«The Economist», 30 ottobre 1937, pp. 212-213
CORPORATIVISM IN AGRICULTURE. – Turin, October 11. – At present all the Corporations are busy discussing plans for autarky. The aim is to make the country self-sufficient by 1940. In agriculture the corporative system works mainly through intervention on the market and control of prices. It is most stringent for wheat, rice, wool, hemp and cocoons.
The agricultural year, though spoilt to some extent by insistent rains, has been generally very good. The yield of wheat, about eight million tons, is deemed sufficient for the country’s needs; and foreign imports can be entirely dispensed with in the agricultural year 1937-38. As, moreover, the yield of maize and other secondary cereals, as well as of leguminous crops, was very good, a decree of September 12th authorised prefects to render compulsory the use of 10 per cent, of maize and other cereals in the manufacture of flour for bread. The object of reducing the use of wheat is to build up a stock of wheat in case the 1938 harvest should be deficient.
The grape crop was only average; but as wine stocks were everywhere exhausted the price of grapes is soaring. Accordingly, most of the comprehensive legislation enacted last April to regulate the wine industry, from the planting of vineyards to the sale of wine, is temporarily suspended. The Government is now content to promote the setting-up of public cooperatives, where growers can bring their grapes if market prices are not remunerative.
Owing to well-spaced rains fodder is plentiful. Farmers are in no hurry to bring cattle to the market and, while forage prices are lower, cattle prices are rising. Therefore, to stimulate deliveries to slaughterhouses, the maximum prices for young calves were raised. Meanwhile beef prices range near the maxima permitted by the corporative authorities, based on the average of prices in April and May.
RISING TREND OF PUBLIC PRICES. – The olive oil yield is 220,000 tons, compared with 150,000 in 1936. No changes in price, therefore, have been sanctioned. In the case of rice, wheat, wool, hemp and cocoons, producers must sell all their output, with certain allowances for their own consumption, to public bodies. The trend of public prices is unmistakably on the increase. Wheat, for instance, must be sold at 1,250 lire per ton, compared with about 1,140 in 1936, and cocoons at 7.50 lire per kilog., compared with about 6.5 lire.
The wheat price is remunerative, and farmers are encouraged to adopt better methods of cultivation. The cocoon price, on the other hand, is barely equivalent, on the basis of the present gold content of the lira, to 1.20 old lire. At that price silkworm growing is a declining industry. The Government, by means of a very complicated system of levies and export inducements, is already endeavouring to maintain a cocoon price above the world market level; but to reach the equivalent of even the lowest price recorded in the century before 1914 the price would have to be raised to at least 15 lire per kilog. To rebuild the silk industry on the basis of domestic supplies will be very expensive.
In the year 1936-37 the internal level of rice prices was more or less equal to the international level. Therefore the Rice Board did not need to spend much money to encourage exports. The current yield will probably be good and abundant. Moreover, as farmers were complaining of rising costs, and especially of wages, the Rice Board have increased the maximum price for raw rice from 780 to 920 lire per ton until January 31, 1938; it will then be raised to 940 lire by May 31st and 960 lire on September 15th. After that date the Rice Board will buy all unsold stocks at 960 lire.
The Corporative Committee have also increased, from September 20th, the price of domestic hemp delivered from public warehouses for export. The rise is justified by increasing costs. The interesting point is that the increase is higher for the best qualities. This is a move towards encouraging hemp growers to improve the quality of their product.