an immense consumption of ale in Australia; and nature has fitted New Zealand for a brewery by giving her cool, or cold, nights, a profusion of the finest soft-water streams, and a soil and climate suited alike to barley and to hop. As to Woods, the woods of Australia, and indeed of almost every country south of the Line, are for the most part hard, heavy, brittle, and bad to work; whilst New Zealand possesses the noble kauri and
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three other pines, and abundant water-power for the cheap production of "sawn-stuff." With regard to Flax or Hemp, it is true that the process for the marketable preparation of New Zealand flax has yet to be discovered; but without being over sanguine, we may reasonably hope that the value of the stake will stimulate genius to win it, and that, eventually, some antipodal Arkwright will succeed in freeing Phormium tenax from that gummous parasite which alone prevents it from becoming King of Textiles.
But, recollecting that, as yet, we have set foot on but some half-dozen spots of New Zealand, it would be a most rash assumption, were we now to assume that wool and corn, and meat and ale, and flax and timber (sufficient as such exports would be to make her rich) will be her only exports, or even her chief exports. The history of commerce shows that the spread of population in a new country ultimately reveals many articles of export which its pioneer settlers overlooked. Years elapsed ere America discovered wealth in cotton, South Australia in copper, New South Wales in wool, Victoria in gold. And the spread of population in New Zealand, the magic touch of capital and labour, may reveal gums, barks, dyes, fibres, oils, ores, a dozen articles of export, as yet, undreamt of or unseen.
On data furnished by the statistics of the last two years, we may I think estimate the gross value of all New Zealand exports for the year 1857 at
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COLONIAL EXPORTING POWERS.
about £500,000. And a comparative glance at the "exporting power" of old countries and old colonies shows that infant New Zealand gives fair promise of strong arms and full pockets when arrived at man's estate.
ANNUAL VALUE OF THE EXPORTS PER HEAD OF THE POPULATIONS OF DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. 3
New South Wales (50 years old)
Victoria (the Diggings)
Tasmania (50 years old, vast amount of convict labour)
Zealandia (10 years old)
MARKETS.--In all human probability, Wool will become the great staple export of New Zealand; and staples like wool and tallow, together with oil,
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ores and flax, would find an excellent, a permanent, and an unlimited market in the mother country. The production of some of these things may be doubtful; but once produced, it is clear that the sale, the market, would be good and certain.
The important question of "Markets," then, has only to be raised with respect to a portion of New Zealand's exports--namely, agricultural produce for Australia. In the last five years, Australia (New South Wales and Victoria) has imported food articles from New Zealand to the amount of nearly half a million sterling, and the question is --will Australia, for the future, feed herself--or, remaining chiefly a wool and gold country, will she continue to import a portion of her food? I conceive that the latter will be the case; and that, although as her population increases, and as blank gold weeks intervene, she may considerably increase her production of home-grown food under improved agriculture and a system of small-farm cultivation, yet that whilst she remains "a great gold country," she will remain a considerable importer of food; and will find that she can supply herself with breadstuffs and dairy produce from New Zealand, and other countries, cheaper, on an average of seasons, than she can grow them for herself.
There are fertile districts in New South Wales and Victoria capable, in favourable seasons, of producing quite as fine crops of corn and vegetables as can be produced in New Zealand. But favourable seasons are not the rule in Australia. The
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experience of half a century shows that Australia is subject to seasons of torrid heat and drought, which bake-up the land and reduce vegetation to a brown powder. 4 The mean average yield of
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wheat in New South Wales and Victoria, for a period of ten years, has been found to be only thirteen bushels an acre, of potatoes three tons! And this ten years' "average yield" has been reduced to this sorry mean not because there were no fine crops in the ten years, when the yield was double--but because, during the ten years, there were droughts and climatic blights which nearly annihilated the crops altogether.
Now, in New Zealand the climate, if we may so express it, is even more agricultural than the soil; and the two, combined, create both a "certainty" and a "fulness" of crop which, I think, is scarcely to be found in any other country in the world.
Assuming, therefore, that the cost of producing an acre of wheat, were even the same in Australia as in New Zealand, the nearly double average yield
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of the New Zealand acre, 5 would enable the New Zealand farmer to place his sea-borne agricultural produce in the Australian market, at a lower price, than agricultural produce could be profitably grown at in Australia. But we may fairly assume that the cost of production will be less in New Zealand, less owing to two causes--the first, the singular "easiness of cultivation" created by the friendly soil and climate; and the second, "cheaper labour." It is fairly conjectural that the gold mines of New South Wales and Victoria are tapped rather than drained, and that "Diggings" and Digging pursuits will be permanent, and spread over the land. If so, labour will unquestionably rule higher there than in New Zealand. 6
With regard to the countries which might compete with New Zealand in partly feeding Australia--the United States, South America, South Australia, and Tasmania--I think we may fairly reason as follows:--Labour is at present much
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dearer in New Zealand than in either North or South America; but here again, the large and certain yield of crop tends to compensate for this deficiency. As emigrant population flows in, too, labour will become cheaper in New Zealand, when a ton of fine flour would be produced there as cheaply as in any country. But though the advantages of producing the export for the Australian market, may, as yet, rest with the two Americas, the advantages of getting the export to the market are all with New Zealand--for whilst she has only 1000, South America has 7000, and North America 14,000 miles of sea carriage. With regard to South Australia, no country produces a finer quality of wheat; but South Australia's "combined yield and certainty of crop" is scarcely equal to New Zealand's; and I do not imagine that she is capable of sending breadstuff's, and certainly not dairy produce, to Sydney and Melbourne at lower prices than New Zealand could supply them; whilst, as to Van Dieman's Land, however fertile and productive she may be, she is but small; and in the question of supplying future millions in Australia with food, Van Dieman's Land must be regarded as the orchard and kitchen-garden, rather than as the farm.
A late South Australian paper concludes an excellent article on the subject of the Victoria and South American flour markets, with these remarks:--
"The sum of the evidence given there by our practical
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agricultural witnesses is that 5s. a bushel for wheat would be a remunerative price for our South Australian farmers. 5s. per bushel for wheat would average £14 per ton for flour, at which price we need never despair of a market for any quantity. With wheat at 5s. per bushel, bread could be sold at 3 1/2d. the 2lb. loaf--a price quite low enough to satisfy the utmost craving for cheapness. So that, if the evidence quoted may be relied upon, it is perfectly clear that wheat in this colony may be cultivated to any extent with profit to the farmer, and at a price which no working man can have occasion to complain of.
"But the question is whether, as the land is now cultivated, wheat can be profitably sold at 5s. per bushel? Farmers say it is a paying price, and that even less would do; but it may be that a considerable portion of the land in crop would need greatly superior cultivation to that now bestowed before wheat, with present prices of labour, could be sold at a profit for 5s. per bushel. But, at the same time, it must be evident that an enhanced price can never be justified in order that inferior modes of cultivation may be protected. Better for the farmer to get a fair profit out of 5s. with good cultivation, than to get the same profit out of 7s. with bad cultivation.
"The price of wheat, however, will depend not only upon the supply and demand of South Australia, but with the demand of Victoria superadded. For years to come, Victoria must be a bread-importing country. The extent of her importations may vary, and a feeling in favour of raising supplies within the province may influence the markets in a slight degree; but it is as impossible to persuade the working men of the Victorian gold fields to follow the plough's tail as it would be to persuade the farmers of Mount Barker and Macclesfield to devote their energies to mining at Echunga. In Victoria, gold-digging pays better than wheat-growing, therefore they dig for gold. In South Australia wheat-growing pays better than gold-seeking, therefore they grow wheat. And as long as the Victorian gold fields are profitable, so
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long will the South Australian corn fields be profitable too.
"The wheat and flour market of Victoria is, of course, intimately affected by the importations from Chili. In the vast tracts of country at the foot of the Cordillera mountains an almost unlimited quantity of wheat can be grown; but it is quite an error to suppose that Chilian wheat and flour can be had at nominal prices. Nearly all the business at Valparaiso is transacted through merchants, who will not reduce the market to an unprofitable point. It must also be remembered that although there is plenty of wheat land in Chili, and notwithstanding that labour is cheap, the system of farming pursued is of the most rude and ineffective character. We are not to reason as if the Chilian farmers combined the advantages of high farming and improved implements with cheap land and cheap labour. They have the latter, but not the former; and are consequently placed so far at a disadvantage. The price of Chilian flour never ranges so low as to compete with South Australian wheat at 5s. per bushel. The minimum price of Chilian flour on board at Valparaiso is £10 per ton; but no dependence can ever be placed by importers on getting it at so low a figure. The Chilian market supplies not only the Australian colonies, but to some extent, the English market; and prices at Valparaiso are ruled by prices at Liverpool and London. The charge for freight between Valparaiso and Port Adelaide is about £5 per ton, to which must be added £3 more for commission, insurance, risk of damage, warehouse expenses, &c., making £8 per ton expenses of bringing the flour from South America to this port. Under the most favourable circumstances, therefore, Chilian flour could not be sold in the colonies under £18 per ton; but the average would probably be £20 per ton--equal to 7s. 6d. a bushel. The last cargo cost £25 per ton on landing; and the whole history of the flour trade between the South American coast and these colonies proves beyond a doubt that there is no competition from that quarter which can give the South
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Australian farmer cause to fear. If £20 a ton, or even if £15 a ton, is a paying price for flour here, with a natural protection of £8 resulting from proximity of the market, we must be unsuccessful indeed to be beaten."
The reader, however, must not suppose from these remarks on "Agricultural Markets" that New Zealand aspires to become the Sicily of Australia-- she boasts far higher industrial aims. She merely believes that when her colonists send a portion of their corn and esculents, butter and cheese, ham and bacon, fruits and honey of Hybla, to Australia --Australia's port and city populations, her voracious diggers, and drought-smitten "Knights of the pick," will be happy to buy such produce at good prices, and to pay for it in their brightest gold. 7
I would conclude these remarks on "Exports and Markets" with a cautionary hint to all New Zealand farmers, present or to come. Those semi-famine, "rush-to-the-diggings," prices, which put so much gold in our pockets in 1852, 1853 and 1854. are gone never, I think, to return. Seven to eight shillings a bushel for wheat, and five pounds per ton for picked potatoes, are probably the highest average prices (say
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FARMER'S SHEET ANCHOR.
for periods of five years) which for the future the Australian markets are likely to offer us. If the New Zealand farmer will only open one eye, keep the weed down, plough without his pipe, use a little less tobacco, a little more manure, and get to work before noon, these prices (free of rent, tax, and tythe) will richly pay him. But wheat and potatoes are bulky damageable articles; his Australian market is both a limited and a capricious market; and he and his fellows may produce far too much of these A's and B's of New Zealand agriculture. New Zealand dairy produce (firkins of fine butter, rich cheeses, noble hams and flitches of bacon), less bulky and less perishable than wheat and potatoes, would sell at high prices in twenty markets in the Australian and Indian Seas, where potatoes could not be carried, and where wheat would scarce command a bid. But the production of less corn and more dairy produce, though it would make the New Zealand farmer safer, would still not be sufficient to make him safe, and defiant alike of storms and times. The great, safe-and-certain, marketable export of New Zealand, one which can never be overdone, is Wool---fine combing wool for Leeds, Bradford, and France--not wheat and potatoes, butter and bacon, for Sydney and Melbourne.
In short, the New Zealand farmer should have three strings to his bow, of which the strongest should be the pastoral string; and that "use of the soil," that description of agriculture, which would prove
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both the most beneficial to the colony, and the safest and most lucrative to the agriculturist, would unquestionably lead to some such an apportionment of every 100 acres of farmed land as this:--
Fine wool-growing and sheep-breeding department (pasture)......50 acres.
Dairy-farm, and cattle-breeding and feeding department (pasture and roots).......25 acres
Arable department (grain, fruits and vegetables)......25 acres
NOTE.--Since the remarks, page 192, on the "re-naming" of New Zealand passed through the press, Mr. Hodgkinson, the writer of a good pamphlet on Canterbury, has suggested to me a new name for New Zealand--Zealandia. He observes that whilst this new name would not be an absolute departure from the old name, it would be a much more euphonious name, and one which would harmonize well with Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria: thus, Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Zealandia.
He remarks, too, that if precedents for "name changing" be wanted, they are close at hand:--
New Holland has been changed to Australia.
Van Dieman's Land " " Tasmania.
Port Philip " " Victoria.
Swan River " " West Australia.