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A better idea can be had, however, of the increase in the agricultural production of the country by referring to statistics, which show that the total exports of cereals for the year 1886 amounted to only $8,000,000, while those for 1890 amounted to $25,000,000. The home consumption had also increased considerably from 1886 to 1890.
Up to 1891, the imports had always exceeded the exports, but owing to the increase in the exports of cereals and some other products in 1891, the exports exceeded the imports by $28,000,000; and during the first three months of the year 1892, according to the returns of the Buenos Aires custom-house, the excess of exports over imports was $13,000,000; showing that this most favorable condition would increase instead of decrease.
Regarding the conditions of life of farmers in Europe and in the Argentine Republic, methods employed, etc., Monsieur Daireaux says:
The Argentine farmer differs entirely from his European brother, and to this must be attributed the success of the former, who has no ambition to live exclusively on the products of his own land; but, on the contrary, considers his land and his labor a mere commercial venture, and is ready at any moment to sell •his property if offered a good price for it. Above all, he is not anxious to increase his labor, leaving such ideas to the traditional fanatics of the French agricultural regions.
He has, indeed, reduced his labor to a considerable extent. He is unacquainted with the French division of land in small portions widely separated from each other, which is one of the principal causes of the ruin of French agriculture; his house is in the midst of his land, and he grows but one class of grain on his farm of 125 or 250 acres. While one farmer grows wheat, another grows maize, another barley, and another flax, etc. In a word, the farmer works like a business man, seeking to make his business pay. In this manner, he obtains better results than the French farmer, and is able, besides, to dedicate most of his time to rest and study.
To understand what follows from Monsieur Daireaux, it is necessary to remember that in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons of the year are precisely opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, in the Argentine Republic, the spring comprises September, October, and November; the summer, December, January, and February; the autumn, March, April, and May; and the winter, June, July, and August.
In autumn, the Argentine farmer prepares his land. The rich nature of the soil makes this operation an easy one, being reduced to a few turns of the plow to prepare it, a difficult and costly operation not being at all necessary. Two months suffice to do this and to sow the seed. He spends the winter in those mild regions, where it never snows, in looking after his garden pot herbs, and his oxen, horses, etc. In the spring, nature works for him.
At last, summer arrives, or at least is near, because in the month of November, which corresponds to the month of May in the Northern Hemisphere, the wheat commences to get yellow, and it is time to prepare the reaping machines. It might be said that the murmur of the ripe ears of corn and wheat calls the farmer from his tranquil life. So it happened in times gone by, when the farmer had to reap with his own hands and was forced to lose most of the harvest for lack of laborers. To-day, things have changed. The farmer who finds it impossible to buy the machine or machines he requires, makes an agreement with one of the many contractors of the district who, in a week, reaps the harvest, thrashes it, and leaves it ready to be exported, sometimes even buys it himself; so that the farmer has only to exchange his crop for a check and the business is done.
The bands of men who do the work of reaping and thrashing the harvest are generally composed of Italians, who come from Lombardy, attracted by the high wages that are paid. They embark at Genoa in August or September. The French and Italian steamers bring from 1,000 to 1,200 of these men on each trip, who reach Buenos Aires after a voyage of twenty or twenty-five days. Once there, they find out where it is best for them to go. Some take the steamers to Santa Fé and Entre Rios, others go by train to the agricultural regions of the Province of Buenos Aires.
During the months of November, December, January, and February, their services are engaged at extremely high prices in the region that extends from the twenty-seventh to the fortieth degree of south latitude. These four months of continuous work, first in one place and then in another, where they receive wages that vary
from 12 to 18 francs per day, and are well fed at the cost of the land-owner, satisfy the ambition of some of them. These, after the work is over, return to their own country, where they show with pride the gold they have earned while Europe had been covered with the snows of winter. They arrive in their native country at precisely the time when their labor is needed, and after their work is done, they return to the Southern Hemisphere. Every year, they see upon their arrival how much more land is under cultivation, and how rapidly the conquest of the prairies goes on in a country which, as yet, has never received more than 110,000 immigrants per year. [In 1889 the number of immigrants who arrived in the Argentine Republic reached the enormous figure of 300,000.] The single Province of Santa Fé, called with reason the “wheat region,” besides the 1,482,600 acres under cultivation in 1887, has more than that number already divided into lots and ready for the action of the plow, besides 17,300,000 acres occupied as yet by cattle and sheep growers—a most fertile land and exceptionally adapted for cultivation.
It should be stated that since M. Daireaux's book was written, there has been a change in the condition and profits of labor and the rates of wages.
. A special report to the British Foreign Office, November 20, 1892, says:
The material condition of the working classes in the Argentine Republic can not be said to be satisfactory at the present time. The cost of living in the towns is very dear as regards rent and imported articles, cheap as regards actual meat and necessary food. In the country, living is exceedingly cheap and bad. Wages are low on the whole, and there is but little demand for labor, though there is no absolute want of demand and an excess of supply, as during 1891. The decline of the gold premium has already increased the wages of the working classes in gold some 25 per cent. It is hoped that the decline of the premium will continue, thereby benefiting the working classes, both by enabling them to buy imported articles more cheaply and by increasing the gold value of any savings they may accumulate, and the purchasing power of every paper dollar they earn. It must, however, not be forgotten that prices of provisions, etc., having risen a good deal in paper dollars in the last two years, the cost of all living will gradually increase, as prices in paper are not likely to fall to their original figures. In the Argentine Republic, foreign labor of every kind enjoys complete liberty, and is welcomed, as the benefit conferred by it is acknowledged by everyone, and its necessity is self-evident.
With regard to the law encouraging agricultural colonies, a great many of which the National Government has established in the different territorial governments and in the Provinces of Santa Fé, Entre Rios, and Córdoba, and also with regard to the facility for acquiring land for such purposes, it is of interest to reproduce here a chapter dedicated to this subject, taken from a work entitled “Geographical and Statistical Description of the Province of Santa Fé," written in Spanish and French (fourth edition, 1886), by Don Gabriel Carrasco:
No other country in the world offers better facilities [says Señor Carrasco), for the acquisition of land than the Argentine Republic; and the Province of Santa Fé is in this respect the most liberal of all the Provinces of the Republic. The National constitution gives to each inhabitant, native or foreign, the right to possess, buy, and sell all kinds of property. The laws facilitate the acquisition of land for those wishing to cultivate it. Numerous colonization societies have been founded, with a view to furnishing colonists not only with ample land for the most extensive cultivations, but also with implements of labor, seeds, domestic animals, and even food, all to be paid for in three, four, or five years, with the products of the soil.
The single Province of Santa Fé has passed numerous laws donating lands for the establishment of colonies, and, now, when these colonies are in a most prosperous condition, it leaves to individual effort the easy task of establishing other colonies.
The Federal Government, which, as it is richer than the provincial governments, has also been more liberal, and has given not only lands gratis, but has also advanced to each colonist capital to the extent of $1,000, in oxen, instruments of labor, and food to be paid back in five years.
The following articles of the immigration and colonization law of 1876 prove our assertion.
Art. 85. The first hundred colonists of each section having families will receive gratis each one of them a lot of 247 acres of land.
Art. 86. The remaining lots will be sold at the rate of 80 cents per acre, payable in ten annuities, the first payment to be made at the expiration of the second year.
Art. 88. The colonists will have the right to the following advantages.
First. To have their passage paid from the port of embarkation to their place of destiny.
Second. To be furnished, at least for one year, with dwellings, food, labor, domestic animals, seeds, and agricultural implements.
These advances will never exceed the amount of $1,000 for each colonist, and must be paid back in five annual installments, the first payment to be made at the expiration of the third year.
Art. 92. The sale and donation of land for agricultural purposes will be made upon
the condition that the land shall be inhabited and cultivated for at least two consecutive years.
As can be seen, this rational law could not be more liberal nor better calculated to promote immigration and facilitate the acquisition of land. It has one hundred and twenty-eight articles, and concedes to every private corporation wishing to establish colonies the same liberties that are granted to the colonists.
But these are not the only laws for the protection of immigrants.
The following is a law passed by the Province of Santa Fé, exempting the colonists from payment of all direct taxes:
Art. 1. All the agricultural colonies established or that may be established in the Province, either in lands belonging to the Province or to private individuals, are exempted from the payment of all direct taxes for the term of three years; this exemption embraces the colonies established, or to be established in Rosario, within Guardia de la Esquina and Meleucui, in San Geronimo, within Canada de
omez, Totoras y Saladas, within Sance and Prusianas, and in San José up to Helvecia.
ART. 2. The colonies established, or to be established outside of these limits, will be exempted from the same obligations and from the payment of any duty upon their products for the term of five years.
Art. 3. These concessions do not prevent the payment of municipal taxes that may be agreed upon by the colonists themselves for the common benefit.
It will be asked now, what result has been produced by these laws ? The most surprising and the most pleasing results, as we shall see. They have increased tenfold the population of the Province in thirty-four years, from 1849 to 1883. They have increased eightfold the revenue of the Province in twentythree years, from 1860 to 1883. They have increased five times the number of towns and villages of the Province in thirteen years, from 1869 to 1882. In twenty years, from 1865 to 1885, they have increased six times the revenue the Province produces for the nation. And, lastly, it is due to these liberal laws that the Province has acquired the rank it occupies in the production of grains, which has given it a just reputation at home and abroad as a progressive and hard-working Province.”
The example set by Santa Fé has been followed by the Provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Rios, and Córdoba, all of which have passed very liberal laws favoring agricultural settlements, going so far as to concede a reduction in the railroad freights for the products of agricultural colonies. All these laws demand that the land be divided in lots and sold to the colonists on easy terms. The original land owners must also provide the colonists at first with the necessary instruments of labor. Those land owners not wishing