No. 416.
Mr. Gibbs to Mr. Evarts.

No. 244.]

Sir: Referring to your circular dispatch marked “separate” of July 16th last, I have dedicated some time in trying to gather statistics so as to be able to give you some information relative to the commerce of Peru. Unfortunately the bureau of statistics ordered by the Government of Peru, and in operation now more than two years, has not accomplished anything yet to show the result of its labors. My information is gathered from personal observation, articles in the press—native and foreign—and interviews with the prominent merchants in the foreign trade.

The exports of Peru consist principally of—

Estimated value per annum.
Guano 12,000,000
Sugar 8,000,000
Nitrate of soda 6,000,090
Wool 3,500,000
Silver 3,500,000
Copper 2,000,000
Cotton 1,000,000

Bar tin, wines, vicuna, and chinchilla skins or furs.

Various estimates that I have seen make the total of exports over 40,000,000 sols. Guano for Europe is estimated at 400,000 tons per annum for the United States and West Indies, 100,000 tons; producing, in all, 12,000,000 soles. Guano seems to be inexhaustible for many years to come. New discoveries of more or less value are reported frequently, but the large deposits of clear guano seem to have been cleaned out, and the places now worked give some foreign material, being at times mixed with stone, gravel, or earth.

I wrote a dispatch on sugar March 13, 1876, No. 63, showing what an important industry it had become in Peru. The amount produced this year was about 100.000 tons, of which was exported to—

Great Britain (official) 63,370
Chili (calculation) 18,000
Other countries (calculation) 6,000
Consumption 12,630

I will call your attention to the increase of this trade with Great Britain in eight years.

Sugar exported to that country, 1870 251
1871 4,350
1872 6,550
1873 15,950
1874 23,700
1875 50,000
1876 55,030
1877 63,370

The sugar produced in this country is of a good class, and sells well in the English market, particularly for refining purposes, as the greater part of it is fine centrifugals; all above No. 16. It is kept out of our market on account of duties, which, I perceive, are augmented by the proposed new tariff presented to the House of Representatives for debate, according to my last advices.

Nitrate of soda is an article that has increased in production and exportation [Page 725] from this country. It is used for many purposes—for extracting various chemicals, and also used greatly in Europe as a fertilizer. Contracts are about to be signed to supply one of the heaviest English houses on the coast annually 5,500,000 quintals, or 275,000 tons.

In my dispatch No. 76, of July 13, 1876, I gave a detailed description of nitrate affairs, and the decrees of the government, which I beg to refer to.

The following statement shows the total amount shipped from Peru for a number of years, with other details:

Year. Total amount shipped from Peru. Discharged in the United Kingdom. Average price per quintal.
Tons. Per cent. s. d.
1830 841
1860 55,549
1864 85,687 30 16
1865 109,911 41 13 6
1866 98,446 40 11 0
1867 114,765 44 10 9
1868 85,793 53 13 3
1869 112,817 39 15 9
1870 132,454 41 15 9
1871 162,266 46 15 6
1872 198,984 42 15 3
1873 281,870 45 14 9
1874 252,575 41 12 3
1875 323,600 48 11 9
1876 322,387 47 11 6
1877 236,417 29 14 0

The product of Peru could be made up to 10,000,000 of quintals annually if all the factories were at work. The factories to-day at work have the producing power of—

State works 4,020,000 quintals and do produce 2,812,000
Private 4,330,000 quintals and do produce 3,610,000

The consumption of nitrate in the United States is calculated at 25,000 tons per annum; the house of Olyphant & Co., of New York, have a contract with the government to receive that amount or 500,000 quintals. It is not used as a fertilizer in the United States, which partly accounts for the immense difference in the amount consumed in the United States and Europe. I perceive that by the proposed new tariff nitrate is taken off the free list, and a duty of 20 per cent, to be placed on it; if that becomes a law I suppose it will partly check the importation.

Wool is a very important article of export from this country, and increases steadily, and when the Oroya Railroad, leading from Callao via Lima to the interior, reaches well into the department of Junin the export will be heavier. The most valuable wool that leaves Peru is the alpaca, and exported mostly to England, into which country there was imported—

1875. 3,982,859 lbs., valued at £528,412
1876. 3,418,152 lbs., valued at 384,469
1877. 3,561,806 lbs., valued at 362,622

The price varies from 35 cents to 60 cents in silver per pound; to-day the price in Arequipa, the great wool depot, is forty silver sols per quintal. England, I believe, is the country that works this wool into the well-known alpaca cloth, and the material is only produced in Peru and Bolivia; found in the high plateaus of the Andes up to 14,000 feet and [Page 726] over. On my late trip to the south of Peru I saw large flocks of the alpaca above the altitude of 12,000 feet. It is ruminant, herded in the same manner as sheep, of the same family as the llama, guanaco, and vicuna; the two last are wild, the llama and alpaca domestic. The former are used as beasts of burden, particularly for metallic ores, of which they will carry about 100 pounds, very sure-footed, and peculiarly fitted for the narrow and precipitous passes of the Andes; the alpaca for its wool, which is distinguished for its fineness, being silky, very long, without oleaginous matter, white, black, and cinnamon colors. An attempt was made to introduce them into Australia, but I understand that it failed, lacking the peculiar grasses of the Andean altitudes, which are more or less impregnated with nitrate salts.

Puno and Junin are the two departments which produce the most wool. Junin lies between latitude 10°, longitude 12° south, and Puno 12° to 17° south.

From the port of Mollendo, the outlet of the department of Puno, I have an exact account of the exports of wool of all kinds, and all to Great Britain.

Description. Spanish weight.
1875. 1876. 1877.
Lbs. Lbs. Lbs.
Alpaca, first quality 2,674,500 2,978,000 2,582,400
Alpaca, inferior 494,100 464,000 535,400
Sheep wool 2,110,700 1,954,300 2,932,800
Total 5,279,300 5,396,300 6,050,600

From Arica were exported, in 1877,501,548 lbs. of alpaca wool, valued at 190,588 sols, and of sheep’s wool 35,450 lbs., at 8,862.50 sols. These two ports, Mollendo and Arica, are the most important for the export of wool at present.

Silver is one of the great products of Peru, but the most difficult to learn of as regards the export, as I have already explained in my dispatch No. 108, of November 21, 1876.

The press, in various discussions on the trade of the country, put it at 3,500,000 sols per annum. I think it much more. From a report taken from the South Pacific Times, of the exports from Arica for the year 1877, it amounts to 2,089,882 sols in bars and silver coin. From various sources of information, I calculate over 6,000,000 in bars and ore per annum.

Of gold I can get no positive information, although it is continually shipped from the country in small quantities from all parts—all or the greater part in dust or small nuggets.

Copper: is all exported to England, and is estimated at the value of over 2,000,000 per annum, which I think falls far short of the actual amount, taking ores and bars together, and by the increasing railroad facilities to the interior the export will undoubtedly augment greatly.

By statistics published here from the Peruvian consul at Southampton, the amount of imports into Great Britain from Peru in the year 1877 amounted to £5,525,516, and exports in the same period to £618,049. I doubt this as being a fair test, for I suppose cargoes of guano and nitrate go there for orders, which are often sent to other parts of Europe. The government draws on England for all amounts for current expenses, and another fact is that on account of the depreciated currency and depressed [Page 727] financial affairs in Peru, expectations from England have been much reduced.

Imports into this country consist of cotton goods, woolen goods, machinery, crockery, and porcelain, boots and shoes, paper of all kinds, hats, lumber, sewing-machines, perfumery, soap, agricultural implements, rubber goods, kerosene in large quantities. Good petroleum has been discovered on various parts of the coast and near tide-water, apparently abundant, and the production is as yet in its infancy; and I only know of one refinery in operation, that is doing a large and increasing business.

Wheat is imported. In the time of the colony, the coast cities and towns were supplied from the valley of Cajamarca in the north, and none imported. From commercial statistics published by the Government of Chili, I find there was exported from that country to Peru—

1875 29,690,808 kilograms of wheat, value $1,275,755 00
1876 32,867,833 Kilograms of wheat, value 1,532,518 00

This is a business that could be done with California if there was any chance of returning merchandise. Some is now being imported. I see by the press that by the latest dates from San Francisco, two vessels were loading wheat for Callao, each with 1,000 tons.

Importations into Peru from England for ten months of 1877 to October 31, consisted of 32,718,300 varas of cotton goods, 441,600 varas of woolen goods, 739,700 varas of linen goods, 1,280 tons iron, unwrought, bars, &c, 1,262 tons iron, wrought, hardware, &c.

From Germany there have been imported for the six months ending December 31, 1877, groceries, silk and woolen goods, hardware, glassware, pianos, drugs, hats, cigars, coal and iron to the value of $1,117,769.

From France, cotton goods, hats, stationery, furniture, canned meats, woolen goods, shoes, jewelry, dresses, leather, and fancy goods, for three months ending December 31, 1877, to the value of $2,855,625 francs. This is considered very light, and in normal times would have been over four millions.

As Peru on the western slope of the Andes produces little or no timber, large quantities are imported, principally from California and Oregon; some hard woods and cedar from Ecuador. I have no statistics on the matter, but it is a very heavy trade.

I believe there are only three manufactories of woven goods in the country; one of cotton drills and domestics near Lima, two of woolen cloths, the largest and most important near Cuzco, and another in the north near Huaraz; product of all, very superior. The cotton-mill is worked entirely by Chinese, and the woolen one at Cuzco by the native Indians. It is difficult to make changes in a long-established trade where a heavy capital is employed.

I beg to refer to my dispatch No. 182, of August 6 last, relative to the nationalities in this country, wherein I show the hold which English commerce has by reason of many years’ dealing with established houses; and merchants (exporters and importers) cannot be expected to form new relations by breaking off old ones for something that may be, to them, more or less doubtful; still, whenever American manufactures have been brought in contact with European products, they have been preferred, dry goods and furniture principally, with some hardware, there being no doubt of their superiority, but the trade is held back, for returns cannot be sent to the United States on account of the tariff. One of the principal sugar-planters said, that from experience he had found the machinery from the United States to be superior to that of Europe, and he added, “I must get my wants supplied to make my sugar from the country that buys from me.”

[Page 728]

Many of the foreign houses here employ German clerks. One of the largest English houses on this coast is directed by a German. The admirable commercial education which Germans go through makes them eminently fitted to enter business houses, where, with their steady business habits, they work up from a clerkship to a partnership in the firm. It is rarely that one meets a German clerk who does not understand and speak English, French, and Spanish, besides his own language.

There are two causes that work directly against trade with the United States from this country. The principal is our tariff, which operates against shipments, and I see by the proposed new tariff before the House, by my last advices, there are many articles that were formerly on the free list which will be taxed. I think that will be injurious to the extension of trade from these countries to the United States, reducing the amount of return, for commerce always tries to remit merchandise to repay shipments received. The merchant consignee is always desirous of earning his commissions on articles received and remitted. The articles to be taxed with duties, now free, produced in South America, are bitter barks, cochineals, gums, indigo, fins, hides, skins, India rubber, nitrate of soda, cocoa, gutta-percha crude, and sarsaparilla crude. Another cause are the freights from the United States to this country. Merchandise can be shipped from England, France, and Germany by steam at much lower rates by the different lines, either via the Isthmus or by the Straits of Magellan, than from New York by the shortest and most direct line, the Isthmus.

Our carrying trade is slowly increasing on this coast, as you will perceive by the following note, and we hold the supremacy of fine large carriers. The result of the heavy tonnage turned out of the Maine shipyards these last two years is being seen in the comparison with the vessels of the European nationalities arriving at this republic for the year 1876-’77:


Nationality. Vessels. Tons. Average.
English 142 126,728 891½
American 56 63,075 1,126
Italian 47 34,689 738
French 26 13,508 519½
German 19 11,518 606
Norwegian 14 9,450 675
Swedish 13 7,625 586
Belgian 2 1,890 945
Portuguese 1 909 909
Austrian 1 290 290


English 200 201,413 1,007
American 98 121,952 1,244½
Italian 55 37,524 682
French 41 19,780 482
German 32 23,077 752
Norwegian 11 9,903 900
Swedish 7 5,036 713
Belgian 2 1,308 654
Portuguese 1 900 900
Danish 2 758 379
Russian 1 862 862

Since writing the above, I see by this evening’s papers a note has been published of the value of exports and imports into Peru to and [Page 729] from Great Britain alone, for the years 1872 to 1877 inclusive, which I append:

Years. Importations Exportations.
1872 £3,344,849 £4,211,723
1873 2,741,255 5,219,573
1874 1,819,977 4,501,213
1875 1,650,000 5,700,000
1876 634,999 5,881,866
1877 423,507 6,986,333

Mr. A. Raimundi, the well-known scientist of Peru, has just issued his great work entitled “Minerals of Peru,” published by the government, and closes his labors with a “conclusion,” which I translate and indorse:

By the reading of the present catalogue an idea can he formed of the mineral products of the republic, adverting that the samples of this collection represent only the principal classes; as for some minerals, such as the argentiferous lead ores, the gray copper, iron, and coal, to indicate alone the localities where they are known to he would fill volumes. If the valuable deposits of guano and nitrate are taken into account, it can be said, without any exaggeration, there is no country in the world that possesses such various and abundant mineral resources as Peru; and if the nation knew how to take advantage with care of these precious gifts of nature, it would again justify before the world her ancient opulence, and Peru will again be, as in other times, the symbol of “riches.”

I am, sir, &c.,