Thursday, February 23, 1905
Apple Shipping and Rebate System:
To the Editor of the Register: -
At this time, when we are shut in from the outside world, it is a good thing to have some local question of interest to discuss. The writer subscribing himself One Interested, like Fruit Grower, seems to have great sympathy for the Steamship company. Neither of them says a word about the extravagant freight charges for carrying the apples, but both seem to think all wrongs would be righted if these companies did not pay back any of this money they receive to parties in the country. In my opinion the majority of shippers would be more interested in some practical scheme for reducing the freight rates than they are with what the companies do with this money after they get it. I presume their tender regard for these companies is the same as that given on behalf of the commission firms, which is to the effect that honest companies will be driven out of the business. This certainly would be a calamity.
The question is suggested why the steamship companies should have to pay rebates in this country when they do not pay them in Boston or Montreal. I think the rebate system grew out of two conditions. In the first place the shippers in this country are men with shipments averaging about ten barrels of apples, while from other ports the apples are shipped by dealers who control large quantities. With so many shippers of small lots the steamship companies could get no reliable guarantee of the quantity of apples offering for cargo without proper representatives at the different stations, and, in order to have these agents, they have to pay them. In the second place, Furness Withy & Co., adopted this scheme with the hope of monopolizing the fruit carrying trade. If the farmers should organize, as is proposed they will find the rebate system useful in making their company a profitable one.
Mr. S. C. Parker is to the front with a practical scheme to help the farmers. He has made a study of the subject and should understand it thoroughly.
A few years ago a scheme was started which was to give the farmers from 80 cents to $1.20 per hundred pounds, for the milk produced on their farms. The farmers subscribed $2,000. They received from 40 cents to 60 cents per hundred for their milk. They were dissatisfied and discouraged. The company failed and the farmers lost their money.
I have in my mind two other companies, into which the farmers were drawn to an extent, both of which resulted in failure. Is it any wonder that the farmers are cautious about taking hold of every scheme which is proposed?
Without taking up Mr. Parker's article in detail or at length, I will suggest what I consider a practical method of dealing with his proposal, a method by which the farmers may be perfectly secured in the proposed undertaking, without danger of loss. Mr. Parker states that a company controlling 10,000 barrels of apples can make a saving of 25 cents per barrel from certain sources: That the expense of warehousing, management, and labor will be about $500. If he will guarantee these statements in a substantial way, I will guarantee on behalf of the farmers to supply the 10,000 barrels for one year. We will give him full control of the management, reserving one condition, namely, that he give Fruit Grower and One Interested each a job in the warehouse, piling up apples that they may learn in a practical way why agents are willing to accept rebates. When Mr. Parker accepts this proposition - in the next issue of the Register - there will be no need of further argument upon the question.
In my opinion the whole system of individual packing and shipping is wrong. The best results would be obtained, and the most benefit derived through a company that would make a specialty of packing and selling of the apples. If a uniform brand could be secured that fruit might be sold here and not shipped across the Atlantic to be sold on commission. Businessmen do not dispose of their goods by sending them to be sold on commission. In what other business besides farming are the products disposed of in this way? I have had experience in the selling of apples in the markets and sending them on commission, and I know that the direct selling has yielded me the best results. It is a regrettable fact that some of our near by markets, such as St. John and Sydney obtain supplies of apples from Ontario, because they cannot depend upon the pack of apples from this valley, while our farmers send their apples to London to be sold mainly for the benefit of the steamship companies. A company organized without the benefits above indicated in view will never give the best results. A great difficulty would be found, however, in the way of the successful working of such a company, and that is the problem of handling with satisfaction to the growers such a lot of apples as were produced by the majority of our farmers this past season. I conclude that until the farmers are willing to adopt the best methods of raising the fruit they had better not branch out too much in other lines; for certainly if there is any one thing that the farmers should be able to do it is to grow the fruit. I believe, in fact, that the farmers of this valley have lost more this winter through the neglect of spraying the past summer, than they have through lack of co-operation in the shipping of fruit.
JOHN N. CHUTE.
Berwick, Feb. 21, 1905.