DEFICIENCY OF THE HARVEST AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
WHEN a scarcity of the first necessary of life is admitted on all hands, it is important that the public should he aware of the extent of the evil, and should early consider of the best modes of mitigating it. - The home consumption of wheat, and the supply of the country, are known with some accuracy. The population of Great Britain is fully fifteen millions; and according to the. usual reckoning of nearly a quarter of grain for each person per annum, the consumption of wheat must be at least 14,000,000 quarters. During the last eight years, the home growth, one year with another, may be said to have about equalled the consumption, for the foreign imports during that period have not been material; and consequently the produce must have been 14,000,000 quarters yearly. The late harvest is understood to have been from one-third to one-fourth under an average one ; and accordingly the quantity of wheat will not exceed from 10,000,000 to 11,000,000 quarters. The deficiency of former scarce years has been pretty generally stated at the same proportion ; the last of which have been in 1795, 1799, 1809, and 1816. The following estimates furnish a general view of the bearings of the supply and consumption of wheat at these several periods of scarcity.
Old Stock of Wheat atharvest. 700,000 qrs. Wheat Crops. 9,500,000 qrs. Supply for the follow- ing twelve months. 10,200,000 qrs.
1799 4,000,000 8,000,000 12,000,00t1 1800 500,1010 9,000,000 9,000,0(10 1810 t1,1:i0,01■0 9,000,000 15,150,000 1820 755,264 10,000,000 10,750,2(34
The old stork and crop in 1810, and the old stock in 1828, are taken from Mr. JACOB'S Report. According to his estimate, the supply in 1816 was much greater than at present; for the old stuck and crop in 1816 make 15,000,000 quarters, to meet the consumption, which could not exceed 12,000,000 at that period, when the population was less; thus leaving an excess of 3,000,000 quarters.
Now, taking the most favourable estimate, supposing- the old stock to be
• 1,000,000, and the crop to be 11,000,000, there are 12,000,000 only to provide for a consumption of 14,000,000 ; leaving a deficiency of 2,000,000 quarters. The importations from Ireland and foreign countries is to be added. This importation never conjointly reached in any one year so much as 2,000,000 quarters ; and in the ensuing year, European countries will have less than heretofore to spare. The eventual deficiency must be made up by the sub- stitution of other grain, and a lessened consumption.
This last is chiefly effected through the rise in price. The season of 1816 (a time of peace) most resembled the present one ; the average price, which had been under60s.rose in January 1817 to 103s. Id. and i n J uneu following to 111s. W. In the preceding scarcity of 1799, the price rose in a greater pro- portion—early in 1799, the average price was about 50.s.; but in January 1800 it was 95.s. 9d., and in July 1:16s. 4d. per Winchester quarter.
In the present year, the average of the first six months was about 55s.; and, if the price should follow the course of the above-named years, as seems likely, the average will be about double up to Midsummer next. An average price throughout the country of 110s. would make, for the finest Wheat, full 130s., and more in some parts. This would be enormously heavy, for it is universally agreed that the value of money is now much higher than in 1817; and Mr. Western's estimate has been generally admitted, that 60s. at present is equal to 80s. of that period. Such is the prospect, not formed upon conjecture, but according to the experience of past years. Remedies were sought early on former occasions. In 1730, a year of great scarcity, the Privy Council took evidence, and issued a report to inform the public, and recommend various precautions; nor was this unnecessary, for in the following year, wheat had, by June, risen 250 per cent. In 1795, the Ministers published, on the 6th July, an engagement to confine the consumption of their fatnilies to common wheaten bread, and to diminish the use of flour in other articles of food, and recommending the practice to the public : it was signed by Mr. Pitt, Lords Chatham, Bathurst, Mornington, &c.
At present the Government has taken no measures of preparation against the dearth. Is it that the Ministers are not convinced of the existence of scarcity to the degree supposed ? or that, to avow their conviction without perceiving any measures expedient to be adopted, would only serve to in- crease alarm ?
Parliament must, however, interfere ; and the first step must be to sus- pend the new corn-law till August or September next. Although the recent advance will, in a few weeks, raise the average above the highest price of the scale of duties, the existence of the law is a check upon importation. The dread of a decline at a future date, and with it a pressure of heavy duties, must deter speculators from procuring supplies from distant quarters. The Baltic will be speedily closed by the winter ; the Black Sea is closed by po- litical occurrences ; it is to the United States, in the first instance, that a supply must be looked for, and to the Baltic for May or june next. Im- portations must be encouraged, if not by bounties as in 1800, at least by the removal of all duties, and especially those duties which rise as the price falls, and add to the importer's loss. Another precaution for the public is, increased economy in the use of wheat. A respectable Jew informs us, that many families go so far as to make it a matter of conscience to abstain from pastry. It will be for Parlia- ment to decide, when it meets, whether the distillation from grain shall be trohibiteda and tho duties on rice aad other provisions removed.