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The Demand for Flax., Issue 7914, 23 May 1889
The Demand for Flax.
Mr F. R. Webb, United States Consul at Auckland, in a letter to the ' New Zealand Herald,' says:—"The United States of America is probably the largest market in the world for rope and twine making fibres, and for many years xnaniia and latterly sisal have been almost exclusively used for the manufacture of white cordage and binder twine ; but the supply of manila has now become unequal to the increased demand, and a corner in both fibres having been recently formed in the interest of a large cordage manufacturing company, prices of raw material and manufactured goeds have advanced, and a substitute for the former is urgently needed to resist the monopoly thus created. The phormhim of New Zealand will fill this requirement if properly prepared and packed, but it should be of the best quality, and resemble or excel the manila fibre. If such can be shipped there is no doubt that a market offers for thousands of tons annually—in fact, for all that can be produced—but if the quality is not maintained as required the flax will be rejected and the market lost. Such being well known and indisputable facts, it would naturally bo supposed that packers all over tho cobny would vie with each other in the production of an article that would become indispensable to manufacturers. Manila fibre is a standard article of even quality and color, and such, I submit, it should be the aim of New Zealand producers to make their phormium fibre. But, sir, I have recently seen in this city packed for export unwieldy bales thereof of various sizes rough with tow, the hanks made up of passably good fibre on the outside, but inside coarse, uneven, badly-dressed, and discolored, with parts of the outside of the leaf adhering to the fibre —in fact, discreditable to the colony, and sure to injure the reputation of its products. I have heard that many years since a shipment of flax was made hence to New York, and when the bales were opened there the interior was found to contain dried cabbage stalks with heavy stones to make weight. One can hardly wonder that manufacturers ceased to use it after such an experience while they had any other resource, but now a fresh demand has sprung up, and another opportunity given to realise one of the most extensive of the resources of this country, and so urgent is the present call that orders have been given to have it forwarded by steamship and rail instead of the cheaper but slower way by sailing ship round Cape Horn, and it is for the manifest advantage of all concerned that a good article be supplied, for surely packers must see that otherwise orders will cease. Nature has bountifully supplied this favored country with timber, gum, and flax. It is only required of its people that they should properly prepare these valuable products for shipment to the large populations which require them. In a few years, comparatively, the two first-named will be exhausted, but phormium can be grown in your swamps to any extent forever ; and it seems to me to be iniquitous to export any but evenly and carefully prepared fibre, as by so doing a business which, if carried on as it should be, will prove to be a mine of wealth to the colony will stand a strong chance of being ruined. I am of opinion that it is the duty of all who have an interest in the prosperity and advancement of this beautiful country to do all in their power to prevent such a lamentable catastrophe."
The Demand for Flax., Issue 7914, 23 May 1889
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