7 December 1841

TRANSACTIONS OF THE STATISTICAL SOCIETY-No. 1.

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE COMMERCIAL TRADE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA.

THE OLD PORT

IN the earliest period of the colony, the traffic that existed was naturally confined to the bare necessaries of life. Provisions were supplied from England by the Commissioners; this was effected by stipulating with owners of emigrant ships, to land in the province a quantity of store proportioned to the number of passengers they had each brought out. Subsequently merchandise and provisions were largely supplied from the neighbouring colonies.

About the middle of 1838, trade became more organised; shipments arrived direct from England the wholesale and retail trades were divided, and stores in town began to be erected.

Previously to the opening of the New Port (in October, 1840), cargoes were obliged to be discharged chiefly in ship's boats. The landing place was from a small boat canal cut from the creek, and only accessible for any description of craft at high-water, which, owing to peculiar phenomena, takes place here generally about sunrise and sunset. The bank on which the goods had to be landed being but slightly elevated, was subject to inundation at high tides, which occur frequently and at uncertain intervals, From this circumstance, which it was impossible then to remedy, a great quantity of goods were damaged, and others actually floated away. As it frequently happened that several ships would arrive together, their cargoes were crowded upon this miserable landing-place far quicker than drays could be procured for their removal, and they were thereby exposed to plunder and damage for many days.

Till the overland route from New South Wales was practically established, the supply of working bullocks was insufficient, which, together with the scarcity of labor, made cartage to the town (a distance of seven miles) extravagantly high. Pillage on the road was of frequent occurrence and which, from the impossibility of procuring other carriers, the owners of goods had little means of preventing.

Storage in town, at the period we treat of, was insufficient, from which cause many goods were again subjected to deterioration, not only from exposure to the wet, but also to the heat of the climate, which materially injures liquids, and causes the packages of many dry goods to shrink so as to fall in pieces.

These difficulties under which consignees labored rendered it nearly impossible to furnish complete and satisfactory account of sales for goods entrusted to their care. To obviate this, and to prevent the recurrence of similar causes of complaint, many parties were induced to build warehouses, for which the exhorbitant cost of labor and materials frequently carried the expenditure far beyond all calculation ; this has, with some justice, been pleaded as an excuse by some consignees for irregularity in their remittances, lt should, however, be borne in mind that, although consigners may have had to wait for returns, they have had, on the other hand, fewer losses to sustain from damage.

THE NEW PORT

The great inconvenience of the Old Port occasioned the formation of a new one in a more eligible situation-(the advantages of which are stated in another report). This was opened in October, 1840; since which period the management of goods has been rendered much more safe and easy, although the distance from the town makes a forwarding agent still necessary there. At the New Port, there are substantial bonding warehouses and cellars adequate to the present trade of the place; there is also in the town a bonding store for the convenience of mer chants, which is likely to be discontinued shortly.

TERMS OF TRADE

Goods are generally sold at a credit of three months, for which an acceptance is mostly given ;but for large parcels, or for articles of heavy sale, an extension of credit is sometimes allowed.

There exists no data on which to found a detailed statement of the Imports and Exports previously to this year, while the official returns published in the present one appear to your Sub committee too incorrect for insertion ; but they believe a better system is now in operation.

In the absence of official documents, your Subcommittee deem it right to enter at some length upon a statement of those goods which have hitherto formed the chief articles of commerce.

IMPORTS.

Our Imports have been hitherto chiefly provisions :

FLOUR - has been received principally from Van Diemen's Land and Sydney ; the consumption is about fifty tons per week. From the greatly increased quantity of land now under cultivation, it is supposed by some parties that an average crop will nearly suffice for our present population.

WHEAT - We have received our supplies for seed from Van Diemen's Land. Some parcels for grinding have arrived from India, but from its inferior quality this has proved almost unsale able, though introduced at a low price.

OATS - to a considerable extent have been imported from Van Diemen's Land. It is likely we shall have for some time to draw some sup plies from that source, the partial trials to grow this grain in our province not having always succeeded.

MAIZE - We have derived our supplies from various places. We expect our future crops will suffice for the consumption.

RICE - has been imported to some extent, chiefly cargo rice and paddy, which has been principally used for feeding poultry, for which purpose a remunerating price cannot be afforded. Patna rice was used to some extent in the absence of vegetables, the abundant supply of which will now materially diminish its consumption.

BEAN- has been largely imported, but this will cease after the coming harvest.

SALT BEEF - has arrived in limited quantities, but has never found a market.

SALT PORK - has been received and consumed to a great extent, but the supply of fresh meat is now both cheap and abundant, the consumption is gradually diminishing.

BUTTER AND CHEESE - are now produced at such low rates that the importation must cease.

POTATOS - we have been supplied with from Van Diemen's Land, but our own crops will for the future suffice.

COFFEE AND COCOA - there bas been trifling consumption of.

TEA - is consumed to a very large amount. Our supplies are derived chiefly from Singapore.

SUGAR - is used in large quantities, a great proportion of which is also derived from Singapore.

TIMBER AND DEALS - have been very largely imported from England, but from the decrease in building, and the more general use of native timber, the demand is greatly diminished. Baltic and New Zealand pine have been occasionally imported, but are no longer required. Stringy bark and gum timber were largely received from Van Diemen's Land, but the importation has now almost ceased; owing to the reduced rate of wages here enabling us to procure any quantity from the "Tiers." Shingles were largely imported, but, from the same cause, are now produced here at a moderate price. The introduction of slates considerably diminishes the consumption. Singapore Cedar has in considerable quantities superseded the use of deals ; it will not, however, bear a remunerating price. Sydney cedar, from its resemblance to mahogany, continues in trifling though steady demand for furniture.

BRACES - at the formation of the colony were brought from England, but have long since been made here.

SLATES - have been also imported from England. The discovery of excellent quarries in the province will supersede foreign supplies.

BEER - is largely imported and consumed.

WINE - The consumption is considerable, importations being chiefly from England and the Cape.

SPIRITS - have been imported to a great extent, but the reduction in wages very materially reduces the consumption. It being in contemplation to prohibit internal distillation, importations will be still required.

TOBACCO AND CIGARS.-These articles are received from various places ; the consumption is considerable. It is not probable that tobacco will be grown here, excepting for sheepwash.

MANUFACTURED GOODS - of all descriptions, including hardware, &c, will be required. These articles are generally a drug in the market, owing to the badness in selection of those sent out, which may be attributable to want of knowledge in the shippers.

SHEEP AND CATTLE - were at first largely imported by sea; subsequently numerous flocks and herds have arrived overland, which has entirely superseded the introduction of stock in vessels.

EXPORTS.

WOOL - is mostly sold to the merchants, but occasionally is consigned, through their hands, for sale in London, in which case an advance is given, approaching closely to the full value.

In some instances wool is taken by store keepers against the year's running account for goods supplied to the sheep farmer.

In the two last seasons so strong a desire existed to ship largely, that wool was purchased at too high a rate, and with little discrimination as to quality.

The relative high price given for unwashed wool became an inducement to flock-masters to shear in the grease, as they thereby saved expense of washing, and, at the same time, received a larger sum for their clip, owing to the weight of dirt contained in the fleece.

OIL AND WHALEBONE - The production is fully stated in the "Whaling" Report, it has been almost exclusively shipped for London by the proprietors of the fishery, a small portion only having been consumed in the colony. The export last year was about £10,000.

MIMOSA BARK - A small quantity has been shipped to England. Only a limited supply can be obtained, in consequence of the small growth of the trees here that produce the article; the quality is, however, very superior.

GUM - Some samples have been shipped, but the expense of collection is too great to make it a profitable remittance.

HIDES, HOOVE, HORNS, AND TIPS - in small quantities have been sent to England, and Van Diemen's Land. The principal part of the hides are tanned and consumed in the colony.

TIMBER - Arrangements are understood to be in progress to send some considerable quantity of stringy-bark and gum timber by the next wool ships for England.

Among the articles we look forward to as likely to become exports, we may mention

SLATES - Of these there is an unlimited supply of very good quality. The demand in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land is rapidly increasing, and as there are no quarries in either place known to your Sub-committee, they imagine the exportation will soon be considerable.

LEAD ORE - About a ton of this ore, which contains also silver (as detailed in a Report on Mines), was shipped in May last, per Cygnet for London. From the geological indications of this country, a considerable export of mineral productions is likely, at no distant date, to take place.

DAIRY PRODUCE - Small shipments of butter and cheese have already been made to the neighbouring colonies. This trade is likely to become considerable.

SALT BEEF - Should the present low price of cattle continue, a profitable trade is likely to arise in the salting down and exportation of beef to the Indian markets.

In concluding their remarks on the articles of merchandise, your Subcommittee must express their opinion that the Prices Current published in the Adelaide newspapers have been the source of great mischief, in consequence of the unaccountable inaccuracy of the quotations. We have reason to believe that more attention will be paid to this subject in future.

TRADING VESSELS

CAPE TRADE - There have been a few vessels from the Cape, with wines and fruit, but vessels casually touching there, when bound for this place, are likely to bring sufficient supplies.

COLONIAL TRADE - This is gradually diminish ing, owing to our supplying ourselves more and more with provisions, &c, which at the commencement of the colony we were obliged to draw largely from New South Wales and Van Die men's Land. The arrival of sheep and cattle overland has entirely superseded imports by sea. A great many vessels adapted to this trade were sent from England to those colonies for sale, but in consequence of the reduced number now required, they were either returned, or proceeded elsewhere in search of employment.

INDIAN TRADE - There has been considerable trade with India-chiefly with Singapore-which is likely to increase, Port Adelaide being particularly adapted for vessels to touch at on their way to the other colonies, or as a place from which, on favorable terms, they can tranship any surplus cargo for the other Australian markets.

THE CRISIS.

This colony, as well as New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, has been for a considerable time suffering under a severe monetary pressure. The causes of the derangements which have taken place appear to have been-

1- The great extent of banking accommodation afforded in the earlier stages of the colony.

2- The almost unlimited credit that was given upon all transactions.

3- The large Government expenditure which, in the early part of the present year, was suddenly checked.

The two former of these led to considerable speculation in land ; this continued without any material check till the end of 1839, and, indeed, as far as relates to land in the vicinity of the New Port, up to the end of last year. About the be ginning of 1840, the influx of emigrant capitalists obviously decreased, and fears began to be entertained as to the approval by the home authorities of so large a Government outlay. Confidence, during last year, was generally diminished, as the banks rapidly withdrew from individuals the accommodation previously afforded.

The high price at one time obtained for goods induced large and injudicious shipments from home, and also caused emigrants to invest in merchandise a large proportion of their capital, which in the majority of instances, being required for a speedy outlay, the owners were compelled to realise at once, and generally at a great sacrifice. From the progressive fall in the value of their stocks, many dealers who had been falsely considered as successful, unexpectedly discovered that they were insolvents. The subsequent loss upon their stock was augmented by their having to realise unsaleable goods that had been previously purchased for the sake of obtaining invoices that contained a portion of saleable articles.

The derangement in the money market continued to increase, as fears began to be entertained respecting the fate of the bills drawn by Colonel Gawler upon the Colonization Commissioners.

In the early part of this year, the actual dishonor of the above bills being known, confidence received a still further and very severe check. This caused some failures-to a less extent than might, however, have been expected ; nevertheless, it occasioned great embarrassment throughout the whole community.

This unpropitious state of things continued long after Governor Grey's arrival, he having brought no news as to the payment of previous bills, and being but inadequately furnished with financial powers for completing the necessary Government arrangements in the colony.

The exports-of wool from above 200,000 sheep- oil and whalebone from four bay-whaling establishments-and several less important articles of produce will, your Sub-committee anticipate, materially relieve our present position, particularly when to them is added the crops from more than 10,000acres now under cultivation.

A liberal Government expenditure for the next year or two would materially assist the colony in recovering from its present position, and which your Sub-committee cannot but consider as the more due to the settlers, as a great portion of their present difficulty has been occasioned by the instantaneous stoppage of the Commissioners' credit and finances.

DUTIES.

The following are at present the only Customs duties imposed, under that name, within the province, although there exists a Customs charge erroneously called "Wharfage" that is levied upon all goods landed from without this colony the rate varying from 5s. to 40s. per ton, according to the packages.

Customs' Duties

Spirits - foreign

Spirits - British possessions

Wine - foreign, ad valorem

Tobacco - manufactured

Tobacco - unmanufactured

Cigars

Spirits manufactured in the colony

12s per gal.

8s per gal

15 per cent.

ls 6d per lb.

ls per lb.

5s per lb.

4s per gal.

Goods imported in vessels belonging to powers with whom Great Britain has no treaty of reciprocity, pay ad valorem. 7½%.

The high rate of duty on spirits and tobacco has been the cause of much smuggling, which it is difficult to prevent on so extended a line of coast. The Government, finding it too expensive to collect the duty on spirits distilled in the colony, intend, it is said, the prohibition of internal distillation. At present, no measures are taken to enforce that duty.

OTHER ITEMS

POSTAGE - Previously to June last, postage was almost nominal. It is now 6d. per half ounce on foreign letters, with a graduated scale for inland ones. The Post Office regulations are superior to those of many country towns in England, although still rather inefficiently carried out.

The abolition of the station at Holdfast Bay has caused great delay in the receipt of mails from vessels arriving.

BANKS - There are in Adelaide two banks of deposit and issue; one belonging to the South Australian Company of London, conducted solely by a manager here; the other is a branch of the Bank of Australasia, established in London and most of the Australian colonies. Its affairs are conducted by a manager from home, assisted by two local directors.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - The principle persons connected with mercantile affairs formed themselves into a Chamber of Commerce, which being recognised by the Government as the organ of communication on matters affecting trade, has, by vigilantly watching over their commercial interests, been of considerable service to the community.

AN ASSURANCE COMPANY, under the title of the South Australian Marine and Fire and Life Assurance Company, was established in July, 1841, with a capital of £100,000, in 4000 shares of £25 each ; ten per cent, has been paid up on the shares as yet subscribed for. The rates for fire are, of necessity, considerably higher than in England ; but little is done in marine risks. The rates on lives are the same as those charged by some of the London companies.

THE ADELAIDE AUCTION COMPANY, with a capital of £50,000, in 5000 shares of 10 each, with ten per cent, paid up on nearly all the shares, was established in November, 1840, for effecting sales of land, stock, merchandise, &c. and for the purpose of making advances upon all descriptions of property lodged with full powers of sale.

A large portion of the business of these two companies consists of loans and discounts, for short periods, on properties which are without the province of legitimate banking operations.

Signed; H. W. PHILLIPS.

CHAS. BECK.

D. SUTHERLAND.

JACOB HAGEN.

In order to make this easier to read a few changes to the original paragraphs and headings have been made.

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