Agriculture and Food Supply in France during the War

Agriculture and Food Supply in France during the War

Agriculture and Food Supply in France during the War

Agriculture and Food Supply in France during the War

Excerpt

The increase in the cost of living since the war has given to agricultural questions a practical interest for the general reader that they did not formerly possess. It is to be feared that he will expect to find, in a book on Agriculture during the War, the means of forecasting the general trend of food prices in the near future, and that he will look for statistical confirmation of certain preconceptions that have taken deep root in public opinion, concerning the rapid revival of agriculture after the war, the enrichment of the peasantry, and the economic Malthusianism by which they are said to be holding the consumer to ransom.

If so, he should be warned against the disappointments that the author foresees. These will be due to various causes; in the first place to inadequate documentation. The economic phenomena of agriculture are not manifest to the eye of the statistician; they are perceptible to him only when they have shed their true agricultural character, and assumed that of commercial phenomena; at a stage when they belong no longer to rural, but to urban economy. One is thus led to confuse wholesale prices with agricultural prices. The prices of wheat on the Bourse du Commerce are available, but the exact difference between these and the prices in fact paid to the producers is unknown; this difference moreover varies according as the crop in a particular region exceeds or falls short of the needs of local consumption. Similarly the prices recorded on the Paris cattle market differ from those paid to the cattle breeder.

The statistics published by the Ministry of Agriculture are drawn up by officials who do not dispose of funds sufficient to enable them to adopt satisfactory methods of observation; nor are these officials all qualified for the scientific observation of economic facts. The statistics are very incomplete even in respect of cultivated areas and crops. As regards certain crops and certain categories of animal . . .

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