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Thursday, 8 October 1936

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - At the outset I desire to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) on his excellent contribution to this debate last week. In , a sense he fired a considerable amount of my ammunition ; nevertheless, I desire to make some observations on this bill, because I am au fait with conditions in the industry. In fact, I am closely associated with it, and am in possession of first-hand knowledge which I desire to bring to the notice of honorable senators. The necessity for the introduction of this bill arises from the low prices generally prevailing on the market of the United Kingdom this season and the prohibitive cost of transport An examination of this industry reveals that overseas freight charges alone amount to more than one-half of the average gross price obtained by growers for their fruit. That is a heavy impost for any industry to bear. At the beginning of this season we were led to believe that, owing to an improvement of the conditions on overseas markets generally, and through the partial failure of the British crop, a stable market could be anticipated by Australian growers. In this connexion, authorities on marketing were most emphatic, and particularly did they . stress that the more favorable conditions would be experienced in the earlier part of our season. Unfortunately, this view was shared by many other persons, and the encouraging reports resulted in Australian growers shipping their fruit to the United Kingdom at a much earlier time and in greater quantities than usual. The consequences were disastrous to the consigning growers, because the market was overloaded, and the effect was reflected in the steadily declining prices for the fruit. Each succeeding month saw a reduction of prices,, although the fruit was of good quality, and was well packed. It is computed that the net loss to Tasmanian shippers alone for the past season has been not less than £194,000. This information is contained in an excellent report which has been prepared by Mr. Limbrick, B.A., B.Sc, who, after a careful investigation of the matter, submitted a few weeks ago a report on marketing and the industry generally to the Tas.manian Government. The position prevailing in Tasmania is in line with that iii the mainland States which export fruit. Some of them send a considerable proportion of their crop overseas, but not in the same proportion as the little State of Tasmania. The low returns which the mainland States have received for their fruit are similar to those of the Tasmanian growers. Owing to encouraging reports in the earlier part of the year, most of the exporting States placed an undue proportion of their fruit on the overseas market, and, although the balance which was left for consumption on the mainland brought slightly improved values, when compared with returns for previous years, the returns were not sufficient to compensate for the disastrous prices on the overseas markets. One of the prime factors affecting the marketing position is the inability of Australian growers at the present time, owing to the financial difficulties of other countries, to place a fair proportion of their crop on the Continental market. A few years ago, Australia disposed of approximately 1,500,000 cases of apples in Europe; the principal market was Germany, although Holland also purchased a considerable quantity. The European market was a goo'd one, too, but in recent years it has been practically closed to us. That, naturally, has reacted on the market of the United Kingdom.

Senator Brown - What is the explanation for the closing of the Continental market to Australia?

Senator SAMPSON - The inability of European countries to finance purchases except by a system of barter. This quantity of 1,500,000 cases of apples, which hitherto had been sold on the Continent, is one of the prime factors in the disorganization of the markets. If wo were to add that quantity of fruit to the British market, prices would recede to almost vanishing point; if it was withheld from export, and placed on the local market, the same result would accrue in Australia. I was interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition describe the system of deliberately allowing quantities of fruit to rot in the orchards as being both scandalous and wicked. The hon orable senator was quite right; I have seen the fruit being allowed to go to waste, but that could not be avoided. Time and time again in Tasmanian orchards this has happened, but such a policy does not reflect discredit on the growers. They would willingly have sold that fruit for about ls. a case or ls. 6d. a bag at the orchards, if it were not for the difficulty of transport and distribution. At times enterprising persons visit the orchards with horse and cart, purchase a quantity of fruit at the rate of ls. a sack and hawk it in the towns. It is regrettable to see fruit going to waste in the manner which the Leader of the Opposition described; but I stress that the difficulties of transport and distribution are the responsible factors. "Whilst I am unable to speak with certainty of the conditions in other States, I do know that in Tasmania the apple industry is conducted most efficiently. Furthermore, the problem of marketing has been attacked by the industry during the past few years from almost every angle. In the past much criticism has been voiced in regard to the packing and general "get-up" of fruit for export, and the opinion has frequently been expressed, by both official and private visitors to the United Kingdom, that if the fruit were packed in a manner equal to that of our competitors, the problem would be solved. In effect the critics said : " If you send the best of your fruit overseas and arrange it attractively in cases, your sales will be all right ". They also stated that this would result in a sufficiently increased demand to compensate for the loss of the continental market. Their advice was heeded; the best quality fruit was shipped overseas and was attractively packed and labelled. But their predictions were disproved by the actual test, because despite an added cost of 6d. a case expended on. improved case materials, attractive labelling, &c, strict control regulations equal in severity to any of a similar kind in the world, and an intensive advertising campaign in the United Kingdom, a satisfactory increase of price was not obtained. Every season Australia has a surplus of 1,500,000 cases of prime fruit which is the unbalancing factor in the industry.

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