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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I became interested in this item when I noticed that Australia imports argol to the value of £201,878. This enormous quantity ' impressed me, and I was rather puzzled, as I expect honorable senators are, as to what argol actually is. I discovered that argol is the basis or raw product out of which cream of tartar and tartaric acid are made. As there has been an enormous increase of the consumption of argol, particularly in Great Britain, for the manufacture of baking powder and self-raising flour, I began to make inquiries. I quote the following information from Thorpe's Dictionary of Applied Chemistry: -

Production of cream of tartar in France. - The wine districts of southern and southwestern France and Algeria are the largest sources of supply of cream of tartar in the world. It is estimated that Southern France and. North Africa produce on an average 10,000 tons of argols per annum. These crystals contain 75 per cent, of cream of tartar. Sometimes the scraping of the casks is deferred until two or three years' precipitation has accumulated.

This is a precipitate from wine, and the granulations are collected and refined to obtain cream of tartar and tartartic acid, which is used largely in baking powder, self-raising flour, and medicines, and is also used for dyeing. Tartaric acid is also used in the manufacture of drinks and confectionery. The dictionary proceeded -

In yearswhen the price of wine is low. the growers scrape their casks in order to supplement their income by the sale of the argols, and accordingly in such years as much as 12.000 tons of argols may be offered.

Dealing with the production and exportation of argol from France, it stated -

Of the average figure of 10,000 tons--

This figure apparently refers to the amount produced in. France, and, I understand, Northern Africa, which is controlled by France - it is estimated that some 4,000 tons find their way to two large American firms, whose importing head-quarters are at New York City. Of the remaining 6.000 tons, some 1.200 go to independent buyers in the United States of America, 2,000 ton's come to England, 2,000 tons arc used in France, and 800 tons go to Germany. Many of the largest American baking-powder companies do not buy cream of tartar, as they manufacture alum powders. Even the oldest American baking-powder companies are now adding tartaric acid to their formulas to replace a part of the cream of tartar formerly used. The English bakingpowder companies employ a higher proportion of tartaric acid than has 'been used in the United States of America until recently.

In 1933, 5,390 tons of argol were imported into the Commonwealth. Australia produces an average quantity of between 14,000,000 and 15,000,000 gallons of wine a year; but, so far as I can ascertain, only 50 tons of argol are made in the Commonwealth.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Not so much.

Senator ARKINS - According to the report of the Tariff Board which I have perused, the annual value of argol produced in Australia' is £3.300. Australia produces between 14,000,000 and 15,000,000 gallons of wine and approximately 50 tons of argol. France and northern Africa which produce 2.000,000,000 gallons of wine, manufacture only 10,000 tons of argol of which Australia . imports 5,000 tons. The United States of America produces between 80,000,000 and 90,000,000 gallons of wine. Judging by import figures the production of argol in that country is low, but consumption is high. Argol is a most important by-product of the wine . industry, being the raw material for the manufacture of valuable household commodities - cream of tartar and tartaric: acid. In its report on this subject the Tariff Board states -

A South Australian company is engaged in the production of tartrates from the waste products of the wine industry. At the present time it is treating lees and marc (pressed skins and seed) and is also purchasing argol from the wineries. The company is supplying material for about 50 tons of cream of tartar per annum, and estimates that if all the available material in Australia could be treated, the yield of tartrates would be sufficient to produce 400 tons of cream of tartar per annum. This would represent about 15 per cent, of Australian requirements.

A Sydney firm which was established in 1927 for the manufacture of cream of tartar is now producing yearly 2,400 tons of cream of tartar and 350 tons of tartaric acid. There must be some means of increasing two or three times the present production of argol from the quantity of wine manufactured in Australia.

Fermentation is a complicated chemical process, which it would be impossible for me to outline; but we well know that chemists in all countries are reporting wonderful achievements. When citric acid was produced from the skin of the lemon, Italy was the world's chief producer of this commodity; now as the result of scientific research enormous quantities of synthetic citric acid are being produced in many countries. In view of the possibilities of increased production of argol in Australia, the Government would be well advised to refer this interesting subject to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. At the present time, France practically supplies the world's requirements. Why this should be so, I do not know, although as I have stated, Franco and northern Africa are the world's largest producers of wine. Next come Spain and Portugal, with 649,000,000 gallons, the Danubian countries with 371,000,000 gallons; central Europe with 80,000,000 gallons, and the United States of America with between 80,000,000 and 90,000,000 gallons. The governments of all countries are realizing that not infrequently a by-product is more valuable than the main product itself. For instance, at one time coal was used merely for heating purposes. Now it is regarded as probably the world's most valuable mineral, yielding 80 different kinds of dies, and enormous quantities of oil and motor spirit, as well as many other by-products. The same interesting discoveries are related to copper. For many years Australian copper was sold to Germany, whereit was submitted to electrolytic treat ment, and yielded gold far greater in value than copper itself. Zinc concentrates were once regarded as waste. Now, in Tasmania, there is a thriving industry producing much wealth in the form of lead and silver from zinc concentrates. It is gratifying to know that South Australia has been so progressive as to utilize at least some portion of the waste products of the wine industry. I feel sure that the adoption of up-to-date methods for the extraction of the known valuable1 by-products of. Australian wine would lead to the establishment of an important industry in this country. I commend the suggestion to the consideration of the Government.

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