Hague Conference – Population and Agricultural Production
«The Economist», 7 settembre 1929, p. 436
Turin, August 23
Italian public opinion, as expressed in the Press, is unanimous in thinking that the Young Plan ought to be accepted or rejected as a whole. The raising of the Italian quota in the Young figures as against the Spa quota is here considered not only a partial compensation of the utter vanishing of all hopes of obtaining any indemnity from Austro-Hungarian ex-enemies, but also as a moral recognition that the 10 per cent. Spa quota did not correspond to Italy’s real share in the losses. The Press quoted the conclusions arrived at by Professor Benini, of the University of Rome, in a report not yet made public, according to which the Italian losses were, owing to the lack of trustworthy estimates, greatly underestimated at the time of the Spa Conference. As Professor Benini is a scholar of the first rank and holds in Italy a situation comparable, from the scientific point of view, to that of Professor Bowley in England, very great importance would be attached to the publication of this report.
Business circles are less concerned about deliveries in kind. Italian consumers, i.e., industrialists, have no preference either for British or German coal. All they require is the best buying price for the same or equivalent commodity. If it could be proved that German Reparations coal is not worth having, they would renounce it at once.
Another point stressed in recent discussions is the relative progress of population and agricultural production. The debate was opened by ex-Finance Minister Signor De Stefani, who, in the Corriere della Sera of August 5th, remarked that population increased by 2,016,000 from January 1, 1923, to December 31, 1928, a total increment in six years of 5 per cent. Comparing the triennal average productions of 1923-25 and 1926-28 Signor De Stefani concludes that no appreciable increment can be shown, wheat changing from 5,851 thousand tons to 5,768, rye from 163 to 160, barley from 232 to 228, oats from 583 to 579, rice from 584 to 669, maize from 2,581 to 2,290, potatoes from 1,915 to 1,970, sugar beet from 2,391 to 2,664, hemp (fibre) from 86 to 96, linseed from 11 to 9, tobacco from 40 to 37, horticultural products from 1,412 to 1,571, grasses and other forage crops from 22,438 to 23,340, cocoons from 53 to 48, oranges and lemons from 627 to 714, miscellaneous fruits from 756 to 839, chestnuts from 513 to 471, wine from 48 to 39.8 million hectolitres, olive oil from 1,929 to 1,961 thousand hectolitres. Signor De Stefani’s article was not a disparagement of the gallant effort made toward raising agricultural production in Italy, but only pointed out the urgency of further efforts in the same direction if the natural increase of population is to be fed and employed. Senator Marozzi, President of the Economic Committee of the Fascist Agricultural Federation, objected to De Stefani’s inferences, observing that, in the first period taken for comparison, the year 1923 was exceptionally favourable, while in the second period the years 1927 and 1928 were exceptionally unfavourable. According to Senator Marozzi, the production of wheat per hectare increased during the 1919-1928 decade yearly by 1.29 per cent., of maize by 1.35 per cent., of forage crops by 1.13 per cent., of hemp by 0.60 per cent., of wine by 0.72 per cent., of rice by 1.53 per cent., of potatoes by 1.84 per cent., of beans and other leguminous crops by 4.95 per cent., of cocoons by 4.17 per cent., of olive oil by 0.24 per cent. Professor De Maria has calculated, in his turn, variations of production in 1928 as against the average of 1923-27, which comparison he claims to be more trustworthy than others, and he concludes that cereals increased by 2.9 per cent., potatoes by 27.1 per cent., horticultural crops by 21.8 per cent., grass and forage crops by 11.6 per cent., and, on the other hand, industrial crops decreased by 14.6 per cent., leguminous crops by 11.9 per cent., wine by 12.7 per cent., olive oil by 29.3 per cent., fruits, oranges, lemons, &c, by 1.9 per cent., chestnuts by 16.4 per cent. In total he concludes that 1928 was a stationary year as far as production is concerned, and that production was obtained at an increasing cost. The truth may be that an increase in agricultural production is a long-time affair, and that present efforts at reclaiming and bettering land will give good results only after 20 or more years. In the meantime, some progressive and energetic agriculturists are already obtaining remarkable results. A strenuous competition formally engaged between agriculturists of Brescia and Cremona concluded in an average production of 4.3 tons of wheat per hectare for both (about 1.7 tons per acre), which is truly a very good result. And Signor Marescalchi points to the increasing extension of the double-crop system, wheat and rice in the same field and year. The practice in the Milan province was extended from 600 hectares in 1926 to 1,500 in 1928, and the average production can be estimated at 6-7 tons rice and 3-3.5 tons wheat. In all 10 tons per hectare, or four tons per acre. The problem is: What time will be required for extending these splendid, but as yet limited, results into backward regions, and what will be the cost to the present generation of the change?