Mr Smithyman has a considerable plantation at Mokagai, and has from the first kept a very close account of his returns of produce and stock.
Experiments: He is of opinion that Sea Island cotton can only be grown to advantage on a dry soil—in a dry air, and near the sea. These conditions are found in perfection at Mokagai, and the Sea Island cotton produced there ranks very high.
The cotton season: On the other hand, the same dryness of soil and air will be likely to render it unsuitable for coffee and perhaps for sugar. The season for planting Sea Island, is from October to February inclusive.
Trees cleared and burned: At Mokagai it bears very quickly, and picking commences in the fourth month after planting. The cost of clearing and burning bush land is below 20 per acre, even where the bush is unusually heavy and the stump of the trees extracted. The usual course is to leave the stumps to rot in the ground, which they do in from 12 to 15 months.
Sea Island produces throughout the year, and the yield of the second year is quite equal in quantity to that of tho first, although the quality is a little coarser and the staple is not so long.
Third year: Mr Smithyman’s plantation is in its third year, and the yield shows no appreciable diminution. Tho best lands are those covered with bush or reed. Coarse grass land, with Nokonoko (ironwood), or Balava (screw pine), is very poor and bad. Pruning has not yet been tried at Mokaga
The return monthly from May, 1807, to May, 1868, the plantation, as near as could be estimated, being 44 acres, and the bushes from 6 to 18 months old.
Total for the year was 37,5931b: The monthly yields were, for June, 3021lb; July, 4274 ; August, 4965 ; September, 2910 ; October, 2506 ; November, 4346 ; December, 4927 ; January, 1728 ; February, 2820; March, 853 ; April, 2123 , and, to the 25th of the following month, 57491b. The total for the year was 37,5931b —equal to 8551b per acre of seed cotton. As a good deal of the plantation….was very young, the quantity for next year is estimated at one thousand lbs per acre. This would produce between 3001b and 3501b of ginned cotton, worth, according to some accounts, if properly sorted and sent to market, from 2 shillings to 2 and 6p per lb in Liverpool.
Sells for 6 pence a pound: In Levuka, it sells at only six pence, unginned, equal to—when thn cost of cleaning and baling added—10.5 and 11p per pound for cleaned cotton, The difference between this and the estimated Liverpool value is enormous, and only to be accounted for by imperfect modes of packing, or by want of competition among the few buyers hitherto in the islands.
A man picks about 30 pounds in weight per day: As to labour, a man picks about 30 pounds in weight per day. Rain shrivels up the cotton, and discolours it. This discolouration is more injurious to Sea Island than to the shorter descriptions.
Chickens and pigs among the cotton: There are also at Mokagai very fine poultry and remarkably good pigs. The fowls are of mixed Shanghai and Fiji breeds. They lay more or less throughout the year, and increase rapidly in despite of hawks, crabs, pigs, and wild cats. Goats flourish and give abundance of milk but, unless penned, are a great nuisance to the planter.
No fences: It must not be forgotten that in Fiji the plantations are never fenced. The small quantity of stock renders it easier to confine them in paddocks, and as there are no inducements to any, who have not islands to themselves, to keep much more stock than suffices for their own use, this inversion of the usual colonial system as to fencing will probably be permanent.
Otago Daily Times , Issue 2111, 10 November 1868, Page 3
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