The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, JULY 29, 1889. TEE WORLD'S FOOD SUPPLY.
To place before oar readers authoritative facts respecting the prod action and price of wheat needs no apology m this district. We lately gave the views of the foremost grain merchant m Now Zealand on tho subject, and have since had brought under our notce an article m the " Contemporary Review" by tho well-known authority, Mr J. H. Oroßs, dealing with the world wide aspect of the subject. The gravity of the subject as affecting the British agricultural classes may be 'estimated when their losses during the ten years 1875-1885 are stated as being equal to a capitalised sum of £740,000,000,— equal to the amount of the British National debt. The lons includes that of tenants and farmers, and also the depreciation m tbe value of land during tho ten years. Looking to Amerioa Mr Grose quotes the report of the Royal Commission of A griculture of 1880, which after oarefully considering the cost of production ia the States, stated that if wheat fell m tl.e London market to less than 42s per quarter, exports from America must cease. The calculations were elaborate and exact, but the reductions of railway and shipping rateß of freight since that time have made it possible for American wheat to be sold m England at 823 per quarter, with increased average supplies. Formerly if British crops were poor the price was high, but now the market is ruled by foreign supplies, and this compensation is denied to the un fortunate British farmer. No probability is seen of any material change for many years. The most important influence against higher prices is the enormous area of wheat-growing territory opened by the extension of American railways. In the ten years between 1878 and 1888, the United btateu built 80,000 mileß of new railroad, of which 20,000 wero built during the eighteen months preceding 1888. The total of the American lines now open is 160,000 miles, and their annual receipts £187.000,000. Mr Cross had not tho nic.'-.us at his command to enable him to say the exact mileage open m the British Empire, including India, Canada, Australasia and all colonies, but the income of altogether was only £105,000,000, showing tho gigantic area and producing capacity on which the American lines operated. $me thousand miles of the now lines were opened m one year to the westward of the Missouri river, making available a vast grain-growing country, of which the Commission on Agriculture had no idea when their calculations as to the future were made. New sources of supply are being thus perpetually tapped, and great tracts of virgin Boil made available jn Canada as well as m America, The Manitoba territory m Canada is almost untouched. , Its powers of production, as well as those of its neighbor Dakota, m tbe United States, are practioally unlimited, while the comparative soaallness of their own consuming population will for many years oause them to export the greater part of their wheat to other markets. The Argentine Republic is opening up its great territory m the same way. On the other hand the wheat product of Uussia, which once occupied the largest figure m tho world's markets, has long fallen into a lower place. That of India cannot be calculated upon as pormanont to any extent beyond its present available surplus. On the contrary, it is known tbat the people of that country are being (jompolled by their necessities to export much of the wheat whioh, under happier conditions, they would consume at home instead of tho poorer diet on which they are obliged to live. Looking thus at the various sources of wheat supply m the world, at their enormous capabilities, and at the growing cheapness of transportation, Mr Crosß feels forced to the conclusion that there is Httlo hope of permanent improvement m tho pricos to which tho farmers can look at home. Of course, the samo conclusion must bo faced by our farmers m New Zealand and m tbe other colonies. Fortunately for us and for them, tho pricos which aro so unprofitable at home pay well m the colonies, and are likely to do so for many years, till their power of consumption becomes commensurate with that of production. More fortunately we have the growing export of frozent moan also to depend upon, and both these articles aro little likely to fail us before the natural increase of populat : on makes our own market the most favorable. Meantime we must make the bast use of our resources ; strive to vary the products grown or fed ko that one may help the other ; and adopt tho most intelligent methods of retaining the fertility of tho soil, and the most economical modes of cultivation.