1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Granaries
GRANARIES. From ancient times grain has been stored in greater or lesser bulk. The ancient Egyptians made a practice of preserving grain in years of plenty against years of scarcity, and probably Joseph only carried out on a large scale an habitual practice. The climate of Egypt being very dry, grain could be stored in pits for a long time without sensible loss of quality. The silo pit, as it has been termed, has been a favourite way of storing grain from time immemorial in all oriental lands. In Turkey and Persia usurers used to buy up wheat or barley when comparatively cheap, and store it in hidden pits against seasons of dearth. Probably that custom is not yet dead. In Malta a relatively large stock of wheat is always preserved in some hundreds of pits (silos) cut in the rock. A single silo will store from 60 to 80 tons of wheat, which, with proper precautions, will keep in good condition for four years or more. The silos are shaped like a cylinder resting on a truncated cone, and surmounted by the same figure. The mouth of the pit is round and small and covered by a stone slab, and the inside is lined with barley straw and kept very dry. Samples are occasionally taken from the wheat as from the hold of a ship, and at any signs of fermentation the granary is cleared and the wheat turned over, but such is the dryness of these silos that little trouble of this kind is experienced.
Towards the close of the 19th century warehouses specially intended for holding grain began to multiply in Great Britain, but America is the home of great granaries, known there as elevators. There are climatic difficulties in the way of storing grain in Great Britain on a large scale, but these difficulties have been largely overcome. To preserve grain in good condition it must be kept as much as possible from moisture and heat. New grain when brought into a warehouse has a tendency to sweat, and in this condition will easily heat. If the heating is allowed to continue the quality of the grain suffers. An effectual remedy is to turn out the grain in layers, not too thick, on a floor, and to keep turning it over so as to aerate it thoroughly. Grain can thus be conditioned for storage in silos. There is reason to think that grain in a sound and dry condition can be better stored in bins or dry pits than in the open air; from a series of experiments carried out on behalf of the French government it would seem that grain exposed to the air is decomposed at 31 times the rate of grain stored in silo or other bins.
In comparing the grain-storage system of Great Britain with that of North America it must be borne in mind that whereas Great Britain raises a comparatively small amount of grain, which is more or less rapidly consumed, grain-growing is one of the greatest industries of the United States and of Canada. The enormous surplus of wheat and maize produced in America can only be profitably dealt with by such a system of storage as has grown up there since the middle of the 19th century. The American farmer can store his wheat or maize at a moderate rate, and can get an advance on his warrant if he is in need of money. A holder of wheat in Chicago can withdraw a similar grade of wheat from a New York elevator.
Modern granaries are all built on much the same plan. The mechanical equipment for receiving and discharging grain is very similar in all modern warehouses. A granary is usually erected on a quay at which large vessels can lie and discharge. On the land side railway sidings connect the warehouse with the chief lines in its district; accessibility to a canal is an advantage. Ships are usually cleared by bucket elevators which are dipped into the cargo, though in some cases pneumatic elevators are substituted (see Conveyors). A travelling band with throw-off carriage will speedily distribute a heavy load of grain. Band conveyors serve equally well for charging or discharging the bins. Bins are invariably provided with hopper bottoms, and any bin can be effectively cleared by the band, which runs underneath, either in a cellar or in a specially constructed tunnel. All granaries should be provided with a sufficient plant of cleaning machinery to take from the grain impurities as would be likely to be detrimental to its storing qualities. Chief among such machines are the warehouse separators which work by sieves and air currents (see Flour and Flour Manufacture).
The typical grain warehouse is furnished with a number of chambers for grain storage which are known as silos, and may be built of wood, brick, iron or ferro-concrete. Wood silos are usually square, made of flat strips of wood nailed one on top of the other, and so overlapping each other at the corners that alternately a longitudinal and a transverse batten extends past the corner. The gaps are filled by short pieces of timber securely nailed, and the whole silo wall is thus solid. This type of bin was formerly in great favour, but it has certain drawbacks, such as the possibility of dry rot, while weevils are apt to harbour in the interstices unless lime washing is practised. Bricks and cement are good materials for constructing silos of hexagonal form, but necessitate deep foundations and substantial walls. Iron silos of circular form are used to some extent in Great Britain, but are more common in North and South America. In their case the walls are much thinner than with any other material, but the condensation against the inner wall in wet weather is a drawback in damp climates. Cylindrical tank silos have also been made of fire-proof tiles. Ferro-concrete silos have been built on both the Monier and the Hennebique systems. In the earlier type the bin was made of an iron or steel framework filled in with concrete, but more recent structures are composed entirely of steel rods embedded in cement. Granaries built of this material have the great advantage, if properly constructed, of being free from any risk of failure even in case of uneven expansion of the material. With brick silos collapses through pressure of the stored material are not unknown.
One of the largest and most complete grain elevators or warehouses in the world belongs to the Canadian Northern Railway Company, and was erected at Port Arthur, Canada, in 1901–1904. It has a total storage capacity of 7,000,000 bushels, or 875,000 qrs. of 480 ℔. The range of buildings Port Arthur, Canada. and bins forms an oblong, and consists of two storage houses, B and C, placed between two working or receiving houses A and D (fig. 1). The receiving houses are fed by railway sidings. House A, for example, has two sidings, one running through it and the other beside it. Each siding serves five receiving pits, and a receiving elevator of 10,000 ℔ capacity per minute, or 60,000 bushels per hour, can draw grain from either of two pits. Five elevators of 12,000 bushels per hour on the other side of the house serve five warehouse separators, and all the grain received or discharged is weighed, there being ten sets of automatic scales in the upper part of the house, known as the cupola. The hopper of each weigher can take a charge of 1400 bushels (84,000 ℔). Grain can be conveyed either vertically or horizontally to any part of the house, into any of the bins in the annex B, or into any truck or lake steamer. This house is constructed of timber and roofed with corrugated iron. The conveyor belts are 36 in. wide; those at the top of the house are provided with throw-off carriages. The dust from the cleaning machinery is carefully collected and spouted to the furnace under the boiler house, where it is consumed. The cylindrical silo bins in the storage houses consist of hollow tiles of burned clay which, it is claimed, are fire-proof. The tiles are laid on end and are about 12 in. by 12 in. and from 4 in. to 6 in. in thickness according to the size of the bin. Each alternate course consists of grooved blocks of channel tile forming a continuous groove or belt round the bin. This groove receives a steel band acting as a tension member and resisting the lateral pressure of the grain. The steel bands once in position, the groove is completely filled with cement grout by which the steel is encased and protected. Usually the bottoms of the bins are furnished with self-discharging hoppers of weak cinder or gravel concrete finished with cement mortar. For the foundation or supporting floor reinforced concrete is frequently used. The tiles already described are faced with tiles 1 to 1 in. thick, which are laid solid in cement mortar covering the whole exterior of the bin. Any damage to the facing tiles can easily be repaired since they can be removed and replaced without affecting the main bin walls. It is claimed that these facers constitute the best possible protection against fire. A steel framework, covered with tiles, crowns these circular bins and contains the conveyors and spouts which are used to fill the bins. Five tunnels in the concrete bedding that supports the bins carry the belt conveyors which bring back the grain to the working house for cleaning or shipment. There are altogether in each of the storage houses 80 circular bins, each 21 ft. in diameter, and so grouped as to form 63 smaller interspace bins, or 143 bins in all. Each bin will store grain in a column 85 ft. deep, and the whole group has a capacity of 2,500,000 bushels. These bins were all constructed by the Barnett & Record Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A., in accordance with the Johnson & Record patent system of fire-proof tile grain storage construction. In case one of the working houses is attacked by fire the fire-proof storage houses protect not only their own contents but also the other working house, and in the event of its disablement or destruction the remaining one can be easily connected with both the storage houses and handle their contents.
Circular tank silos have not been extensively adopted in Great Britain, but a typical silo tank installation exists at the Walmsley & Smith flour mills which stand beside the Devonshire dock at Barrow-in-Furness. There four circular bins, built of riveted steel Barrow-in-Furness. plates, stand in a group on a quadrangle close to the mill warehouse. A covered gantry, through which passes a band conveyor, runs from the mill warehouse to the working silo house which stands in the central space amid the four steel tanks. The tanks are 70 ft. high, with a diameter of 45 ft., and rest on foundations of concrete and steel. Each has a separate conical roof and they are flat-bottomed, the grain resting directly on the steel and concrete foundation bed. As the load of the full tank is very heavy its even distribution on the bed is considered a point of importance. Each tank can hold about 2500 tons of wheat, which gives a total storage capacity for the four bins of over 45,000 qrs. of 480 ℔. Attached to the mill warehouse is a skip elevator with a discharging capacity of 75 tons an hour. The grain is cleared by this elevator from the hold or holds of the vessel to be unloaded, and is delivered to the basement of the warehouse. Thence it is elevated to an upper storey and passed through an automatic weigher capable of taking a charge of 1 ton. From the weighing machine it can be taken, with or without a preliminary cleaning, to any floor of the warehouse, which has a total storing capacity of 8000 tons, or it can be carried by the band conveyor through the gantry to the working house of the silo installation and distributed to any one of the four tank silos. There is also a connexion by a band conveyor running through a covered gantry into the mill, which stands immediately in the rear. It is perfectly easy to turn over the contents of any tank into any other tank. The whole intake and wheat handling plant is moved by two electro-motors of 35 H.P. each, one installed in the warehouse and the other in the silo working house. Steel silo tanks have the advantage of storing a heavy stock of wheat at comparatively small capital outlay. On an average an ordinary silo bin will not hold more than 500 to 1000 qrs., but each of the bins at Barrow will contain 2500 tons or over 1100 qrs. The steel construction also reduces the risk of fire and consequently lessens the fire premium.
The important granaries at the Liverpool docks date from 1868, but have since been brought up to modern requirements. The warehouses on the Waterloo docks have an aggregate storage area of 113 acres, while the sister warehouses on the Birkenhead side, which stand on the margin of the great float,Liverpool. have an area of 11 acres. The total capacity of these warehouses is about 200,000 qrs.
The grain warehouse of the Manchester docks at Trafford wharf is locally known as the grain elevator, because it was built to a great extent on the model of an American elevator. Some of the mechanical equipment was supplied by a Chicago firm. The total capacity is 1,500,000 bushels orManchester. 40,000 tons of grain, which is stored in 226 separate bins. The granary proper stands about 340 ft. from the side of the dock, but is directly connected with the receiving tower, which rises at the water’s edge, by a band conveyor protected by a gantry. The main building is 448 ft. long by 80 ft. wide; the whole of the superstructure was constructed of wood with an external casing of brickwork and tiles. The receiving tower is fitted with a bucket elevator capable, within fairly wide limits, of adjustment to the level of the hold to be unloaded. The elevator has the large unloading capacity of 350 tons per hour, assuming it to be working in a full hold. It is supplemented by a pneumatic elevator (Duckham system) which can raise 200 tons per hour and is used chiefly in dealing with parcels of grain or in clearing grain out of holds which the ordinary elevator cannot reach. The power required to work the large elevator as well as the various band conveyors is supplied by two sets of horizontal Corliss compound engines of 500 H.P. jointly, which are fed by two Galloway boilers working at 100 ℔ pressure. The pneumatic elevator is driven by two sets of triple expansion vertical engines of 600 H.P. fed by three boilers working at a pressure of 160 ℔. The grain received in the tower is automatically weighed. From the receiving tower the grain is conveyed into the warehouse where it is at once elevated to the top of a central tower, and is thence distributed to any of the bins by band conveyors in the usual way. The mechanical equipment of this warehouse is very complete, and the following several operations can be simultaneously effected: discharging grain from vessels in the dock at the rate of 350 tons per hour; weighing in the tower; conveying grain into the warehouse and distributing it into any of the 226 bins; moving grain from bin to bin either for aerating or delivery, and simultaneously weighing in bulk at the rate of 500 tons per hour; sacking grain, weighing and loading the sacks into 40 railway trucks and 10 carts simultaneously; loading grain from the warehouse into barges or coasting craft at the rate of 150 tons per hour in bulk or of 250 sacks per hour. This warehouse is equipped with a dryer of American construction, which can deal with 50 tons of damp grain at one time, and is connected with the whole bin system so that grain can be readily moved from any bin to the dryer or conversely.
A grain warehouse at the Victoria docks, London, belonging to the London and India Docks Company (fig. 2) has a storing capacity of about 25,000 qrs. or 200,000 bushels. It is over 100 ft. high, and is built on the American plan of interlaced timbers resting on iron columns. The walls are externally casedLondon. with steel plates. The grain is stored in 56 silos, most of which are about 10 ft. square by 50 ft. deep. The intake plant has a capacity of 100 tons of wheat an hour, and includes six automatic grain scales, each of which can weigh off one sack at a time. The main delivery floor of the warehouse is at a convenient height above the ground level. Portable automatic weighing machines can be placed under any bin. The whole of the plant is driven by electric motors, one being allotted to each machine.
The transit silos of the London Grain Elevator Company, also at the Victoria docks, consist of four complete and independent installations standing on three tongues of land which project into the water (figs. 2 and 3). Each silo house is furnished with eight bins, each of which, 12 ft. square by 80 ft. deep, has a capacity of 1000 qrs. of grain. A kind of well in the middle of each silo house contains the necessary elevators, staircases, &c. The silo bins in each granary are erected on a massive cast iron tank forming a sort of cellar, which rests on a concrete foundation 6 ft. thick. The base of the tank is 30 ft. below the water level. The silos are formed of wooden battens nailed one on top of the other, the pieces interlacing. Rolled steel girders resting on cast iron columns support the silos. To ensure a clean discharge the hopper bottoms were designed so as to avoid joints and thus to be free from rivets or similar protuberances. The exterior of each silo house is covered with corrugated iron, and the same material is used for the roofing. No conveyors serve the silo bins, as the elevators which rise above the tops of the silos can feed any one of them by gravity. There are three delivery elevators to each granary, one with a capacity of 120 tons and the other two of 100 tons each an hour. Each silo house is served by a large elevator with a capacity of 120 tons per hour, which discharges into the elevator well inside the house. The delivery elevators discharge into a receiving shed in which there is a large hopper feeding six automatic weighing machines. Each charge as it is weighed empties itself automatically into sacks, which are then ready for loading. Each pair of warehouses is provided with a conveyor band 308 ft. long, used either for carrying sacks from the weighing sheds to railway trucks or for carrying grain in bulk to barges or trucks. Each silo house has an identical mechanical equipment apart from the delivery band it shares with its fellow warehouse. All operations in connexion with the silo houses are effected under cover. The silos are normally fed by a fleet of twenty-six of Philip’s patent self-discharging lighters. These craft are hopper-bottomed and fitted with band conveyors of the ordinary type, running between the double keelson of the lighter and delivering into an elevator erected at the stern of the lighter. By this means little trimming is required after the barge, which holds about 200 tons of grain, has been cleared. Ocean steamers of such draft as to preclude their entry into any of the up river docks are cleared at Tilbury by these lighters. It is said that grain loaded at Tilbury into these lighters can be delivered from the transit silos to railway trucks or barges in about six hours. The total storage capacity of the silos amounts to 32,000 qrs. The motive power is furnished by 14 gas engines of a total capacity of 366 H.P.
Two of the largest granaries on the continent of Europe are situated at the mouth of the Danube, at Braila and Galatz, in Rumania, and serve for both the reception and discharge of grain. At the edge of the quay on which these warehouses are built there are rails with a gauge of 111 ft., upon whichRumania. run two mechanical loading and unloading appliances. The first consists of a telescopic elevator which raises the grain and delivers it to one of the two band conveyors at the head of the apparatus. Each of these bands feeds automatic weighing machines with an hourly capacity of 75 tons. From these weighers the grain is either discharged through a manhole in the ground to a band conveyor running in a tunnel parallel to the quay wall, or it is raised by a second elevator (part of the same unloading apparatus), set at an inclined angle, which delivers at a sufficient height to load railway trucks on the siding running parallel to the quay. A turning gear is provided so as to reverse, if required, the operation of the whole apparatus, that the portion overhanging the water can be turned to the land side. The unloading capacity is 150 tons of grain per hour. If it be desired to load a ship the telescopic elevator has only to be turned round and dipped into any one of 15 wells, which can be filled up with grain from the land side. The capacity of each granary is 233,333 qrs.
Many large granaries have been built, in which grain is stored on open floors, in bulk or in sacks. A notable instance is the warehouse of the city of Stuttgart. This is a structure of seven floors, including a basement and entresol. An engine house accommodates two gas engines as well as anStuttgart. hydraulic installation for the lifts. The grain is received by an elevator from the railway trucks, and is delivered to a weighing machine from which it is carried by a second elevator to the top storey, where it is fed to a band running the length of the building. A system of pipes runs from floor to floor, and by means of the band conveyor with its movable throw-off carriage grain can be shot to any floor. A second band conveyor is installed in the entresol floor, and serves to convey grain either to the elevator, if it is desired to elevate it to the top floor, or to the loading shed. A second elevator runs through the centre of the building, and is provided with a spout by means of which grain can be delivered into the hopper feeding the cleaning machine, whence the grain passes into a second hopper under which is an automatic weigher; directly under this weigher the grain is sacked.
A good example of a grain warehouse on the combined silo bin and floor storage system is afforded by the granary at Mannheim on the Rhine, which has the storage capacity of 2100 tons. The building is 370 ft. in length, 78 ft. wide and 78 ft. high, and by means of transverse walls it is divided into threeMannheim. sections; of these one contains silos, in another section grain is stored on open floors, while the third, which is situated between the other two, is the grain-cleaning department. This granary stands by the quay side, and a ship elevator of great capacity, which serves the cleaning department, can rapidly clear any ship or barge beneath. The central or screening house section contains machinery specially designed for cleaning barley as well as wheat. The barley plant has a capacity of 5 tons per hour. There are four main elevators in this warehouse, while two more serve the screen house. The usual band conveyors fitted with throw-off carriages are provided, and are supplemented by an elaborate system of pipes which receive grain from the elevators and bands and distribute it at any required point. The plant is operated by electric motors. If desired the floors of the non-silo section can be utilized for storing other goods than grain, and to this end a lift with a capacity of 1 ton runs from the basement to the top storey. The combined capacity of the elevators and conveyors is 100 tons of grain per hour. The mechanical equipment is so complete that four distinct operations are claimed as possible. A ship may be unloaded into silos or into the granary floors, and may simultaneously be loaded either from silos or floors with different kinds of grain. Again, a cargo may be discharged either into silos or upon the floors, and simultaneously the grain may be cleaned. Grain may also be cleared from a vessel, mixed with other grain already received, and then distributed to any desired point. With equal facility grain may be cleaned, blended with other varieties, re-stored in any section of the granary, and transferred from one ship to another.
A granary with special features of interest, erected on the quay at Dortmund, Germany, by a co-operative society, is built of brick on a base of hewn stone, with beams and supports of timber. It is 78 ft. high and consists of seven floors, including basement and attic. Here again there are two sections,Dortmund. the larger being devoted to the storage of grain in low bins, while the smaller section consists of an ordinary silo house. Grain in sacks may be stored in the basement of the larger section which has a capacity of 1675 tons as compared with 825 tons in the silo department. Thus the total storage capacity is 2500 tons. In the silo house the bins, constructed of planks nailed one over the other, are of varying size and are capable of storing grain to a depth of 42 to 47 ft. Some of the bins have been specially adapted for receiving damp grain by being provided internally with transverse wooden arms which form square or lozenge-shaped sections. The object of this arrangement is to break up and aerate the stored grain. The arms are of triangular section and are slightly hollowed at the base so as to bring a current of air into direct contact with the grain. The air can be warmed if necessary. The other and larger section of the granary is provided with 105 bins of moderate height arranged in groups of 21 on the five floors between the basement and attic. On the intermediate floors and the bottom floor each bin lies exactly under the bin above. Grain is not stored in these bins to a greater depth than 5 ft. The bins are fitted with removable side walls, and damp grain is only stored in certain bins aerated for half the area of their side walls through a wire mesh. The arrangements for distributing grain in this warehouse are very complete. The uncleaned grain is taken by the receiving elevator, with a lifting capacity of 20 tons per hour, to a warehouse separator, whence it is passed through an automatic weigher and is then either sacked or spouted to the main elevator (capacity 25 tons per hour) and elevated to the attic. From the head of this main elevator the grain can either be fed to a bin in one or other of the main granary floors, or shot to one of the bins in the silo house. In the attic the grain is carried by a spout and belt conveyor to one or other of the turntables, as the appliances may be termed, which serve to distribute through spouts the grain to any one of the floor or silo bins. Alternatively, the grain may be shot into the basement and there fed back into the main elevator by a band conveyor. In this way the grain may be turned over as often as it is deemed necessary. At the bottom of each bin are four apertures connected by spouts, both with the bin below and with the central vertical pipe which passes down through the centre of each group of bins. To regulate the course of the grain from bin to bin or from bin to central pipe, the connecting spouts are fitted with valves of ingenious yet simple construction which deflect the grain in any desired direction, so that the contents of two or more bins may be blended, or grain may be transferred from a bin on one floor to a bin on a lower floor, missing the bin on the floor between. The valves are controlled by chains from the basement.
With reference to the floor bins used at Dortmund, it may be observed that there are granaries built on a similar principle in the United Kingdom. It is probable that bins of moderate height are more suitable for storing grain containing a considerable amount of moisture than deep silos, whether made of wood, ferro-concrete or other material. For one thing floor bins of the Dortmund pattern can be more effectually aerated than deep silos. German wheat has many characteristics in common with British, and, especially in north Germany, is not infrequently harvested in a more or less damp condition. In the United Kingdom, Messrs Spencer & Co., of Melksham, have erected several granaries on the floor-bin principle, and have adopted an ingenious system of “telescopic” spouting, by means of which grain may be discharged from one bin to another or at any desired point. This spouting can be applied to bins either with level floors or with hoppered bottoms, if they are arranged one above the other on the different floors, and is so constructed that an opening can be effected at certain points by simply sliding upwards a section of the spout.
National Granaries.—Wheat forms the staple food of a large proportion of the population of the British Isles, and of the total amount consumed about four-fifths is sea-borne. The stocks normally held in the country being limited, serious consequences might result from any interruption of the supply, such as might occur were Great Britain involved in war with a power or powers commanding a strong fleet. To meet this contingency it has been suggested that the State should establish granaries containing a national reserve of wheat for use in emergency, or should adopt measures calculated to induce merchants, millers, &c., to hold larger stocks than at present and to stimulate the production of home-grown wheat.
Stocks of wheat (and of flour expressed in its equivalent weight
of wheat) are held by merchants, millers and farmers. Merchants’
stocks are kept in granaries at ports of importation
and are known as first-hand stocks. Stocks of wheat
and flour in the hands of millers and of flour held byAmount
of stocks. bakers are termed second-hand stocks, while farmers’ stocks only consist of native wheat. Periodical returns are generally made of first-hand or port stocks, nor should a wide margin of error be possible in the case of farmers’ stocks, but second-hand stocks are more difficult to gauge. Since the last decade of the 19th century the storage capacity of British mills has considerably increased. As the number of small mills has diminished the capacity of the bigger ones has increased, and proportionately their warehousing accommodation has been enlarged. At the present time first-hand stocks tend to diminish because a larger proportion of millers’ holdings are in mill granaries and silo houses. The immense preponderance of steamers over sailing vessels in the grain trade has also had the effect of greatly diminishing stocks. With his cargo or parcel on a steamer a corn merchant can tell almost to a day when it will be due. In fact foreign wheat owned by British merchants is to a great extent stored in foreign granaries in preference to British warehouses. The merchant’s risk is thereby lessened to a certain extent. When his wheat has been brought into a British port, to send it farther afield means extra expense. But wheat in an American or Argentine elevator may be ordered wherever the best price can be obtained for it. Options or “futures,” too, have helped to restrict the size of wheat stocks in the United Kingdom. A merchant buys a cargo of wheat on passage for arrival at a definite time, and, lest the market value of grain should have depreciated by the time it arrives, he sells an option against it. In this way he hedges his deal, the option serving as insurance against loss. This is why the British corn trade finds it less risky to limit purchases to bare needs, protecting itself by option deals, than to store large quantities which may depreciate and involve their owners in loss.
Varying estimates have been made of the number of weeks’ supply of breadstuffs (wheat and flour) held by millers at various seasons of the year. A table compiled by the secretary of the National Association of British and Irish Millers from returns for 1902 made by 170 milling firms showed 4.7, 4.9, 4.9 and 5 weeks’ supply at the end of March, June, September and December respectively. These 170 mills were said to represent 46% of the milling capacity of the United Kingdom, and claimed to have ground 12,000,000 qrs. out of 25,349,000 qrs. milled in 1902. These were obviously large mills; it is probable that the other mills would not have shown anything like such a proportion of stock of either raw or finished material. A fair estimate of the stocks normally held by millers and bakers throughout the United Kingdom would be about four weeks’ supply. First-hand stocks vary considerably, but the limits are definite, ranging from 1,000,000 to 3,500,000 qrs., the latter being a high figure. The tendency is for first-hand stocks to decline, but two weeks’ supply must be a minimum. Farmers’ stocks necessarily vary with the size of the crop and the period of the year; they will range from 9 or 10 weeks on the 1st of September to a half week on the 1st of August. Taking all the stocks together, it is very exceptional for the stock of breadstuffs to fall below 7 weeks’ supply. Between the cereal years 1893–1894 and 1903–1904, a period of 570 weeks, the stocks of all kinds fell below 7 weeks’ supply in only 9 weeks; of these 9 weeks 7 were between the beginning of June and the end of August 1898. This was immediately after the Leiter collapse. In seven of these eleven years there is no instance of stocks falling below 8 weeks’ supply. In 21 out of these 570 weeks and in 39 weeks during the same period stocks dropped below 71 and 8 weeks’ supply respectively. Roughly speaking the stock of wheat available for bread-making varies from a two to four months’ supply and is at times well above the latter figure.
The formation of a national reserve of wheat, to be held at the disposal of the state in case of urgent need during war, is beset by many practical difficulties. The father of the scheme was probably The Miller, a well-known trade journal. In March and April 1886 two articlesNational reserve. appeared in that paper under the heading “Years of Plenty and State Granaries,” in which it was urged that to meet the risk of hostile cruisers interrupting the supplies it would be desirable to lay up in granaries on British soil and under government control a stock of wheat sufficient for 12 or alternatively 6 months’ consumption. This was to be national property, not to be touched except when the fortune of war sent up the price of wheat to a famine level or caused severe distress. The State holding this large stock—a year’s supply of foreign grain would have meant at least 15,000,000 qrs., and have cost about £25,000,000 exclusive of warehousing—was in peace time to sell no wheat except when it became necessary to part with stock as a precautionary measure. In that case the wheat sold was to be replaced by the same amount of new grain. The idea was to provide the country with a supply of wheat until sufficient wheat-growing soil could be broken up to make it practically self-sufficing in respect of wheat. The original suggestion fell quite flat. Two years later Captain Warren, R.N., read a paper on “Great Britain’s Corn Supplies in War,” before the London Chamber of Commerce, and accepted national granaries as the only practicable safeguard against what appeared to him a great peril. The representatives of the shipping interest opposed the scheme, probably because it appeared to them likely to divert the public from insisting on an all-powerful navy. The corn trade opposed the project on account of its great practical difficulties. But constant contraction of the British wheat acreage kept the question alive, and during the earlier half of the ’nineties it was a favourite theme with agriculturists. Some influential members of parliament pressed the matter on the government, who, acting, no doubt, on the advice of their military and naval experts, refused either a royal commission or a departmental committee. While the then technical advisers of the government were divided on the advisability of establishing national granaries as a defensive measure, the balance of expert opinion was adverse to the scheme. Lord Wolseley, then commander-in-chief, publicly stigmatized the theory that Great Britain might in war be starved into submission as “unmitigated humbug.”
In spite of official discouragement the agitation continued, and early in 1897 the council of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture, at the suggestion to a great extent of Mr R. A. Yerburgh, M.P., nominated a committee to examine the question of nationalYerburgh committee. wheat stores. This committee held thirteen sittings and examined fifty-four witnesses. Its report, which was published (L. G. Newman & Co., 12 Finsbury Square, London, E.C.) with minutes of the evidence taken, practically recommended that a national reserve of wheat on the lines already sketched should be formed and administered by the State, and that the government should be strongly urged to obtain the appointment of a royal commission, comprising representatives of agriculture, the corn trade, shipping, and the army and navy, to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into the whole subject of the national food-supply in case of war. This recommendation was ultimately carried into effect, but not till nearly five years had elapsed. Of two schemes for national granaries put before the Yerburgh committee, one was formulated by Mr Seth Taylor, a London miller and corn merchant, who reckoned that a store of 10,000,000 qrs. of wheat might be accumulated at an average cost of 40s. per qr.—this was in the Leiter year of high prices—and distributed in six specially constructed granaries to be erected at London, Liverpool, Hull, Bristol, Glasgow and Dublin. The cost of the granaries was put at £7,500,000. Mr Taylor’s scheme, all charges included, such as 21% interest on capital, cost of storage (at 6d. per qr.), and 2s. per qr. for cost of replacing wheat, involved an annual expenditure of £1,250,000. The Yerburgh committee also considered a proposal to stimulate the home supply of wheat by offering a bounty to farmers for every quarter of wheat grown. This proposal has taken different shapes; some have suggested that a bounty should be given on every acre of land covered with wheat, while others would only allow the bounty on wheat raised and kept in good condition up to a certain date, say the beginning of the following harvest. It is obvious that a bounty on the area of land covered by wheat, irrespective of yield, would be a premium on poor farming, and might divert to wheat-growing land unsuitable for that purpose. The suggestion to pay a bounty of say 3s. to 5s. per qr. for all wheat grown and stacked for a certain time stands on a different basis; it is conceivable that a bounty of 5s. might expand the British production of wheat from say 7,000,000 to 9,000,000 qrs., which would mean that a bounty of £2,250,000 per annum, plus costs of administration, had secured an extra home production of 2,000,000 qrs. Whether such a price would be worth paying is another matter; the Yerburgh committee’s conclusion was decidedly in the negative. It has also been suggested that the State might subsidize millers to the extent of 2s. 6d. per sack of 280 ℔. per annum on condition that each maintained a minimum supply of two months’ flour. This may be taken to mean that for keeping a special stock of flour over and above his usual output a miller would be entitled to an annual subsidy of 2s. 6d. per sack. An extra stock of 10,000,000 sacks might be thus kept up at an annual cost of £1,250,000, plus the expenditure of administration, which would probably be heavy. With regard to this suggestion, it is very probable that a few large mills which have plenty of warehouse accommodation and depots all over the country would be ready to keep up a permanent extra stock of 100,000 sacks. Thus a mill of 10,000 sacks’ capacity per week, which habitually maintains a total stock of 50,000 sacks, might bring up its stock to 150,000 sacks. Such a mill, being a good customer to railways, could get from them the storage it required for little or nothing. But the bulk of the mills have no such advantages. They have little or no spare warehousing room, and are not accustomed to keep any stock, sending their flour out almost as fast as it is milled. It is doubtful therefore if a bounty of 2s. 6d. per sack would have the desired effect of keeping up a stock of 10,000,000 sacks, sufficient for two to three months’ bread consumption.
The controversy reached a climax in the royal commission appointed in 1903, to which was also referred the importation of raw material in war time. Its report appeared in 1905. To the question whether the unquestioned dependence of the United Kingdom on an uninterruptedRoyal commission, 1903-1905. supply of sea-borne breadstuffs renders it advisable or not to maintain at all times a six months’ stock of wheat and flour, it returned no decided answer, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that the commission was hopelessly divided. The main report was distinctly optimistic so far as the liability of the country to harass and distress at the hands of a hostile naval power or combination of powers was concerned. But there were several dissentients, and there was hardly any portion of the report in chief which did not provoke some reservation or another. That a maritime war would cause freights and insurance to rise in a high degree was freely admitted, and it was also admitted that the price of bread must also rise very appreciably. But, provided the navy did not break down, the risk of starvation was dismissed. Therefore all the proposals for providing national granaries or inducing merchants and millers to carry bigger stocks were put aside as unpractical and unnecessary. The commission was, however, inclined to consider more favourably a suggestion for providing free storage for wheat at the expense of the State. The idea was that if the State would subsidize any large granary company to the extent of 6d. or 5d. per qr., grain now warehoused in foreign lands would be attracted to the British Isles. But on the whole the commission held that the main effect of the scheme would be to saddle the government with the rent of all grain stored in public warehouses in the United Kingdom without materially increasing stocks. The proposal to offer bounties to farmers to hold stocks for a longer period and to grow more wheat met with equally little favour.
To sum up the advantages of national granaries, assuming any sort of disaster to the navy, the possession of a reserve of even six months’ wheat-supply in addition to ordinary stocks would prevent panic prices. On the other hand, the difficulties in the way of forming and administering such a reserve are very great. The world grows no great surplus of wheat, and to form a six months’, much more a twelve months’, stock would be the work of years. The government in buying up the wheat would have to go carefully if they would avoid sending up prices with a rush. They would have to buy dearly, and when they let go a certain amount of stock they would be bound to sell cheaply. A stock once formed might be held by the State with little or no disturbance of the corn market, although the existence of such an emergency stock would hardly encourage British farmers to grow more wheat. The cost of erecting, equipping and keeping in good order the necessary warehouses would be, probably, much heavier than the most liberal estimate hitherto made by advocates of national granaries. (G. F. Z.)