Conditions in Italy
Conditions in Italy
«The Economist», 28 Agosto 1915, p. 324
The Italian soldiers are, already experiencing some of the horrors of winter warfare, writes a North Italian correspondent on August 22nd, since much of their fighting is done at 2,500-3,000 metres above the sea. One of the more serious problems of the present moment is the dearth of wool on our market. A wide appeal is being daily made by our newspapers for socks and other knitted garments for our soldiers, but, for a large number of people, the wool has risen to an almost prohibitive price. Good Borgosesia wool, which is the best quality for knitting, has gone up to 17-18 per kilo, and is still going up every day. Among the chief causes of this increase is, of course, foremost the suppression (for the world market) of important manufacturing centres, like Antwerp and the North of France, but to this must be added the peculiar conditions of production. At ordinary times our manufacturers find more convenient getting from abroad tops rather than natural (raw) wool, at least, for half of the total amount. Carded thread is needed for the fabrication of grey-green cloth for the army. Lacking this, one might use tops. We have in Italy 12,000 looms capable of producing per month from 5 to 6 million metres cloth, but our carding factories are not sufficient to supply the necessary quantity in carded wool, nor can the gap be filled up with tops, as we can only produce from 7 to 8 million quintals of the 15 needed. During the first five months of 1914 the total amount imported from France, Germany, and Belgium was 16,998 quintals of tops; in 1915 (corresponding period) not one single kilo was imported from those three countries. Great Britain, who in 1914 had sent over 6,178 quintals, sent in 1915 but 885 quintals. Wine prospects are poor. The vines had had a fine blooming, but later, owing partly to the lack of sufficient attendance, due to the call to arms of peasants, the new grapes withered and disappeared. The hay crop has been very good, owing to the frequent rains. Wheat has been less abundant than one was led to expect. Notwithstanding the larger cultivation (300,000 hectares more were sown), the product has been valued under the normal, i.e., 47,800,000 against 49,273,000, as has been the average in the last six years. The Office of Agricultural Statistics states that the reserves from last year’s crop can be valued to 10 million quintals. If we deduce the 6 1/2 millions necessary to the sowing, the country can count for the present year on 50 million quintals. As the necessary amount was fixed at 52,7 millions (they will barely suffice, given the number of returning emigrants), importation must provide the rest, but it will need to be no larger than the average one from 1908-9 to 1912-13, i.e., 15,261,440 quintals yearly. Corn has done well up to now, but will almost certainly suffer if this rainy weather continues.