Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/793

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THE QUESTION OF WHEAT.

Interesting as has been the record of wheat imports into the United Kingdom for the twenty years from 1871 to 1890, the course of events since has been sensational in their number and suddenness. The famine of 1891 in Russia crippled her export trade for the time, and, indeed, threatened to destroy it by the necessity of creating deposits of grain to guard against the recurrence of so dread a visitation. A series of poor crops in India raised domestic prices of grains to a point at which shipments became unprofitable, and this weakening of wheat supply culminated in the plague and famine which wiped Indian wheat out of the European market. Argentina began to fulfill its promise of production, and after a meteoric progress collapsed in disaster, its entire crop being destroyed by a plague of locusts. Russia and the United States alone remained as a source of supply, and under the stress of demand the price of wheat rose rapidly in 1897. These various conditions may best be related in the next article.

The English wheat acreage meanwhile has gone steadily down under the strain of outside competition. In 1895 only 1,417,483 acres were returned as under wheat—a loss of nearly 2,000,000 acres since 1867. The prediction that the United States could not export wheat under 48s. per quarter has been answered by continued export with wheat at 22s. per quarter. A royal commission on agriculture can make no definite suggestion for its betterment, and the following tables express more eloquently than could any words the kaleidoscopic changes in sources of imports since 1890, all of which have depressed wheat-growing in England, while shuffling these outside sources of supply in a manner truly remarkable. As a record of sudden change, these figures could hardly be matched in recent economic experience:

Year. Total Imports. Imports of wheat into the United Kingdom from
From Europe. From India. From
United States.
From
Argentina.
Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt.
1891 66,312,962 18,126,326 13,005,785 24,194,945 2,478,456
1892 64,901,799 6,290,313 12,495,442 33,886,742 3,466,096
1893 65,461,988 10,619,692 6,196,096 32,262,848 7,845,587
1894 70,126,232 17,958,758 5,349,056 24,658,245 13,272,152
1895 81,749,955 27,095,355 8,802,950 27,084,120 11,400,360
1896 70,025,980 26,674,110 2,112,940 30,694,900 4,927,600
1897 62,743,280 19,470,280 572,760 34,603,200 933,100

A period of stress such as English agriculture has passed through leaves its permanent results, and the social changes wrought in the British Islands have been great and trying. The landowner has seen his rents fall to a point below which no profit can accrue from