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such delivery. There certainly would be a saving of the labour of making the butter at home, and the cost of putting it, when made, upon the nearest market; but these two items would be small compared to the heavy expense of two milk deliveries daily to the nearest creamery, even to those farmers who were situated within a few miles. All things considered, there would not seem to be any tangible benefit in the return of the separated milk, the outside value of which for feeding to calves or pigs has been frequently proved not to exceed one penny per gallon. Whenever an attempt is made to induce English farmers to combine in starting a creamery, the first question they naturally raise is what price they are likely to obtain for their milk. This, of course, depends on circumstances of many kinds, but by far the most important is the regular supply. No creamery can successfully deal with a large supply of grass-fed milk unless guaranteed a fair proportion during the winter half-year. After many years' experience in the working of a small creamery on the estate of Lord Hertford, I have found that the most certain way of inducing the farmers to send a regular supply is, first, to ascertain what amount they think they can send in throughout the year, and then to sign a contract, subject to certain fines, to take all their milk for one year, provided it never exceeds 25 per cent. over or declines to 25 per cent. under the quantity agreed to, at varying prices, according to the season. The average price paid to farmers by the above-named creamery for milk delivered twice on week days and once on Sundays was 6:41d. per imperial gallon during the year ending Lady Day, 1897, which is, I believe, a shade better than they would have made by consignment to milk dealers in London or Birmingham, after deducting the carriage. It was also more than they were entitled to on strictly business lines, as after pay
, ing rent of premises and all expenses, and purchasing from the tenantry some £1,000 worth of milk, there was an actual loss on the year's working of about £5; but if the price had been arranged at 6d. there would have been a fair working profit.
Mr. Plunkett stated that it required only 2 gallons of the milk received at the Irish creameries to produce 1 lb. of butter ; this being so, it proves that the milk was exceptionally rich. Ordinary English milk generally tests from 11 to 13 per cent. of cream, and it is not safe to calculate on more than one pound of butter from three gallons of milk all the year round. It will be obvious, therefore, that butter-making is the least remunerative business in connection with the creamery, and if it were not for considerable sales of new milk retail, and of cream, it would not be possible to pay 6d. per gallon. In the winter months there is generally a good trade to be done by the English creamery in separated milk, but in summer, or even in spring and autumn, the price obtainable, after payment of carriage by rail to the nearest big town, is barely remunerative, to say nothing of the constant loss by reason of the separated milk turning sour in course of delivery.
What, then, are the advantages from the farmer's point of view of the creamery system, provided he can obtain the same price as he would from a dealer at his nearest station ?
1. He knows the proprietor or manager, and feels more comfortable about his money, except in the case of well-known dairy companies who cut the price very fine.
2. More latitude as to quantity winter and summer.
3. If a co-operative concern, of which he is a member, a right of investigation and a voice in the management.
4. A market for his milk on Sundays when probably there is no Sunday train.
5. Less arduous hours of delivery, few creameries requiring delivery as soon as the departure of the early train for London or elsewhere.
6. Having his milk cans scalded by steam and handed back to him clean and sweet in a few moments.
All these are practical benefits, to say nothing of being able to settle disputes on the spot without a long and irritating correspondence; in fact they are practical as probably to induce most farmers to accept a slightly lower price from the creamery than they can obtain from the dealer. There is, however, no chance of a creamery, whether co-operative or otherwise, successfully competing with the milk-dealers in the large towns on main lines of railway, or where there is a good through connection of trains on weekdays and Sundays. They can only be started with any prospect of success in out-of-the-way places, or, at any rate, in districts where there are no Sunday trains. It makes no difference whether they are co-operative concerns or not; they must offer the producer, after taking all things into consideration, a better market than he can obtain elsewhere, or be will not support them. There is another aspect of the co-operative movement that must not be overlooked: although by producing an article in bulk of a reliable character it tends to level up the produce of many, it may also tend to level down the produce of some. Take, for instance, a district where most of the farmers send their butter to the nearest market to be sold by auction. Mr. A. obtains from 1s. to 18. 6d. all the year round, because his cows are carefully fed and his butter is well made and neatly packed, whereas Mr. B. only gets from 8d. to 1s. Now if a creamery is started
all the B.'s are the first to join, but the A.'s stand aloof, well knowing that if they sent their milk to the creamery they would lose their individuality, and with it their price. In fact it all comes to this, call it co-operation or concentration, or what you like, you obtain a better article and at a lower price; a splendid thing for the consumer, but not equally beneficial for all producers. I can well remember in the seventies, when a few first-class Sussex dairies sold their butter to shopkeepers in Brighton during the winter at ls. 10d. and ls. 11d. per lb., and you could buy rancid stuff in the second-class shops at 1s., or less. Now, partly owing to the great foreign competition, but also I think largely to the creamery system, the top price is unheard of, and the whole trade has become equalised. In the small towns in the Midlands, where hitherto the creamery in which I am interested has found a fair market, the price is regularly cut down every spring by the introduction of Irish butter, not sold as formerly in the form of tub butter either salted or mild cured, but got up in tasty-looking pound packets, and sold at the same price, very much to the disadvantage of the English producer. I have nothing to say as a farmer against co-operation among individuals, whether farmers or not, who confine their combinations to buying; it is then that they hit the traders, who must look out for themselves; but I am convinced that combination for the purpose of selling is against the first principle of trade, which is competition of individuals; and whether carried out under the vast system contemplated by Lord Winchelsea, or on the more modest lines of the Irish co-operative creameries, the tendency will be in the long run to reduce prices in the interest of the consumer, and very probably to supply him with a better article. The Irish
co-operative creameries sell their butter at an average price of 10 d. per lb., while some years ago English creameries could make yearly contracts at 16d. per lb. At the present time 14d. is top price for yearly contracts; in a few years more it will be a shilling. It is precisely the same in ineat and corn. Competition of individuals means diversity of price and survival of the fittest; combination of individual sellers, or co-operation, means concentration, equalisation of prices, and gradual reduction. If all the champagne intended for the English market were purchased by one firm and sold under one name, would it make the same price as that now obtained by wellknown firms? I think not. Then why should my butter, plums, or potatoes, all of which I pride myself are firstrate, sell any better by being consigned to a great central market? The principle may be right enough for mutual assurance or provident societies, where the strong help the weak and intend to do so; but it can never be so in trade, except to create a corner which temporarily enriches a few at the expense of the many.
Granted that the co-operative creameries of Ireland as organised by Mr. Plunkett have so far proved beneficial to the Irish farmer, so have similar organisations developed the butter trade from Denmark and other foreign countries greatly to their benefit, but whether English farmers have benefited or the reverse is, at any rate, an open question. No one can deny that the result of the extinction of the retail inilkmen by the great dairy companies has been to reduce the wholesale price of milk to an enormous extent.
Wherever the butter trade of England is conducted on the same lines there will in my humble opinion be the same reduction in prices.
GEORGE W. RAIKES, Fellow.