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And yet if we turn to published statistics of production we at once make rather significant discoveries. We find, for instance, that within the last few years, while our consumption of sugar refined on the continent has increased barely by one-half, our actual export of sugar refined at home has increased, say, by two-thirds. Our refiners are exporting more and more refined sugar and are, if we judge by actual results, in far better plight than the refiners that trust to the support of bounties. In Austria the sugar system has come to a financial catastrophe. Sugar refining is dwindling in Belgium. The exports of refined sugar from Holland are decreasing year by year, and even France has been unable materially to increase her exports of refined sugars. (The figures are 153,000 tons for 1873, and 154,000 for 1877.) And another detail of special significance is the fact that the English market now absorbs annually more raw than refined beet-sugar. These are a few of the facts of the present. They conclusively prove that the English sugar refineries continue year by year, in the face of unfair competition,' to make use of more and more raw material, and turn out year by year more and more of the manufactured article. This is not going backwards.' Thus, if we concede that some one member even of these English industries is paralysed, we must perforce admit this paralysis does not prevent increase in the productive activity of the whole body.
It should be noted that there is apparent ground for the grievance in certain localities; for there has been some local transference of activities. In Bristol and in Glasgow the sugar industries have suffered considerable shrinkage; but if we look to figures we find that a growth more than compensating for this shrinkage has taken place in the Liverpool, London, and Greenock centres. The records are:
We must follow this indictment to its second count-that the foreign bounties have been successful in causing much loss, injury, and suffering to the sugar-producing colonies of the empire.' Again, facts rob such a contention of its sting. We find that in 1862 we imported into England 250,000 tons of cane sugar, the produce of British soil; this annual total, with slight variations, steadily increased and reached 300,000 tons in 1877.
If we regard the statistics of the West Indian sugar exports for the last twenty years we see that the total of sugar exported has largely increased, the figures being 230,000 tons for 1878 as opposed to 177,000 tons for 1860. It is often and with reason objected that,
a sugar crop being so proverbially uneven, little trust can be placed in annual figures. It is worth while, then, to tot up the totals for four-year periods, and so eliminate this element of uncertainty. In the successive four-year periods, commencing with 1862, we find that the English West Indies exported 748,000, 868,000, 963,000 and 995,000 tons of sugar for each period respectively. It is also worth noticing that the average prices of fair refining' West Indian sugar for these four periods have been respectively 238. 8d., 248., 248. 3d., and 228. 3d.
It would appear, then, that in the West Indies the growth of sugar is expanding and increasing. At the same time in South Africa and in Australia sugar-growing is rapidly assuming important dimensions; while fully-peopled Mauritius pursues the even tenour of its way, so far as capricious seasons will allow.
It is thus difficult to put one's finger on the effects of these asserted causes of much loss, injury, and suffering to the sugarproducing colonies of the Empire.'
The real kernel of the grievance, concealed within much husk incidental to all grievances, is the fact that the cane-growers of the British colonies and the sugar refiners of the British isles have failed to secure for themselves the whole of the increased trade which has necessarily accompanied the largely-increased consumption of sugar that has taken place during the last few years. It has been calculated that during the last ten years the annual consumption of sugar in the United States and Europe alone has increased from 1,700,000 tons to 2,500,000. In the English market there has been a proportionate increase of something like 300,000 tons. This increased consumption has been supplied by new systems of production; and these have not all been monopolised by English refiners and West Indian planters. Hinc illæ lacrymæ.'
Mr. Giffen has calculated that 'in proportion to the whole production, British cane sugar had fallen from 17 to 13 per cent., and foreign cane sugar from 69 to 33 per cent.; while beetroot sugar had increased from 14 to 49 per cent.' In 1868 the English market took 80,000 tons of beet-sugar; but this item had grown by the year 1878 to no less an amount than 340,000 tons. In 1853 the amount of beet-sugar produced stood to the amount of cane-sugar produced in the proportion of 1 to 6; in 1863 this proportion had attained to I to 3; and in 1873 it was further reduced to 1 to 1. In other words, while thirty years ago one-seventh only of the total sugar supply was produced from beetroot, nowadays nearly one-half of the sugar consumed is the product of that root.
It will be seen, then, that the profitable extraction of sugar from beetroot has monopolised a lion's share in the supply of the greatly increased consumption of sugar. It would also seem that the inherent qualities of beet-sugar are highly favourable to the making of loaf sugar. There has been keen competition between English and continental refiners to produce the increased supply called for by No. 609 (No. CXXIX. N. s.)
consumers. English energy has speedily devised better organisation and improved machinery; but in one division, in the production of loaf sugar, thus far the continental refiners have had the best of the contest.
But it is well to remember that, even if for the sake of argument we admit that the manufacture of loaf or dry refined sugar has been destroyed in England by the bounty-fed supplies from abroad, we are then driven to acknowledge a correspondingly enormous development in England in the manufacture of moist-refined sugars in order to account for the large total growth not only in the consumption but in the export of sugar actually refined in England. Moist sugarrefining has more than occupied the industrial ground vacated by loaf sugar-refining. In the meantime, the French bounties alone pay us at the lowest computation 10 per cent. on the amount of capital that Englishmen formerly used in refining loaf sugar, but have now put to other more profitable purposes.
The problem remains whether this latter industry cannot be resuscitated in England and regain for itself a local habitation and a name. Obviously the first question to determine is why has this industry suffered defeat at the hands of the foreigner? Is it merely because the foreigner enjoys the natural protection' of using beetsugar grown at the very door of his refinery? Are Englishmen handicapped, even if we waive the question of bounties, by the amount of the freight necessary to surmount this geographical fact? Foreigners tell us this is not the case at all? 'Bounty-fed' countries necessarily pay a duty on imported sugars. Some, Austria for instance, give a bounty on the export of raw beet-sugar. The French and other continental refiners complain that the English refiners can and do obtain this low-priced raw material on far easier terms than are open to them. The Englishman, we are told, has the 'natural protection' of absence of duties added to the assistance of foreign bounties on the export of raw beet-sugar to counterbalance the natural protection' that the foreigner enjoys in nearness to his raw material.
There is more in the plea that the bounties on refined sugars place them in the English market at prices that endanger, if they do not preclude, the competition of local manufacturers. It boots little to repine on the debatable point that loaf-sugar made of beet has not the saccharine equivalent, quantity for quantity, of loaf-sugar produced from the sugar-cane. It may be impossible to prevail upon the thrifty housekeeper to buy loaf-sugar at 4d. a pound when she can get it at 3d., even when one explains never so wisely that one lump of the former will go as far as two of the latter. The Id. per pound less in price is self-evident and certain; the relative saccharine strength is hidden and problematical. Indeed it is now possible to deny these facts, and to show that improvements in the manufacture have removed any palpable saccharine advantages that cane-sugar once possessed over beet-sugar. And whatever the rights of the cane, the
fact remains that loaf-sugar produced from beet drives out of the market loaf-sugar produced from cane.
The plea, founded on this fact, is now strained by those interested to the conclusion that the sole remedy is to bar altogether this subsidized competition in the English market.' The refiners themselves would attain this end by the imposition of 28. per cwt. on all sugar imported that has received a bounty. This is, of course, altogether in the momentary interest of the producer. The consumer is not to benefit by the fact that goods, loaf-sugar to wit, enjoying certain superior facilities in the place of their production, are enabled to undersell similar English goods. It seems that it is Freetrade for the nation to profit, if it can, by the wisdom but not by the folly of other nations. If foreigners crush 'unnatural' industries by letting in upon them the keen air of freetrade competition we may profit by this wise action. But if they contribute so many hundred thousand pounds a year towards lowering the price of sugar in England,—if the folly of the French affords special facilities in France for the production of loaf-sugar for the English market, we must religiously refrain from profiting by any results of this folly, and, if need be, act up to this lofty resolve by imposing duties that are discriminating and imposed for purposes distinctly industrial and not financial.
As we have seen, it is solely in the interests of one branch of sugar refining that this drastic remedy is proposed. The remaining branches have survived and are prosperous without the aid of any such agency. Meanwhile the advocates of the measure are driven to adopt the suicidal corollary that if they tax the manufactured article for the benefit of the one branch they must perforce tax the raw material out of which the other branches have made their profits; and which is to be the basis of the industrial prosperity of the one branch.
It must also be remembered that although the foreign refiner receives a bounty on what he exports, he has to sacrifice much of this in the freight that carries his product to the English market. Roughly speaking, it costs the Austrian refiner 18. 6d. a cwt. to carry his refined sugar to the English market. This feature interposes greatly with the triumph of the bounty system; and is no doubt at the bottom of the fact that with all the struggles and toil of those interested, the bounty system is collapsing in all the States that have adopted it.
There are, in fact, two courses by which the English refiner may procure beet-sugar at the same price as his French rival. If, on the one hand, it be true that beet growing is absolutely impossible in England, and that the British farmer might, with equal prospect of success, devote himself to the cultivation of the sugar-cane, then the refiner must proceed on the lines of his previous conduct in regard to cane sugar, and simply set about obtaining as much and as cheap beet-sugar as is possible. He will wisely leave it to foreign nations to decide whether or no they will pay their sugar growers to supply English refiners with raw material at exceptionally low prices. Even
at the present, though it may be held that these bounties supply us with loaf-sugar at a price too low to enable English refiners to continue to refine loaf-sugar, nevertheless these bounties supply us with at the least an equal quantity of raw sugar on which our refiners get to work most profitably. Our refiners have made use of their opportunities most successfully to outbid all competition in moist-refining. While in 1868 only one-eighth of the sugar our refiners used was beet-sugar, in 1877 no less than one-third of what they used was supplied by continental beet growers.
But, on the other hand, is not the English refiner driven to this course because he cannot obtain beet-sugar grown in England? Is it altogether and absolutely impossible for the British farmer, to his own great profit, to produce a local supply of beet-sugar which shall enable refiners again to set about the refining of loaf-sugar?
The past fifty years have seen beet growing assume enormous proportions on the continent: why has this movement not extended to England? It can hardly be solely because of the bounty given by foreigners, for that is confined to exported sugars both cane and beet. The raw beet-sugar we import from Austria is burdened with the necessary cost of transport to the amount of 18. 6d. a cwt. This freight thus countervails the bounty received by the grower, and makes the price of raw beet-sugar delivered in England the equivalent of the price which it would obtain in the locality where it is produced. The effect of the bounty is neutralised by the effect of the freight.
History, indeed, whispers to us other reasons for this. Over and over again an industry that has eventually become domiciled in a country, to the great advantage both of the country and the industry, has for years, or it may be centuries, previous to its introduction, languished in the contempt and disregard that are bred of unfamiliarity. The industry has survived the uncongenial surroundings of less favourably endowed localities; and its introduction to brighter prospects has often been the result of accident rather than design.
Is it impossible for our farmers to make a conscious effort? It is a common complaint that no crops pay nowadays; this is the utmost that can be said against the beet crops grown for sugar. Can no private enterprise or even patriotism raise capital sufficient for a bold attack on these barriers of prejudice and ignorance? Is it not indeed a cause as deserving the advance of public money as fishery piers?' Is not the giving a new crop to the farmer and a new industry to the peasant a substantial and true measure of relief for Ireland?
Precedent is in the farmer's favour. There is not only the freight to countervail the foreigner's bounty, but there is also the fact that the soil of Great Britain produces more, acre for acre, than that of France under the present systems of farming. Whether this be due to superior bounty of nature or to superior skill or energy, or to both combined, we need not here inquire. The fact remains that the average output per hectare of land tilled for the purpose is as follows::