No. 19.
Mr. Fish to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 224.]

Sir: The competition of American and other foreign grain with that of Belgium has caused for a number of years a great depression among the agricultural classes in this country. It has reduced the price of grain and has caused the owners of the land to diminish the rentals of their farms, and has for a long time been the black spectre which the ever-complaining agriculturist has alleged as the author of all his misfortunes.

The clerical majority comprises a very large proportion of the landed proprietors. Among the measures which were advocated in the recent election campaign by several of the clerical speakers was one to place a customs duty on imported grain.

* * * * * * *

The matter, in my opinion, will be referred to the chambers of agriculture for examination and report, and then be submitted to the action of the legislative chambers.

It is a matter of much discussion in the press, and one on which the clerical press cannot unite, as the commercial and manufacturing centers like Antwerp and Ghent are naturally opposed to a tax upon their trade or upon so important an article of their consumption.

The Liberal press have raised a vehement protest against such a measure. They accuse their adversaries of advocating the imposition of the grain duty in the country while opposing it in the commercial and manufacturing districts. They also accuse the clericals of professing their intention not to vote the measure, in order to curry favor in the cities, and that after the elections of the 8th July they intend to vote it.

The amount of the tax imposed varies in the estimate of its advocates from 50 centimes to 5 francs, according to the zeal with which they press the adoption. It is important, therefore, to consider the large interest we have in this subject.

I therefore submit the following statistics of the movement of grain during 1882, gathered from the Belgian official publications:

Grain. Total importation from all countries. Total exportation from all countries.
Kilograms. Kilograms.
Wheat 715,686,548 304,168,468
Rye 129,070,842 92,768,897
Barley 255,871,290 49,886,116
Beans, peas, &c 23,137,030 8,067,125
Oats, Indian corn, &c 183,224,579 72,540,449
Total 1,307,990,289 527,431,055

[Page 25]

The estimated value of these cereals was:

Grain. Total importation from all countries. Total exportation from all countries.
Francs. Francs.
Wheat 200,392,233 85,167,171
Rye 25,814,168 18,553,779
Barley 49,532,971 10,476,085
Peas, beans, &c 5,784,258 2,016,781
Oats, Indian corn, &c 34,812,670 13,782,686
Total 316,336,300 129,996,502

A comparison of these figures gives us the following amounts and values of the excess of importation over exportation:

Grain. Excess in weight. Excess in value.
Kilograms. Francs.
Wheat 411,518,080 115,225,062
Rye 26,301,945 7,260,389
Peas, beans, &c 15,069,905 3,767,477
Barley 205,985,174 39,056,886
Oats, Indian corn, &c 110,684,130 21,029,984
Total 779,559,234 186,339,798

With the exception of barley, the United States is among the largest contributors to the supply of these products, while we furnish nearly one-half of the supply of wheat. Our rivals in the market are Russia, British India, France, and the Netherlands.

The following table shows the proportions which each of these countries furnished to Belgium in 1882:

Country. Wheat. Rye. Peas, beans, &c. Oats, Indian corn, &c.
Kilograms. Kilograms. Kilograms. Kilograms.
United States 344,276,206 15,540,296 2,133,761 12,776,888
Russia 133,673,112 41,645,652 873,210 98,830,707
British India 118,146,157 None None None
France (*) 52,344,067 (*) (*)
Netherlands (*) (*) 7,805,524 (*)
Total 596,095,475 109,530,015 10,812,495 111,607,595
All other countries 119,591,073 19,540,827 12,324,535 71,616,984

There is no exportation of any of these products to-the United States, Russia, or British India.

The excess of importation into Belgium over exportation of rye to France is 51,897,606 kilograms; that of peas, beans, &c., from Holland is 7,102,616 kilograms. Should legislation of the nature proposed be [Page 26] enacted, it will doubtless affect the importation of grain from the United States, the value of which is thus given:

Grain. Value.
Wheat 96,397,337
Rye 3,108,059
Barley 87,570
Peas, beans, &c 533,440
Oats, Indian corn, &c 2,427,609
Total 102,554,015

There is no exportation to the United States.

The exports of these products are thus distributed:

Exportation in 1882. Wheat. Rye. Peas, beans, &c. Oats, Indian corn, &c.
Denmark 243
Hamburg 1,883,070
Prussia 121,446,155 67,611,359 3,661,346 31,629,493
Grand Duchy of Luxemburg 7,443,682 2,269,754 69,889 638,273
Netherlands 71,289,076 22,401,323 692,908 9,022,652
England 697,600 95,017 182,845
France 84,506,206 446,461 3,486,732 27,329,478
Portugal 251,850
Spain 466,425
Switzerland 16,056,486 40,000 3,737,465
Other countries 137,918 61,233
Total 304,168,468 92,768,897 8,067,125 72,540,449
Of this in transit 4,642,408 28,388,012 1,111,651 5,722,262

The small amount passing through Belgium “in transit” indicated that the present mode of shipping grain is almost entirely done through Belgian intermediaries. They get the benefits of the handling, the commissions and profits, and a considerable share of the freights’ insurance. The trade gives employment to a large number of persons.

As affecting the Antwerp trade, we find that 682,189 tons of wheat, 75,680 of rye, 177,599 of barley, 10,845 of peas, beans, &c., and 162,091 of oats, Indian corn, &c., were imported by sea into Belgium, and 3,859 tons of wheat, 22 tons of barley, 170 tons of peas, beans, &c., and 183 tons of oats, Indian corn, &c., were exported by sea from Belgium.

Nearly all of this traffic was effected through Antwerp. It amounts to a gross total of 1,112,538 tons. There is a source of revenue derived from this trade which is of importance to the state, viz, the railway, river, and canal freights.

The exportation of these products by rail and inland navigation amounted to an aggregate of: Wheat, 300,309; rye, 92,768; barley, 49,863; peas, beans, &c., 7,897; oats, Indian corn, &c., 72,357—523,194 tons; to which, in this connection, might be added the local transportation of the amount consumed in Belgium. Should Belgium tax the entry of these products, they will naturally seek other channels of transportation than through her territory, and thus deprive her of a very large and lucrative trade in distributing them to other countries.

The political and economical considerations of the question of such a duty are so vast, they involve so many issues and interests, that it would be impossible to deal with them in a single dispatch, nor could they be treated in a proper manner until the proposal shall have assumed a more definite form.

I have, &c.,

  1. The exportation is in excess of the importation.
  2. The exportation is in excess of the importation.
  3. The exportation is in excess of the importation.
  4. The exportation is in excess of the importation.
  5. The exportation is in excess of the importation.
  6. The exportation is in excess of the importation.