Uspallata pass. A further Transandine scheme provides for a line through the Pino Hachado pass (38° 30′ to 39° S.), and the Argentine Great Southern Company obtained a concession in 1909 to extend its Neuquen line to the frontier of Chile. The railways of the republic had a total mileage at the end of 1906 of 2950 m., of which 1495 m. were owned by the state, and 1455 m. belonged to private companies. The private lines are located in the northern provinces and are for the most part built and maintained for the transportation of mining products and supplies.
In addition to her railway lines Chile has about 21,000 m. of public roads of all descriptions, 135 m. of tramways, and 705 m. of navigable river channels, besides a very considerable mileage of lake and coast navigation. Telegraphic communication between all the important towns of the republic, initiated in 1855 with a line between Santiago and Valparaiso, is maintained by the state, which in 1903 owned 9306 m. of line in a total of 11,080 m. Cable communication with Europe by way of Buenos Aires was opened in 1875, and is now maintained by means of two underground cables across the Andes, 32 m. in length. A West Coast cable also connects with Europe and North American states by way of Panama. There were 15,853 m. of telephone wires in the republic in 1906, all the principal cities having an admirable service. Modern postal facilities date from 1853. The Chilean post-office is administered by a director-general at Santiago, and has a high degree of efficiency and liberality, compared with those of other South American states. The postal rates are low, and newspapers and other periodical publications circulate free, as a means of popular instruction. The postal revenues for 1904 amounted to 2,775,730 pesos and the expenditures to 2,407,753 pesos. Chile is a member of the International Postal Union, and has arrangements with the principal commercial nations for the exchange of postal money values.
The sea has been the only means of communication with distant parts of the country, and must continue to be the chief transportation route. There are said to be 56 ports on the Chilean coast, of which only 12 are prominent in foreign trade. Many of the so-called ports are only landing-places on an open coast, others are on shallow bays and obstructed river-mouths, and some are little-known harbours among the channels and islands of the south. The prosperity of Chile is intimately connected with her ocean-going trade, and no elaborate system of national railway lines and domestic manufactures can ever change this relationship. These conditions should have developed a large merchant marine, but the Chileans are not traders and are sailors only in a military sense. In 1905 their ocean-going merchant marine consisted of only 148 vessels, of which 54 were steamers of 42,873 tons net, and 94 were sailing vessels of 39,346 tons. Nineteen of the 54 steamers belonged to a subsidized national line whose West Coast service once extended to San Francisco, California, and a large part of the others belongs to a Lota coal-mining and copper-smelting company which employs them in carrying coal to the northern ports and bringing back metallic ores for smelting. The navigable rivers and inland lakes employ a number of small steamers. The foreign commerce of the republic is carried chiefly by foreign vessels, and the coasting trade is also open to them. Three or four foreign companies maintain a regular steamship service to Valparaiso and other Chilean ports. The shipping entries at all Chilean ports during the year 1904, both national and foreign, numbered 11,756, aggregating 17,723,138 tons, and the clearances 11,689, aggregating 17,370,763 tons. Very nearly one-half this tonnage was British, a little over 18% German, and about 29% Chilean.
Commerce.—In the aggregate, the commerce of Chile is large and important; in proportion to population it is exceeded among South American states only by Argentina, Uruguay and the Guianas. Unlike those states, it depends in great part on mining and its allied occupations. The values of imports and exports (including bullion, specie and re-exports) in pesos of 18d. during the five years 19011905 were as follows:—
The principal imports comprise live animals, fish, coffee, maté (Ilex paraguayensis), tea, sugar, wood and its manufactures, structural iron and steel, hardware and machinery, railway and telegraph supplies, lime and cement, glass and earthenware, cotton, woollen and silk manufactures, coal, petroleum, paints, &c. Import duties are imposed at the rates of 60, 35, 15, 5 and 25%, and certain classes of merchandise are admitted free. The higher rates are designed chiefly to protect national industries, while wines, liquors, cigars and tobacco are admitted at the lowest rate. The 25% rate covers all articles not mentioned in the schedules, which number 2260 items. The duty free list includes raw cotton, certain descriptions of live animals, agricultural machinery and implements, metal wire, fire engines, structural iron and steel, and machinery in general. The tariff is nominally ad valorem, but as the rates are imposed on fixed official valuations it is essentially specific. The duties on imports in 1905 amounted to 91,321,860 pesos, and in 1906 to 103,507,556 pesos. The principal exports are gold, silver, copper (bars, regulus and ores), cobalt and its ores, lead and its ores, vanadium ores, manganese, coal, nitrate of soda, borate of lime, iodine, sulphur, wheat and guano. Nitrate of soda forms from 70 to 75% of the exports, and the royalty received from it is the principal source of national revenue, yielding about £4,000,000 per annum. In 1904 mineral products made up fully seven-eighths of the exports, while agricultural and pastoral products did not quite reach one-eighth.
Agriculture.—According to the census returns about one-half the population of Chile lives in rural districts, and is engaged nominally in agricultural pursuits. What may be called central Chile is singularly well adapted to agriculture. The northern part of this region has a sub-tropical climate, light rainfall and a long, dry summer, but with irrigation it produces a great variety of products. Alfalfa, or lucerne (Medicago sativa), is grown extensively for shipment to the mining towns of the desert provinces. There were no less than 108,384 acres devoted to it in 1904, a considerable part of which was in the irrigated river valleys of Coquimbo and Aconcagua. Considerable attention is also given to fruit cultivation in these subtropical provinces, where the orange, lemon, fig, melon, pineapple and banana are produced with much success. Some districts, especially in Coquimbo, have gained a high reputation for the excellence of their preserved fruits. The vine is cultivated all the way from Atacama and Coquimbo, where excellent raisins are produced, south to Concepción, where some of the best wines of Chile are manufactured. In 1904 there were 93,370 acres devoted to grape production in this region, the product for that year being 30,184,704 gallons of wine and 212,366 gallons of brandy. The universal beverage of the people—chicha—is made from Indian corn. Although wheat is produced in the northern part of this region, it is grown with greater success in the south, where the rainfall is heavier and the average temperature is lower. There were 1,044,025 acres devoted to this cereal in 1903, which produced 17,910,614 bushels, or an average of 17 bushels (of 60 lb) to the acre. In 1904 the production was increased to 19,999,324 bushels, but in 1905 it fell off to 15,771,477 bushels. At one time Chile supplied Argentina and the entire West Coast as far north as California with wheat, but Argentina and California have become wheat producers and exporters, and Chile has been driven from all her old consuming markets. Great Britain is now her best customer, and Brazil takes a small quantity for milling mixtures. Chile has been badly handicapped by her crude methods of cultivation, but these are passing away and modern methods are taking their place. Formerly wheat was grown chiefly in the region of long rainless summers, and the ripened grain was thrown upon uncovered earth floors and threshed by horses driven about over the straw, but this antiquated process was not suited to the climate and enterprise of the more southern provinces, and the modern threshing-machine has been introduced. Barley is largely produced, chiefly for home consumption. Maize (Indian corn) is grown in every part of Chile except the rainy south where the grain cannot ripen, and is a principal article of food. The green maize furnishes two popular national dishes, choclos and humitas, which are eaten by both rich and poor. Potatoes also are widely cultivated, but the humid regions of the south, particularly from Valdivia to Chiloé, produce the greatest quantity. The total annual production exceeds three million bushels. The kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is another staple product in every part of the country, and is perhaps the most popular article of food among all classes of Chileans. Peas are largely cultivated south of the Maule. Walnuts have become another important product and are exported, the average annual produce being 48,000 to 50,000 bushels. The olive was introduced from Spain in colonial times and is widely distributed through the north central provinces, but its economic importance is not great. Of the European fruits introduced into the southern provinces, the apple has been the most successful. It grows with little care and yields even better than in its original home. The peach, apricot, plum, quince and cherry are also cultivated with success. Wild strawberries are found on both sides of the Andes; the cultivated varieties are unsurpassed, especially those of the province of Concepción.
The pastoral industries of Chile have been developed chiefly for the home market. The climate is admirably suited to cattle-raising, as the winters are mild and pasture is to be found throughout the whole year, but the proximity of the Argentine pampas is fatal to its profitable development. The government has been trying to promote cattle-breeding by levying duties (as high as 16 pesos a head) on cattle imported from Argentina, but with no great success. The importation, which formerly numbered about 140,000 per annum, still numbers not far from 100,000 head. There are some districts in central Chile where cattle-raising is the principal occupation, but the long dry summers limit the pasturage on the open plains and prevent the development which perhaps would otherwise result. As in Argentina, beef is generally dried in the sun to make charqui (jerked beef), in which form it is exported to the desert provinces. Horse and mule breeding are carried on to a limited extent, and since the opening of the far South more attention has been given to sheep. Goats and swine are raised in small numbers on the large estates, but in Chiloé swine-raising is one of the chief occupations