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Thursday, 8 October 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - Although not now personally interested in the apple and pear growing industry, either directly or indirectly, I was interested in the apple industry in New South Wales some years ago. Instead of granting bounties to the growers of these fruits, the Government should take cognizance of happenings in the English market. It is astonishing to learn from private sources that apples for which the growers receive 6s. 3d. or 6s. 6d. a case are sold in the British retail market at about 30s. a case. I do not know whether that is because the loss from bitter pit reduces the return to the grower, but the discrepancy between the wholesale and retail prices is so great that an investigation is warranted.

Senator Sampson - The trouble is tha; there are too many middlemen.

Senator ARKINS - If the middlemen are acting independently of one another, the competition should he keener and prices better. If they form combines, the results will, of course, be different. I understand that an export case contains between thirteen and fourteen dozen apples. On the mainland of Australia it is difficult to obtain apples over an extended period at ls. a dozen, but the price realized by the grower in the English market is only about 6d. a dozen. There would be no difficulty in obtaining 3d. a dozen in the big cities of Australia if regular supplies were maintained all the year round. People would rush them at the price. Now they find difficulty in obtaining them at ls. a dozen, and sometimes as much as ls. 6d. per dozen is charged for them. It would appear that in their desire to capture the English and Continental market the Tasmanian growers have lost sight of the market of the mainland of Australia.

Senator Sampson - No. Growers in the other States have forced the Tasmanian growers to seek oversea markets.

Senator ARKINS - I still believe that there is a large market available on tinmainland of Australia for good apple-1 at a price that the people can pay.

Senator E B Johnston - Good apple? cost threepence each in Sydney to-day.

Senator ARKINS - The people generally cannot afford to pay that price. I am afraid that our primary producers ure so concerned with prices that they overlook the fact that a bigger turnover at lower prices would give them equally satisfactory results. The people will buy n good commodity if they can afford it; but apples at 3d. each are beyond the reach of the average household. I am convinced that, provided good quality apples can be placed on the market all the year round, the people of this country could consume the bulk of the Australian crop. I do not know whether the apples which Senator Sampson sent to a friend i7i England were specially selected.

Senator Sampson - No; the apples were of fair average quality.

Senator ARKINS - The same care that was exercised in dealing with the apples sent by the honorable senator should he exercised in respect of ail apples which are exported. I agree that the apple industry should be assisted - and it may bo that the proposals embodied in this bill are little enough by way of assistance - but I still maintain that the discrepancy between the wholesale price and the retail price in England is too great. Judging by what Senator Sampson has told us, it would almost appear that those engaged in the apple trade in England are " crooks " who issue faked reports regarding diseased fruit and pile up their charges to such an extent as to compel exorbitant prices over the retail counter. The solution of the difficulty may be found in the exporters undertaking the distribution of their own fruit in Great Britain. In all our marketing there is a tendency to concentrate on the price to the producer, and to ignore the price charged to the consumer. If more consideration were given to the ability of the consumer to buy fruit, we should probably get nearer to the solution of the problem confronting the producer. High prices inevitably lead to glutted markets. It is high time that these matters were thoroughly investigated, in fairness to both the Australian producer and the English consumer.

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