[ocr errors]



wheat per head have increased without any proportionate increase of agricultural produce. In order to feed the cattle raised in Germany, the import of enormous quantities of fodder has been necessary; and the supply of home-bred meat has only been possible by reason of this unobstructed importation. Even of potatoes there was a shortage in 1911, owing to persistent rain. The net result is that 100,000,0001. worth of foods and drinks, including fruit, dried fruits, wines and tobacco, were imported annually. The stoppage of the greater part of this must have a sinister bearing upon the problem of feeding the German nation. The longer the war continues the more serious will become the position. What is but a gentle increase of pressure to-day may become

intolerable burden in a few months' time. That the situation with regard to food supplies is becoming critical may be judged from the fact that a State-supervised company, 'War Cereals, Limited,' was recently formed in Berlin with power to seize private stores of grain. The 'Lokalanzeiger' said recently of this Company: "Its object is to acquire as much grain as possible, even if necessary by the seizing of private property, and retain it for the last months preceding the new crop. The company works co-operatively; dividends are limited to five per cent. ; and on dissolution shareholders only receive par value for their holdings, any surplus going to the State for national purposes. We may therefore rest assured that the feeding of the population has been secured till the next crop, but only on the presupposition that the necessity of exercising the most rigid economy will be recognised by the whole German nation, and that the use of bread will be limited to immediate requirements.' Since this was written, the Government has stepped in with its control of the wheat supplies and bread allowances of so much per head. Nor is that the only sign of uneasiness. Early in January a semi-official notice was published which indicated that there was considerable apprehension about the future. It recommended the public to lay in supplies of ham, bacon and pickled pork, because, owing to the scarcity of fodder, it was necessary to sell as soon as possible pigs which were ready for killing. In these circumstances it was said to be the duty of everybody who could afford it and who had, or could rent, storage room, to provide himself with as large supplies as possible of smoked or pickled provisions. Not only should families make this provision, but co-operative societies, hospitals and all large institutions should take advantage of the opportunity. The towns were advised to lay in large stores of frozen meat, in order to assure the supply of the population during the spring and the summer. In this way the surplus stock of pigs which could not be fed any longer would be made to serve the requirements of a time when perhaps other provisions will be scarce.'


Perhaps more important even than a threatened foodscarcity is the actual scarcity of copper. Always a metal of many and various uses, it has been thrust by the war, on account of its indispensability in the manufacture of ammunition, into a new and startling prominence. There has thus been created in Germany a demand which far exceeds that of ordinary times and has led to a corresponding rise in the price that German importers are willing to pay. This rise has tempted merchants in neutral countries to import copper from other neutral countries and to run the risk of shipping it to Germany. The Germans are, nevertheless, still hard put to it to get enough copper for their ceaseless output of war material. Very little is produced in their own country or in Austria. For 1913 the total amount raised in Germany and Austria combined was less than 30,000 tons. Before there was any general apprehension of war, Germany's importation of crude copper had been going on at the rate of 230,000 tons per annum. A good deal of the yearly consumption, which amounted to about 250,000 tons, was undoubtedly applied in the manufacture of shells and cartridges; but, now that these are being used up with such reckless profusion, a huge amount of copper must be required for fresh supplies.

This stimulation of demand coincides with a serious check administered by the British to open trading. Copper, being declared contraband of war, is liable to seizure if intended for an enemy's use-a state of things which makes its direct shipment to Germany almost impossible, or, at all events, is attended with commercial risks that no prudent firm would care to undertake.



The blockade of German ports which has been virtually established prevents the import of copper in the ordinary way and leads to such surreptitious devices as can be utilised with any prospect of advantage. Copper in Germany, notwithstanding these methods, is almost as scarce as gold currency. All sorts of expedients have been resorted to for economising its use and turning it from domestic to military purposes. Some months ago the coinage of copper was stopped ; and, although the proportion of this to nickel in the small monies was insignificant, it was made even less. Copper kitchen utensils and all kinds of scrapped copper were diligently collected, and orders were issued that the fragments of shells and spent cartridge-cases found on the battlefields were to be gathered up for the sake of the copper they contained. Neither these economies nor the imports through neutral countries, however, bulked sufficiently large to arrest the rise in the price of copper. At the beginning of the war refined copper could be bought in Germany at the rate of a little over 601. a ton; to-day it is eagerly bought at 1701. a ton, and it has been stated that in exceptional cases as much as 2001. a ton has been paid. In England, the current price is now about 641., and the difference between this and the German price is a measure of the relative urgency of demand in the two countries.

The world's total supply of refined copper for 1913 was a little under a million tons; and Germany's consumption amounted to 250,000 tons, just one-fourth. The United States production was about 55 per cent. of the whole; and, as Germany obtained the largest part of its supply-197,353 tons—from the United States, it follows that something like two-fifths of the American output was going to Germany before the war. Some of this was, of course, used in manufactures. Electrical plant must have accounted for a good deal. Copper is a big factor in telegraph and telephone wires and in dynamos. In the form of a sulphate it plays an indispensable part in the dressing of vines to prevent the havoc of the phylloxera. A great many culinary vessels for German use were formerly made of copper. Although the vessels may be dispensed with, and the vines may be neglected, there must be field telegraphs and field telephones, to say nothing of the millions of copper cartridge cases and the hundreds of thousands of copper-banded steel shells needed for the prosecution of the war. It is not extravagant to believe that, if Germany were prevented from getting any more copper through neutral countries, her powers of resistance would be broken in a few months by shortness of ammunition.


Sir Edward Grey's figures justify the inference that the new supplies obtained through these channels have been considerable. From the beginning of the war down to the third week in September, Italy imported from the United States 36,285,000 lbs., as compared with 15,202,000 lbs. for the corresponding period of 1913. During the same time the combined imports of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and the Balkan States amounted

35,347,000 lbs. as compared with 7,271,000 lbs. for the corresponding period of 1913. It would be folly to believe that these startling increases are due to any marked growth of industrial activity in the neutral countries themselves. Trade does not jump about in that way. Even if we may suppose that the preoccupation of the belligerents has stimulated the industries of neutrals, it cannot possibly have stimulated it to anything like the extent reflected in the above figures. The sane conclusion is that a good deal of the increased importation has been passed on to Austria and Germany, thus enabling them to prolong the war. But the price is, after all, the best possible indication that the supplies are still insufficient. Germany would not pay 1701. a ton and upwards for copper if there were anything like an adequate supply in view. If the scarcity is such as to compel an increase in price of 166 per cent. as compared with the market price elsewhere, what will it be when the neutral countries have put into full operation the more stringent examination which they realise to be obligatory?

Nearly everything that has been said about Germany applies, mutatis mutandis, to Austria-Hungary. The principal industry of the latter is agriculture, and it would no doubt be sufficient for the food requirements of the people if the labour conditions were normal. The drafting of so many thousands of men into the armies must have interfered seriously with cultivation; and the outcry already heard about the prices of provisions will

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


surely become much louder when the fields are left un

A nation which by reason of military strain can neither grow nor import food is not far removed from a state of threatened famine. And the pressure of war on Austria-Hungary will not be lessened by the fact that she is certainly not as rich as Germany, while her trade is smaller, and the people of the Dual Monarchy are by no means united.

Austria's estimated revenue for 1913 was 130,728,3971. ; Hungary's was 86,367,0431., which included the sum set aside annually as a contribution to the service of the General Debt of Austria. Austria-Hungary's foreign trade for 1913 was 141,433,0001, in imports and 115,129,0001. in exports; and the customs duties played an important part in the revenue figures. Her National Debt of about 304,000,0001. will be largely increased by the War Loan recently placed' and by further vast expenditure to

But the most hurtful financial factor, as in Germany, is the embargo put upon her export trade. Her chief exports before the war were beet sugar, grain, cattle, horses, eggs, timber, woollen and leather goods, glass and glassware, and fancy goods. Nearly all these are suspended. The value of Austria-Hungary's exports to the United Kingdom alone amounted in 1913 to 7,706,0001., by far the larger part of which was in sugar. No doubt a certain amount of commercial interchange will still go on between Austria-Hungary and Germany, between Austria-Hungary and Turkey, and between the German powers and neighbouring neutrals; but this will not save them from an enormous falling-off. Germany has in the past invested big sums in Austrian commercial and manufacturing enterprises; and it is estimated that at the present time she has between 100,000,0001. and 200,000,0001, in these ventures. Those which are devoted to the manufacture of things required for the war will be profitable, but it is not at all likely that much more than a tithe of the total is in this relatively fortunate position.

It is difficult to refrain from smiling when one comes to discuss the financial position of Turkey. In one sense, Turkey has no financial position. She certainly has no financial credit, and, before the present war started, she

« VorigeDoorgaan »