Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

the whole of this goes to Bombay. The wheat of the Punjaub is floated down the Indus and exported from Kurachee, and when a thorough system of railway communication is opened up, Kurachee will no doubt become a formidable rival to Bombay itself. Madras and Burmah can hardly be said to export any

wheat. The increase observable in the wheat supply and the growth of the area under cultivation in the exporting districts have already been noticed in this paper. This increase is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the development of the resources of India. British India now comes third among the countries of the world that supply Great Britain with wheat. The imports of wheat into Great Britain from British India were, in 1872, 156,665 cwts. ; in 1873, 740,934; in 1874, 1,073,940; in 1875, 1,334,336; in 1876, 3,287,236; and during the first nine months of the current year, 4,226,627 cwts.

The entire export of wheat to all foreign ports from Bengal and Bombay separately is shown in the following comparative statement:

Bengal.

Bombay.
cwts.

cwts.
1874-75
280,530

776,825
1875-76
1,330,951 ·

1,143,932
1876-77
3,871,114

1,712,222

These facts illustrate the expansion of the Indian wheat trade, and suggest the possibility of further increase. The degree of increase to be expected depends upon the profit made by the trade. The trade was formerly hampered by an export duty, and the repeal of this duty in January, 1873, is not one of the least of the benefits conferred on India by Lord Northbrook during his administration. There are now no artificial restrictions on export, and the difference in the price of wheat in the producing and consuming territories, minus the cost of transit and freight, is the only measure of the profit enjoyed by those in the trade. The average price of wheat in the producing districts, undisturbed by any extraordinary stimulus, is now about two rupees per maund, or, to adopt an English standard of measurement and value, the current price of wheat in Agra or Jullundur is 24s. a quarter. In England the price of wheat during recent years has, as an average, been about 48s. a quarter. It must, therefore, be profitable to export Indian wheat so long as the cost of carriage does not double the value of the raw produce. Reducing quantities to tons, and the price of wheat being, so to speak, £5 12s. per ton in the plains of India, and £11 4s. per ton in England, the question of the amount of profit realisable by traders can be determined if we know the cost of the carriage of a ton of wheat, say from Cawnpore, the very centre of the Indian trade, to Liverpool or London. The following statement, which was pub

lished in the supplement to the Gazette of India of the 26th May,

1877, affords the necessary information on this subject Cost of CARRYING INDIAN WHEAT per Ton to LONDON AND LIVERPOOL FROM CAWNPORE via

CALCUTTA AND BOMBAY, Oct. 30, 1876.

TOTAL Cost við

Cost of Freight from Calcutta to

Cost of Freight from Bombay to

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

London. Liverpool, London. Liverpool. London. Liverpool. London. Liverpool.

[blocks in formation]

The rate of exchange is taken at what may be considered a reasonable rate of 1/8to a rupee. The freightage by sea of course varies considerably, and at the present time, for instance, it is less than it was in 1876. At present the freight is less than £3 per ton from Calcutta to London through the Suez Canal. The cost of carriage by rail remains unaltered; it was reduced to its present rate in September, 1875. But the cost of carriage and freight combined, with a small allowance for insurance and other charges, cannot be set down as on an average less than £5 per ton. At an expenditure therefore of £10 12s. a ton of Cawnpore wheat can be landed in London or Liverpool, and there sold in the open market for £11 4s. This is a very small profit, a trifle less than six per cent., and it

a seems surprising that, with such unfavourable conditions, the trade should be so prosperous. But it shows also the soundness of the enterprise, that without the lure of any excessive profit, it should have so steadily expanded. And in such a year as the present, when the price of wheat in England has increased from 48s. to 60s. per quarter, the gain in India is correspondingly large both to the producer and the exporting merchant.

The wheat trade in the Presidency towns of India is in the hands of European merchants, who import their stocks from the interior by rail. It may be remarked that native traders do not as yet resort to the railway with the same confidence as Europeans. Merchandise, of which the bulk is considerable, such as rice, oil-seeds, jute, and salt, is for the most part financed for by native agents, and still ordinarily adheres to the old river routes. But wheat is peculiar in this respect, and the supply is mostly carried in long leads of railway to Bombay or Calcutta. Increased facilities of railway communication tend, therefore, in a very special degree to the development of the trade. Unfortunately, however, the trade has hitherto been harassed by difficulties in the way of transit.

For many months of the present year along the whole length of the railways in Upper India, a distance of more than two thousand

a

a

miles, there were piles and stacks of grain at every railway station which the agents of the railway had no power to remove. The writer of this paper traversed the line from Calcutta to Bombay in July last, and at that time it was deplorable to see the stores of grain exposed to the vicissitudes of an Indian rainy season. Along the Great Indian Pensinsula line in particular, where the stations are not provided with traffic sheds, the grain sacks were exposed without any shelter to the elements. It is true that the present has been a year of pressure, and great allowances must be made; but under any circumstances it is not creditable to the management that the railways should be wholly unable to meet the strain of a temporary emergency. Again, it is said that the cost of railway carriage is still excessive. On this subject the governments of India, and especially the government of Bengal, have held a clear policy. It is obviously to the advantage of the country that a maximum of receipts should be sought for by carrying much traffic at low rates, instead of a smaller quantity at high rates, and the officers of Government have never lost an opportunity of pressing this view on the railway companies' officers, but not always with success. This question is one of the many points of difference that have occasioned friction between the local governments of India and the railway companies. The mere fact, however, of such friction at all is detrimental to efficiency, from whatever source it springs. It can only be put a stop to by amalgamation, and it is to be hoped that in the interests of the public the supreme Government will take advantage of the expiration of the first term of the leases of the several companies, and give the necessary notice of its intention to purchase the lines for Government on the terms specified in the contract. Not until this is done can the question of traffic rates be settled, but in the meantime it is satisfactory to know that the principle of reduction has been established.

It should be added that in other respects the Executive authorities in India have exerted themselves to encourage the wheat trade of the country. The extension of the railway system in Rajpootana and the Punjaub has been designed with special reference to the easier transport of food grains. The construction of a railway from Nagpore in the Central Provinces, through the Raipore and Chattisgurh country, to provide an outlet for the enormous stock of wheat now produced in that tract, and allowed to accumulate and spoil there, because there are no means of removing it at remunerative rates to places where it is wanted, has been strongly urged, and will probably be carried out; while another scheme has recently been set on foot for connecting Calcutta with the valley of the Mahanuddy River, and thus tapping the vast and, at present, superfluous wheat plains of Sumbhulpore. The advantage of feeder roads to railway stations is fully acknowledged, and all possible steps are taken to open them out, and to secure their maintenance in

proper

condition. The most detailed information regarding wheat cultivation is now being collected. And in order further to promote the trade by direct assistance, and so obviate the charge of faulty consignments sometimes brought by English importers against Indian shippers of wheat, the authorities throughout India have recently been instructed to warn all those interested in the trade of the necessity of keeping the grain clean and of avoiding adulteration and the admixture of other grains with wheat.

The food resources of India other than rice and wheat need not be described in this paper.

The cultivation and consumption in India is immense, but there is next to no export from the country, and comparatively little local and internal trade. There is a small export of gram, pulse, and oats to the Mauritius.

But it is rice and wheat-especially rice--that are the great food staples of the country, and these have been shown to grow in abundance, and in such profusion as not only to supply food over and above the ordinary requirements of the people, but also to make good the deficiencies created by a local failure of the harvest, and at the same time to furnish exports on a large scale for the sustenance of foreign countries. And all this surplus of food has been shown to be co-existent with a progressive improvement in the material condition of the peasantry, a general exploitation of the resources of the country, and, sooth to say, with a constant recurrence of famine in one part of India or another. It is certain that famines are now of frequent occurrence, and it appears almost certain that famines are of more frequent occurrence now than formerly. Yet, if this is so, it must be admitted that the reasons of their greater frequency are not clear, and they are not made apparent by any considerations adduced in this paper. An increase of material and commercial prosperity appears to be hardly consistent with a more frequent failure of crops, and consequent famine and deaths from starvation. The causes of famine are complex and various ; some are natural, some artificial; it is possible to get rid of some, and it is impossible to avoid others. Both for the people of the country and the Government it is of equal importance that these causes should be accurately ascertained, that there should remain no scintilla of doubt as to whether famines are really of commoner occurrence than they used to be, and, if they are really more common, why they should be so. It is to be hoped, and it may be expected, that the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire thoroughly into famines in India will be among the earliest of the actions of the approaching session.

II. J. S. COTTON.

а

[blocks in formation]

HOME AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Those who have held that the Ottoman Power, like the Southern Confederacy, is only a shell, may now expect others to begin to agree with them. During the night of the 18th of November the Russians fought their way into Kars, took fortress and town, and ten thousand prisoners. What the effect will be upon the fighting humour of the Turkish people and government it is difficult to predict, but there is no reason to doubt that a crushing and unexpected defeat will eventually have the same effect upon Turks as crushing defeats have always had upon other people. The Turk of English partisans, who will die but never surrender and never ask quarter, is a myth. He is presumably like any other semi-barbarian. We hear loud panegyrics on his indomitable bravery, though true bravery is not usually associated in our minds with the torture and murder of wounded prisoners and the mutilation of dead foes. But if the Turkish soldier were a hundred times braver than he is, the Ottoman government will still, sooner or later, have to yield before defeat, just as it would have been forced to yield before the coercion which England and Austria might have joined in exerting upon it a year ago.

That the fall of Kars should have stimulated talk about the terms of peace is natural, but it is difficult to believe that the Czar will consider his success sufficiently decisive until he has at least crossed the Balkans in triumph. It would not be wonderful, nor particularly discreditable, if the Czar insisted on making peace in Constantinople itself. People who expect him to retire without definitely punishing the Ottoman government, and stamping the punishment in plain characters, are as unreasonable as those who seven years since insisted that after Sedan the Germans ought to have peaceably marched home again without another word said.

It is a painful thing for an Englishman who loves the honour and great name of his land to have to say, but it is a satisfaction to think that the English government will have no decisive part in saying what shall or shall not be the terms of ultimate settlement. And why is this? Because, so far as outside observers can judge, their curious lack of aims that are definite and yet possible, combining with their curious want of flexibility and fertility of political resource, seem to be putting the English government effectually out of court. So far as observers can judge, they still hanker after a restoration of the Ottoman Empire to the status quo, or to something as near the status quo as possible—and this with the Russians

а

« EelmineJätka »