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Such grain is often damaged by rains, and these conditions prevail at the farm, at the railway station and at the seaport. Sometimes the piles of sacks are covered, and this greatly reduces the damage.
Transportation to the seaports is almost exclusively by rail. Of the 26 Argentine railways in operation in 1903, 22 were built mainly in order to transport wheat. The Parana is navigable to Rosaria, the only large inland city. From this point at least 5 railroads branch out into the wheat regions. The car facilities are inadequate to ship the wheat, and the bags often lie in the yards 2 months awaiting shipment. The grain is frequently shipped in open flat cars covered with canvas, but it sometimes gets wet before it is unloaded. The railways are all English, and consequently most of the cars are of the old English type. They have a capacity of from 10 to 18 tons, but the many new cars being built have a capacity of from 30 to 40 tons. The freight rates vary from 5 to 15 cents per bushel. They fell about 3 cents per bushel from 1895 to 1902. There are portions of Argentina where wheat cannot be raised for export merely because transportation facilities are lacking.
Although shipping facilities at the seaports are growing rapidly they are still entirely inadequate. Ships wait for days before they can be loaded. Then, berthed three deep in the port, it takes several days more to load, especially when men carry the bags of wheat, one at a time. Two other methods of loading are also in use. Steam winches lift the bags, or an endless belt carries them. Tramp steamers of 2,500 to 6,000 tons register usually do the ocean transportation. The rate to Europe in 1903 was from 6 to 12 cents per bushel. The grain exporters keep branch establishments at the main points where wheat is raised. They buy through an agent. A price is telegraphed to him in the morning, and this he pays all day, as he rides from farm to farm. He often buys from the machine, for the exporter gets his wheat on board ship as soon as possible. Each buyer does his own inspecting and grading. The agent is paid 1 per cent commission on all he buys.
CANADA.—In the marketing of wheat, as in nearly all other phases of the wheat industry, the development in Canada has been similar to that in the United States, only later. More than half the arable lands of Canada cannot be utilized yet because the requisite population and means of transportation are wanting. Some of these lands are among the best wheat lands in the world. The railroads are, however, rapidly ramifying through these regions. New trans-continental lines are being planned and built. As transportation facilities improve and population increases, the development of Canada will be unprecedented. Elevator building is at present very active in the Canadian northwest, both along the new lines of road and along the old lines. As far as the wheat trade is concerned, Winnipeg is the Chicago and Montreal the New York of Canada. The most noteworthy difference between Canada and the United States in connection with the marketing of wheat is in grading. Grading is entirely under the control of the Dominion government, which appoints the grain inspectors in the different markets. Uniform grades are fixed by law for the whole country.
THE PRICE OF WHEAT? The Factors of Price. The price of wheat is normally determined by the world conditions of supply and demand which pertain to bread stuffs. The control exercised over price by these conditions is immediate and transient. Direct variations in price result from variations in supply or demand. Price in turn causes supply and demand to vary by reacting upon them. Such variations are, comparatively speaking, of slower action and more permanent. Legislation may also become a determining factor of price in certain countries, as, for example, when import duties on grain are established.
Supply and Demand.—Wheat and rye are the world's principal breadstuffs. There is sufficient variation in supply and demand to cause great fluctuations in price. Many causes of variation in the supply of breadstuffs exist, among which may be mentioned: (1) The great changes in climate and in abundance of rainfall to which the natural wheat and rye regions are subject; (2) the variations in acreage which result as a reaction to variations in price; (3) the increase in acreage resulting from the settlement of new countries; (4) the decrease in acreage due to planting a larger acreage of other cereals, especially corn, when there is an unusual demand for live stock feed; (5) the degree of competition, which may affect the supply at a given time or place; (6) the establishment or abolition of trade restraints by commercial treaties; (7) the hindering of transportation by war; and (8) the continuous advance of the arts of production, communication and transportation. In Europe, the average annual production of rye is approximately as great as that of wheat, while the European production of both crops taken collectively averages about 70 per cent of that of the entire world. When wheat is relatively high in price, and rye is relatively low, consumption of the latter grain increases and the demand for the former decreases.
1 For criticism and many valuable suggestions on this chapter
the writer is indebted to Prof. H. C. Emery and Dr. J. Pease Norton.
Other causes which effect a variation in the demand for wheat are: (1) War, which causes a variation in the foreign demand; (2) the standard of living is rising and this increases the demand, especially in rye consuming countries; (3) commerce and the introduction of a foreign civilization may increase the consumption of wheat, as in some of the Oriental countries. The condition that wheat is the staple food of man in the nations of the highest civilization and of the greatest economic strength tends to keep the demand for wheat firm, while the fact that the world supply of wheat comes from all quarters of the globe tends to prevent acute scarcity of the general supply. The demand for breadstuffs taken collectively is comparatively inelastic.
The Reactions of Price. If the price of wheat falls so low that its production becomes unprofitable there will be a tendency for capital to become engaged in the production of other crops which yield a larger return. On the other hand, there are many substitutes for wheat which are at the command of the consumer, and which he uses when the price of wheat rises too high. This lessens the demand for wheat, lowers its price, and decreases its production. Thus the forces of supply and demand always seek equilibrium. To say that the producer must get what he can for his product is not sufficient. If he does not get what is economically just, on the whole and in the long run, then he must stop producing, and his capital will seek other channels until it again receives its due return in this. The value of wheat to the consumer must on an average be high enough to cover the cost of production and the expense of distribution. As a general rule, the consumer is comparatively more free to delay purchasing than the producer is to delay marketing, and hence the interest of the latter is the more critical one. It has been said that price is "determined normally by the net cost of producing an adequate supply.” 1 It is true that the price of wheat cannot normally be below the cost of production. It is no less true, however, that it cannot be above what the consumer is willing and able to pay. Cost of production and value to consumer are respectively the minimum and maximum limits of price, and they are both just as essential in determining price as the numerator and
1 Industrial Commission, 6:32.