Italy’s crops and the present outlook
Italy’s crops and the present outlook
«The Economist», 29 ottobre 1910, p. 869
The new office of agricultural statistics ably organised by Professor Ghino Valenti at the Ministry of Agriculture has estimated this year’s wheat harvest at only 41,732,000 quintals (of 100 kilogrammes), against a crop of 51,699,000 quintals in 1909. Further, it is estimated that, apart from the probable reduction in consumption on account of the increased cost of bread, some 20 million quintals will have to be supplied by imports, as compared with 9,640,000 quintals in the year 1909-10. The price of wheat in Italy has not yet shown the full effect of these estimates, owing to the dulness which has prevailed for several weeks on the International market, allowing Italian millers to increase their supplies of foreign wheat to an unusual extent. During the past quarter (ending September 30th) 2,849,470 quintals of foreign wheat have been imported into Italy as compared with 1,231,880 quintals in the corresponding quarter of 1909. The time is approaching, however, when the medium and small Italian wheat-growers in want of money will be forced so sell the bulk of their stocks. A rise of prices is customary in years of bad crops, except in the case of an abnormally falling tendency of the world market.
Thus the conditions of life are at present far from satisfactory; and the oudook especially for the winter is disquieting. The staple crops have been considerably under the average; the produce of the vintages is estimated at only 53,990,000 quintals of grapes against 98,299,000 quintals in 1909. The crops of cocoons and of fruits have suffered seriously from a cold and rainy spring, and the musca olearia has continued to attack the olive trees. Moreover, many provinces in the South have been visited by the cholera morbus, and this has caused a severe stagnation of trade. Northern Italy is suffering from a cotton crisis. The protected manufacturers have made the mistake of largely increasing the producing power of their plant without considering their poor position as exporters. The dearness of meat is less felt in Italy than in Germany and Austria-Hungary; but this is because for the most part of the year meat is a luxury to the poorer classes and working men of Italy.
At present wheat fetches between 26 and 28 lire per quintal, the duty on imports being 7.50 lire. The committee of the Confederazione Generale del Lavoro have just decided to revive among the organised bodies of Italian labour the agitation for the repeal of the wheat duty, with the immediate object of obtaining the temporary suspension of the tax. It will be remembered that the present Premier, Signor Luzzatti, in a letter published in the Economist of September 19, 1908, repudiated the charge of being “a worshipper of the duty on corn”, and declared himself to be “in fact, one the few Italian Statesmen who are fighting for its gradual diminution”. Many years before, when in 1894, the Chamber of Deputies was discussing the increase of the wheat-duty from 5 to 7 lire per quintal, Signor Luzzatti frankly expressed his own opinion in these terms which he cannot have forgotten: “Do you believe that, amidst the sharp watchfulness of the economists, amidst so great an overflow of democracy, if bread were rising, if the price of corn were going upwards, there could be a Minister so powerful as to keep up the price of corn? He would be carried off like a chaff in the whirlwind”. Signor Luzzatti is in actual and full control of the Government, and it remains to be seen whether he will show his statesmanship by putting into practice the views he formerly maintaines in vivid and unequivocal utterances.
 The Giornale Vinicolo Italiano has published an estimate of the Italian vintage for 1910, showing it to have been the worst for the last decade. The total yield of the vineyards, it is said, will not be more than 26,870,000 hectolitres (or 591,398,624 gallons), that is to say, less than half the amount of wine produced in 1907, about half the crop of 1908, and not quite two-thirds of that of last year. The falling off is ascribed to the unfavourable atmospheric conditions, to the prevalence of diseases of the vine, and to carelessness on the part of the vine-growers.