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Friday, 6 August 1926


Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of the measure is to enable those engaged in the production of canned fruits to effectively control the export and marketing of the surplus production which it is necessary to send abroad. The billis practically identical with measures that were passed by this Parliament in 1924, which conferred similar powers on the dried fruits and dairying industries. That legislation, during the short period of its existence, has led to satis- factory results. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has, in conjunction with its London agency, sold the whole of the surplus of the 1925 pack of currants, sultanas, and raisins, to the extent of 23,258 tons, at prices which would not have been realized under the previous unorganized system. That board has only recently secured a reduction i.u oversea freights, which this year will represent an additional return to growers of about £30,000. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board, under which last season's surplus of butter and cheese was sold, has saved producers about £20,000 in marine insurance, and has so regulated the supply of produce to Great Britain that the level of prices throughout the season has been on a more stable basis than heretofore. The Australian Fruit Canners' Association, which comprises all the leading cooperative and proprietary canneries in New South "Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, and with which is associated the State-controlled cannery at leeton, New South Wales, has asked for this legislation; and the Australian Canning Fruit-growers' Association, representing growers of canning fruits in New South Wales and Victoria, has. supported the request.

The bill is designed to include three varieties of fruit, namely, apricots, peaches, and pears. These are, with the exception of pineapples, the principal canning fruits of Australia, and constitute practically the whole of the exports. Pineapples, the canning of which is confined to Queensland, are excluded because almost all of the fruit processed is readily marketed in Australia, and this section of the industry is not concerned with the export trade at present. However, provision is made in the bill for the inclusion of this or any other canning fruit, should the necessity arise at any time. The bill provides for a poll to be taken of owners of canneries to determine whether it has their approval, and it will come into operation only in the event of a majority of the owners of canneries agreeing to it. The definition of cannery contained in the bill will not exclude any of the existing factories interested in the export trade, but will eliminate from the poll small factories which are not in any way concerned with exports. It is pro posed that the control of the marketing of exports shall be placed in the hands of a board consisting of three members, one elected by co-operative and Statecontrolled factories, one by proprietary factories, and one appointed by the Governor-General as the Government representative. It is considered that three members are sufficient to enable the board i.o efficiently function. The board may appoint a London agency, which will consist of such a number of persons as the board may decide ; but one of its members must be appointed as Government representative by the Governor-General. This agency will keep the board fully advised on all matters affecting the industry, and will assist in the sales of canned fruits abroad. The board will be financed from the proceeds of a levy on canned fruits exported. A separate bill will have to be introduced to enable this levy to be made. It will not exceed 3d. per dozen 30-oz. tins of fruit. The proceeds of the levy will be paid into a special fund, which may be drawn on by the board to defray expenses, advertising, &c, The export of canned fruits will be regulated by licences issued by the Minister on such terms and conditions as the board advises. This power of control is necessary to enable the board to regulate supplies and to control the avenue through which sales are effected. The bill does not in any way compel owners to export, but if they so desire, producers can place their fruit under the control of the board for shipment and sale abroad. The board can then market this produce, and, if necessary, obtain advances on it through the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The canned fruits industry is both a primary and a secondary one. The main production of fruit is on. the irrigation areas of Victoria and New South Wales, but large quantities are grown also in South Australia and Tasmania. The industry has rapidly /expanded in recent years, due largely to closer settlement schemes undertaken by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and the placing of returned soldiers on the land. Production has increased from 1,140,000 dozen 30-oz. tins in 1921-22, to 2,500,000 dozen tins in 1924-25. The quantity of fresh fruit used for canning purposes during the 1921-22 season was 14.431 tons, and 26,278 tons were absorbed by canneries during 1924- 25. The proportion of the production of fresh fruits (1924-25) in the -various States," is -

 

Although the consumption of canned fruits has increased from one to three tins per head of the population as a result of an extensive advertising campaign carried out by the Commonwealth Government, when winding up the fruit pools in 1923, it is necessary to export about 30 per cent, of the pack. The principal oversea market is Great Britain. Our export to that destination in 1922 was 450,000 dozen 30-oz. tins. In 1925 this trade increased to 850,000 dozen tins. The possibilities of this market may be gauged from the fact that the annual importations of canned fruits by Great Britain are about 4,000,000 dozen tins, 80 per cent, of which is received from California. It is expected that, as a result of the preference granted by Great Britain, the advertising campaign now about to commence, and the high grade and quality of the fruits, Australia willeach year secure an increasing proportion of this trade. New Zealand obtains about 66 per cent, of its requirements of canned fruits from Australia at the present time, although the preference granted to the Commonwealth by the Dominion is only 5 per cent, over foreign, countries. Since the Trade Reciprocal Agreement was concluded with Canada, small consignments of Australian canned fruits have been sent to that dominion, and there is every possibility of a trade being established. As is already well known, the Commonwealth has rendered substantial assistance to the canned-fruits industry. In 1923 the present Government wound up the pool, which had been in existence since 1920, and obtained the consent of Parliament to the payment of a bounty on production and export, for the season 1923-24. This bounty placed the industry in a very much improved position. During 1924-25 the Government paid a small subsidy on the export quota, of apricots and clingstone peaches sent to Great Britain to enable the Californian competitors to be faced. The total amount paid that year was approximately £10.000. This year also the Government is paying a subsidy, estimated at £19,000, on apricots and clingstone peaches exported to Groat Britain. The assistance given this year has enabled canners to sell practically the whole of the available surplus to one of the largest distributing associations in the United Kingdom, under an arrangement which will ensure that the fruit is sold, direct to the consumer under the Australian label. The bill will affect 22 fruit canneries : -

 

Seventeen of these factories are under proprietary control, or are privately owned. Four are owned by co-operative organizations, and one by the Government of New South Wales. A marked feature of the expansion of this industry has been the increase in the capacity and number of the co-operative canneries owned by fruit-growers. The cooperative and State-controlled canneries during the present season processed about 62 per cent, of the total production, and will export about 81 per cent, of the quantity to be consigned overseas. Three years ago the percentages were 42 per cent, and 45 per cent, respectively. It is satisfactory to note that the fruit packed for export this year is of ,a higher grade and quality than anything previously produced in the Commonwealth, and compares more than favorably with the Californian fruits sent to the United Kingdom. This result has- been obtained from the careful and rigid system of inspection carried out by Commonwealth officials in connexion with the packing of fruits for export. The annual value of the production of canned fruits in the Commonwealth to-day may be taken at not less than £1,000,000. In the actual production of the fruits, it is estimated that the growers and employees, apart from their dependants, number at least 5,000. At the various canneries throughout the Commonwealth a large body of workers are employed at good wages and under good living conditions for four or five months of the year. Provided that the present quality of the pack is maintained and that the system of sale and distribution is based on business-like lines, this industry is capable of considerable development in the Commonwealth, and will be found suitable for the settlement of a large number of people under very favorable conditions. The bill does not involve any new principle. It follows practically the same lines as the Dried Fruits Export Control Act which was passed by this Parliament.I therefore hope that honorable senators will be prepared to continue the debate to-day and pass the bill through its committee stage.







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