Opera Omnia Luigi Einaudi

Rationing in Italy

Tipologia: Paragrafo/Articolo – Data pubblicazione: 17/02/1940

Rationing in Italy

«The Economist», 17 febbraio 1940, p. 292




The first experiment in rationing in Italy is being now made with coffee and sugar. The import and sale of coffee were suspended in October; and consumers fared as best they could on substitutes. Now coffee is to be on the market again from February 1st; but rationed at the rate of 0.6 kilograms (about 1V3 pounds) a year, already prepared, corresponding to 0.48 kilogram crude. Sugar will also be rationed at the rate of 6 kilograms (about 13 V3 pounds) a year. The rationing of coffee is introduced with the object of reducing imports, which amounted in 1938 to 36,000 tons. If we add to the family consumption of 0.6 kilogram (0.48 kilogram crude) per head, the large consumption in public coffee-rooms, restaurants, hotels, etc., we easily reach the normal free previous consumption of 36,000 tons a year. The hope of reducing imports is therefore wholly based on the assumption that the individual ration, being calculated on the previous average consumption, will not be utilised by those very numerous people who consumed less coffee than the average. This is quite likely, as the consumption was already being progressively reduced, and in 1930 was 91.7 per cent., in 1933 75 per cent., and in 1938 66.7 per cent, of the 1922 level. The sugar ration of 6 kg. per head yearly was similarly fixed on the basis of past average consumption, which was 8.1 kg. in 1938. Taking account of indirect consumption in confectionery and other manufactured foods, the total consumption, under rationing, would easily reach normal levels, if all consumers utilised their allowance. Here the aim is not to reduce foreign imports, as sugar is wholly home-produced, but to transform a proportion of it into industrial alcohol. How far these results will be obtained depends very much on the possibility of keeping down the consumption of those who did not previously reach the average. Experience in the last war seems to point to an extension of consumption of rationed goods among the mass of the people, but this may have been due to the uncontrolled rise of wages, and this time there are no signs of a widespread rise in working-class earnings.



January 31st

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