FROM the standpoint of recovery from the war, the problem of the food resources of the world is one of special interest. With full recognition of the importance of agricultural raw materials for industrial use, attention is here confined to foodstuffs, feeding stuffs, and farm animals. It seems simplest to proceed with the discussion topically rather than chronologically. Wherever comparisons are made between pre-war and present positions, allowance for change in population has been made in accordance with the somewhat fragmentary data available in official records.

The definition of the food resources of the world must include terms both of statics and dynamics. The food resources are a composite of the goods (the foodstuffs) and the services in commerce and distribution through which these are made available for consumption. It is easy to overemphasize the goods, to undervalue the services. The Great War effected a decline of production in Europe and Russia, a distortion of production elsewhere. The services in commerce were directly perverted in Europe and less directly, though still effectually, elsewhere. Post-war reconstruction includes recovery from direct and indirect effects on production and restoration of the appropriate services in commerce. The purpose of this article is to sketch in broad outlines the war injuries and the post-war recoveries, and to indicate that the processes of production have made relatively more rapid recovery than the processes of commerce.

As the war developed, it affected, to some extent, the forces engaged in ravitaillement in practically all countries of the world. The specific injuries may be described and given a qualitative appraisal, but not a quantitative estimation. World statistics on food production, inadequate at the best, fell into disorganization during the war. The forces tending towards recovery are open to qualitative appraisal, but again cannot be stated in quantitative terms, for reasons of deficiencies in statistical data. It is, however, possible to formulate an appropriate statement of the present position, as contrasted with that of 1914.

Agriculture is a complex operation; the results depend not only upon technical considerations but upon the non-agrarian conditions as well -- the monetary situation, fiscal policy, transportation and trade restrictions. Broadly considered, in any decade the position of agricultural production is as much dependent upon external factors as upon the factor of agricultural potential. By the term agricultural potential is meant the productive force corresponding to maximum outturn representative of soil and climate under intensive operation. One may say that agricultural potential is a driving force that is continuously modified by factors outside of climate and agricultural technique. World agriculture is a part of world division of labor; both within countries and between countries, agriculture competes with itself and with urban industries. One must endeavor to appraise both world-wide and local circumstances, but without overemphasis on either.

The first direct war injury to agriculture was the destruction of workers in belligerent countries. We possess no trustworthy tabulation of the proportion of the killed and disabled that belonged to the rural class. Certainly, it was heavy. Indirectly also, the working forces of agriculture were injured by overwork imposed on women and children. The war wastage in horses has imposed hardships on peasants in all countries. The loss of trained farm workers was a serious injury to European agriculture; but the landed population has extraordinary powers of recuperation, and the shortage of workers has found less expression in outturn than was expected. Following demobilization there developed a tendency of country men to remain in the cities, and this attractiveness of urban life seems to have persisted. As against this, however, stands the continued residence in Europe of many of the emigrants who returned to mother countries during and after the war, a point of especial importance in countries like Italy.

Outside of Europe, the working forces of agriculture probably have been relatively increased, not in the United States, of course, but in many other countries. To a considerable extent, however, this finds expression in outturn of industrial materials rather than in production of foods and feeding stuffs. The gross toll of war, as affecting agricultural working forces in the world, has probably been compensated for by increase of population outside of Europe. But the abnormal distribution of farm energy is significant for Europe, because it is more important to Europe to have foodstuffs raised at home than in distant parts of the globe. It may be years before the pre-war fluidity and adaptability are restored to agricultural labor in Europe, including Russia. And the effectiveness of the restoration of agricultural labor within countries and migration between countries will be dependent upon social developments within the agrarian class that cannot be foreseen.

Farm labor wages are in most countries high compared with the pre-war level, but stand lower than urban wages. Farm workers regard the wages as low in purchasing power; landowners, however, regard them as high in terms of farm prices of agricultural produce. The relations between real wages of city and country workers and real labor costs of landowners seem everywhere to be regarded by agrarians as out of line with pre-war conditions.

The soil of Europe suffered injury during the war. Direct battlefield injury has been almost entirely effaced. But indirect injury to soils occurred through disruption of rotation, lack of chemical fertilizers, subnormal cultivation, deterioration of drainage and terracing, infestation with weeds, and in some regions through abandonment; and this has not been completely made good. Established pastures were lost by being plowed up or injured by overgrazing, and these have not been fully restored. In each country some vestige of soil injury remains, probably not to be entirely repaired for another decade.

Insofar as agriculture depends upon chemical fertilizers, the world is in better position than before the war, since with the perfection of the Haber method for fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, the development of the phosphate deposits of northern Africa, and the widespread testing-out of potash deposits in various parts of the world, the measurable resources of these fertilizers have been materially enlarged. The operations of the Franco-German potash agreement mean expansion in production and distribution. But to date, crop yields in many countries suffer from lack of chemical fertilizers, the prolonged depletion has not yet been made good, and buying facilities are cramped over most of Europe.

Agriculture in Europe, and also elsewhere in the world, was injured through the disruption of established rotations. This was done in order to secure larger immediate returns, but it was to the detriment of later returns. The injury appeared directly in the form of lowered crops, and indirectly through lack of crops in the period of transition. Grass-lands that went under the plow are now being returned to grass, but for several years will yield little pasturage. In surplus-producing countries established rotations were disrupted in order to expand the cultivation of the crops with premium prices. The post-war reconstruction, the adaptation for current or prospective markets as against the abnormal war market, entails a reversion to the pre-war scheme of rotation or an adaptation of it, and repair of the soil injury due to abnormal rotation.


It is difficult to make comparison of pre-war and post-war production of cereals. In Asia the estimate of cereal crops is very defective. The pre-war estimate of cereal crops in Russia was faulty and is still more defective at present. Changes in boundaries in European countries complicate the situation. Using the latest estimates of the crops, as given in the publications of the International Institute of Agriculture, with full allowance for lack of comparability, one will derive the impression that the cereal crops (including wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, and rice), taking the average of the crop years 1924 and 1925, are somewhat below the average of five years before the war.

The position of cereals is to be judged by acreage as well as by yields. Surveying the tabulations of acreage in the latest compilations of the International Institute of Agriculture, one draws the inference that cereal culture in the years 1924--25 had regained its pre-war range of dimensions for the world as a whole, but was still somewhat behind in Europe, possibly by as much as twelve million acres, largely in Russia. Yields per acre tend to be lower than before the war, due to poorer cultivation and scarcity of fertilizer. In some European countries, such as the United Kingdom and the neutral countries surrounding Germany, cereal acreage was expanded during the war, but has already receded again. The cereal acreage of the Americas and Australasia is above the pre-war level. India has changed but little.

All in all, the crops of cereals seem restored nearly to pre-war normal, so far as agricultural potential at least is concerned, the remaining abnormalities being due to economic rather than to agricultural limitations. The contractions in Russia have been partly balanced by expansions overseas. But these expansions mean less to Europe than do the contractions in Russia.

Before the war, oil seeds were becoming increasingly important to Europe. Excepting the flaxseed of Russia and Argentina, the sunflower seed of Russia, and the ground nuts and soya beans of Asia, most of the oil seeds were of tropical origin. The fats were used in Europe as food and for the manufacture of soap and other industrial products; the meal was very important as concentrated fodder for dairies and feeding yards. During the war the neutral and allied countries suffered from enforced deprivation of oil seeds almost as much as the enemy countries. The international trade in oil seeds has recovered slowly, for various reasons, some of which are inherent in the backwardness of the countries of origin. The international statistics of production, distribution, and consumption of oil seeds are very defective; but it seems certain that European consumption of oil seeds is still below the pre-war level.

The acreage and production of potatoes and legumes have been restored. Probably the production of vegetables and fruits has been increased.

The sugar production of the world is now 25,000,000 tons and notably exceeds the pre-war outturn of 19,000,000 tons. Before the war, the outturn of cane sugar (almost wholly outside of Europe) was about 10,000,000 tons, of beet sugar (almost wholly within Europe) 9,000,000 tons; the present outturn of cane sugar is some 16,000,000 tons, while that of beet sugar does not exceed the pre-war figure. The war reduced the acreage of sugar beets, but stimulated the planting of sugar cane. While many of the countries of Europe have recovered their pre-war outturn of beet sugar, Poland, Germany, and Russia are still heavily in arrears. In consequence, the sugar supply of the world has a different complexion and distribution than it had before the war. When the prospective recovery of beet sugar is attained, sugar will be the outstanding example of increased agricultural production achieved as a result of the war.

The war inflicted a heavy reduction in the world herds of domesticated animals. The herds were reduced in Europe in order to supply army rations and to permit of greater efficiency of agriculture in terms of calories, since primary foodstuffs are much more efficiently produced than are secondary foodstuffs. It is impossible to give figures for this reduction in herds, either in units or in outturn of meat and dairy products. The extent of slaughter was exaggerated during the war, since peasants quite generally concealed animals. For many countries the censuses of domesticated animals are made at infrequent intervals and with little accuracy. The best estimate is of horses and cattle, the poorest is of sheep. The war naturally carried with it a great reduction in the count of horses.

Converting domesticated animals into a common unit, with the use of the figures for pre-war and post-war estimations of livestock contained in the publications of the International Institute of Agriculture, one arrives at the round figures of 1,025,000,000 units for the pre-war estimate and 1,065,000,000 units for the post-war estimate. The pre-war figures date all the way from 1910 to 1914; the post-war figures date all the way from 1921 to 1925. The pre-war figures are more complete, as of 1914, than are the post-war figures, as of 1925. These, however, are not enumerations or even relative estimates; they are "guesstimates." Changes in boundaries introduce uncertainties. Judged as mere numbers, it seems reasonable to conclude that war losses in livestock, outside of horses, have been made good. The average age of the animals is probably lower than it was before the war.

Equally important was the reduction in outturn of edible foodstuffs per head of domestic animals, due to undernutrition of animals in most European countries during the war and to reduction in the average age of slaughter in the surplus-producing countries outside of Europe. This had in Europe the result of making the ration of meat and dairy products relatively lower than the count of animals. This defect has not yet been repaired, since the purchasing power of Europe has not yet recovered to the point of supporting the pre-war level of feeding operations. Europe was a feeding yard, dependent directly and indirectly upon imported feeding stuffs to the extent of 20 to 40 percent of the outturn of meat and dairy products. In some countries importations have been fully restored, in others only to a minimal extent.

Since the agriculture of Europe cannot with domestic feeding stuffs effectively maintain the present count of domesticated animals, the outturn of animal husbandry is directly dependent upon the purchasing power of the continent. Under these circumstances, animal husbandry in Europe stands below the prewar level in terms of edible outturn, and this may be expected to continue to a diminishing extent for possibly another decade. The consequent shortage in milk supply naturally causes more apprehension than the reduction in meat.

According to reliable trade statistics, the annual world export of chilled and frozen beef, mutton, and lamb has now risen to over 1,300,000 tons, as against less than 800,000 tons before the war. Until that time the exports of British dominions furnished over 40 percent of the total; at present their export is about the same in tons but is little over 25 percent of the total. The heavy expansion during this interval has occurred in South America. The South American export in 1913 was under 500,000 tons; the average of 1924 and 1925 was over 1,000,000 tons. European imports of lard from the United States are roughly 400,000,000 pounds per year more than before the war.

The heaviest importer is the United Kingdom. During the five years before the war, the average imports of frozen and chilled beef, mutton, and lamb into the United Kingdom were 757,000 tons; at present, imports are a little under 900,000 tons. Using trade estimates for present production of home-grown meats and the estimate of Wood for pre-war production of homegrown meats, it seems clear that the total consumption of beef, mutton, and lamb in the United Kingdom is about 2,000,000 tons. Before the war, it was 100,000 less than that. Home production, however, is smaller and imports are larger.

As to continental Europe, the consumption of animal products in some countries has reached the pre-war level; but in some countries home production still lags behind and consumption is maintained by increased imports. In central European countries, however, the level of consumption of meat and dairy products is below the pre-war normal. The commercial world production of butter and cheese has been more than restored to the pre-war level, mostly due to expansions outside of Europe; it is still below the pre-war level in France, Germany, and Russia. The international movement of butter and cheese, heavily reduced by the war, did not recover the pre-war level until 1924.

The imports of animal products must be paid for either with goods and services or out of capital, except as they may be secured through loans and credits. Since the industrial production and export trade of Europe have not been restored to the pre-war level, the increased importation of animal products may be reasonably regarded as one expression of European use of American loans. With each year, however, we must expect the feeding yards of Europe to be expanded, so that the continent will import relatively more feeding stuffs and relatively less animal products. The prospect of this readjustment is not attractive to the foreign countries that have expanded the production of animal products, since they will be compelled to retrench, cut prices or develop new markets.

It is approximately correct to state that the food supply of the world has been practically restored, in terms of calories. The distribution, however, is abnormal, in that there is diminished production in Europe and Russia and expanded production in outlying areas of both the northern and southern hemispheres. As a result, there has been increased ocean tonnage of foodstuffs, partly for the purpose of making up the deficit in the domestic supply of Europe and partly for the purpose of making good the lapse of Russia. If Europe and Russia are restored to the relative pre-war outturn of agricultural produce, the agricultural outturn of the world may be somewhat in excess of the per capita level of 1914. Until then the dietary of Europe may be expected to remain more vegetarian and lower in animal products than before the war; neither the agriculture, the food supply, nor the industry of Europe can be expected to recover until Russia is restored to her position in reciprocal production and consumption.

The low standard of living in Russia is part of the agricultural disability of the country, since the inability of the peasant class to come into contact with the goods of western European countries lowers the agricultural outturn of that country. This may look like putting the cart before the horse, since it has been stated that the low agricultural outturn of Russia prevents her from exchanging exportable surpluses of farm produce for manufactured goods. Nevertheless, it is clear that the low standard of living of the Russian peasant, his more or less complacent adaptation to it, and the break-down of trading with Europe, have left exportable surpluses unexported and have dulled the incentive to agricultural production.

It is, of course, not to be inferred, because the food supply of the world is not far below the pre-war normal in relation to population, that this holds for the separate continents in equal proportions. The facts are quite to the contrary. The food supply of the United States is above the pre-war level; that of Europe, even without including Russia, is below the pre-war level. But within Europe no rule holds. In certain countries in Europe the diet is fully the equal of the pre-war diet; indeed, in some countries, like Italy, it is distinctly superior. In other countries, of which Austria is a pathetic illustration, the food supply is poorer than before the war. Lastly, within any country there are variations within classes. Throughout Europe and Russia the middle class has been grievously dispossessed during the past ten years, both as to fixed investments and emoluments. This finds expression in restriction of the standard of living, including the food supply. Wherever unemployment has long continued, the dietary falls, despite doles and other forms of aid, as has been the case in the United Kingdom. Everywhere it is necessary to guard against generalizations and to particularize the statements applied to the dietary. But signs are not wanting to suggest that during the present season the purchasing power of Europe will be under heavy stress.


The war and post-war political developments brought with them extensive changes in the ownership of land. The war practically completed the defeudalization of Europe, including Russia. Throughout Europe, with the exception of Hungary, a definite scheme of parcellation of land has been undertaken as a policy and to varying extents carried through in practice. In no country has the process been completed, all are in transition of ownership with various degrees of resistance and lag, the otherwise inherent difficulties being exaggerated by scarcity of capital and credit. This defeudalization, the splitting up of ancestral holdings into small parcels for peasants, was accomplished in some countries without compensation to the original holders. In some countries the programs of compensation agreed upon have not been adhered to; in some countries the compensation has been nullified by depreciation of state bonds and currencies.

Parcellation of the land may be expected to carry with it, for a time, reduction in efficiency of cultivation and in outturn of produce. Several factors contribute to this result. The pre-war exportable surplus, especially of Russia, came from the large estates and to a considerable extent represented exploitation of farm labor. A low standard of living in the peasant class accounted for a large part of the produce supplied by the estates. The families of the peasants, taking advantage of ownership of land and control over their own produce, now allot to themselves a better and larger diet than they received as farm workers on the large estates. They cultivate their holdings from the standpoint of family subsistence, rather than from the standpoint of merchandisable surplus, such as the large estates sought for cash crops. When the land is subdivided, the small peasants do not possess the capital and credit facilities formerly available to the large landowner; they are not able rapidly to organize coöperative credit associations to take the place of the banking facilities of the landed proprietor. Following parcellation, therefore, there is decline in cultivation directly due to deterioration of equipment and lessened employment of chemical fertilizers.

Changes in distributions between rural and urban populations find expression in international trade and in the demands made by the urban populations of European countries deficient in production on the exportable supplies of surplus-producing countries. The heavy European importations of bread grains since the war have been necessary in part because the domestic areas have supplied relatively less to the cities and used relatively more in subsistence, either directly or in the form of animal products. In a word, change of type of ownership of land in Europe and Russia has indirectly increased the import requirements of the urban population. One must expect one or more decades to pass before the peasants of central and eastern Europe will operate as efficiently as the peasants of France and Belgium, before the food needs of Europe are again covered domestically to the same relative extent as was the case before the war.

The war entailed a loss of working capital for agriculture in Europe. This did not become apparent early on account of depreciation of currencies and other abnormalities of monetary and fiscal policies. Indeed, for a time the peasants in many countries regarded themselves as enriched because they had paid off their mortgages with depreciated currency. But in every European country that has been able to return to and maintain sound fiscal policies, following deflation and restabilization of currency, a scarcity of capital and credit has developed. And the peasants newly freed from debt have been hit as hard as anyone else. This is now one of the prime difficulties in Germany. Until new capital is in hand and liquid credit available at rates of interest proportionate to the price level, European agriculture faces difficulty in restoration of effective agricultural practices and in outturn per unit of area or unit of land worker. To some extent (apart from mortgage repayments with depreciated currency), the same thing applies to agriculture outside of Europe. In different classes in many countries, over one or more of the crop years since the war, producers have suffered losses on top of heavy commitments, and find themselves with their properties covered with frozen indebtedness, with scarcity of fresh capital and credit, not because they are unavailable in the countries but because farmers cannot take on additional liabilities. Shortage of working capital means diminished outturn and reduced effectiveness in technical operations.

Not only are capital and credit scarce, but in many countries the fixed charges of agriculture have mounted during the past decade. During the war and directly afterwards landowners in many countries enlarged their holdings at relatively high prices per acre under partial payments. For many surplus-producing countries the volume of farm indebtedness has been heavily expanded. Taxes also have mounted, as the expression of public improvements and war debts, at high rates on high assessment valuations. Thus per-acre fixed charges, inclusive of interest and taxes, are for some countries substantially higher than before the war.


The disorganization of markets throughout the world has contributed to reduction in the effective utilization of food resources. The effective division of labor, in terms of agricultural produce, is dependent upon expeditious movement between surplus and deficit areas. This movement occurs through the trading operations of middlemen operating on public markets and trading exchanges. With extreme and abnormal changes in the price level, with losses, exaggeration of risks and continuation of prospective uncertainties, the distributive functions lag, the margins between surplus and deficiency areas widen, and the volumes of goods in process of exchange tend to be less than would be the case if distribution were efficient. This state of affairs exaggerates the export problem in surplus-producing countries and the import problem in deficit countries. It involves producers of primary foodstuffs, feeding stuffs, and raw materials, and converters of these products, in both exporting and importing countries. It is safe to infer that the agricultural potential of the world, the degree of recovery from the war, and the most favorable revealment of the food resources of the globe will not become apparent until prices have become more representative, trading practices more stabilized, and movements more fairly reflective of supply and demand. A fair interpretation of the circumstances convinces one that the present position of the food resources of the world is determined less by agricultural productive technique than by subsequent factors, and that the trend of development during the next decade will be due to improvement in these factors more than to technical advancement in agriculture.

Agriculture everywhere in the world was hit hard by the heavy decline in prices in 1920--22. Industries were in position rapidly to contract production when necessary and for the most part possessed the capital and resources to enable them to reduce inventories, curtail operations, and write off losses. The facilities possessed by agriculture were circumscribed. Under these circumstances, the world drifted into a position of relative overproduction of agricultural goods and raw materials and relative underproduction of manufactures, and the prices of manufactures were better sustained than those of agricultural products. The colors in the picture were of course not uniform from country to country. Some agricultures sustained themselves better in some countries than in others; in some countries some industries declined more than in others. Even to-day the outturn of agricultural goods, in units, is relatively larger than the outturn of manufactured goods in units. This situation naturally has made for maladjustment of prices, which has reacted back on the conduct of agriculture.

Farmers the world over since 1921 have suffered to greater or less extent from reduction in the buying power of farm products. Increases in price of their products have usually been less than increases in the prices of consumers' goods. Regarding the farmer as landowner, the real earning power of his investment has been for the time being reduced. Regarding him as laborer, for the time being his real wages have been reduced. This is of course not true everywhere for all types of agriculture, but it seems true as a statement applied in a weighted fashion to agriculture, though in granting this one should not exaggerate it. The deprivations resulting from post-war reduction in buying power of produce cannot be balanced against high war prices, since for the most part these were not built into reserves, but were used for expansions or for investments outside of agriculture, or dissipated in speculations.

Viewing the world as a whole, the period since the war has been characterized by some reduction of real income measured in terms of purchasing power. Under these circumstances, it may be inferred that the proportion of income devoted to the food supply is larger than before the war, since demand for foodstuffs is relatively inelastic. Each year, with advancing restoration of production and reconstruction of commerce, real income tends to improve; this has the effect of giving wider choice in the selection of foodstuffs and setting income free for additional goods and services outside of foodstuffs. If statistics were available, the data of the past decade would afford abundant material for testing out Engel's law under modern conditions of living. It will be recalled that Engel's almost forgotten dictum stated that with increases of income the proportion of income required for food declines, that for clothing and for rent remains unchanged, and that for incidentals rises.

If the agriculture of the world becomes restored to the per capita pre-war level (both of production and consumption), does this mean restoration of the status quo ante bellum? Certainly not. Many transformations that have developed out of the war are irreversible. Countries refuse to relinquish war-born industries that have made them less dependent on foreign goods. The appeal to self-sufficiency easily becomes translated into uneconomic chauvinism; to beggar your neighbor means to convert trade competitions into political antagonisms. Distribution and trading practices, financing and transportation, are different.

The world relations of creditor and debtor countries have been fundamentally changed, with enormous growth in international obligations. There are heavy indebtednesses from governments to governments, from governments to nationals in foreign countries, and from nationals in some countries to nationals in other countries. War production expansions were financed on foreign loans; war losses, post-war liquidations, and post-war developments have been correspondingly financed. The invisible items in international accounts have been greatly expanded in amounts and widely altered in directions. In many countries expenditures have been raised to abnormal levels in relation to foreseeable revenues. Thus, the current position of gold reserves and the current invisible items in the international accounts combine to jeopardize the stability of national budgets. This state of affairs is in course of amelioration, but there is still room for improvement. Different groups of producers and consumers are endeavoring to transfer to other groups the abnormal burdens of post-war liquidations and reconstructions. The hand of legislation has grown accustomed to the feel of implements of state control and has lost the sense of distinction between war pressure and political pressure.

Out of war experiences and post-war distresses is growing up a series of artificial controls that give cause for apprehension in respect of their effects on production and distribution of foodstuffs. Looking over the world, we observe a series of controls, somewhat overlapping in application, developing both in number and in regions in excess of those that existed before the war. These may be rather arbitrarily tabulated, as follows:

(1) Protective tariffs on agricultural products.

(2) Preferential tariff rates, such as "Empire Preference."

(3) Production bounties on agricultural products.

(4) Export subsidies for agricultural products.

(5) Production restriction, applied to agricultural products.

(6) Export taxes resting directly or indirectly on agricultural products.

(7) International cartels, such as the Franco-German potash cartel, and the proposed International Coal Association and the International Steel Association.

(8) Valorization of agricultural products.

(9) Double standard of marketing, applied to agricultural products.

For each one of these devices, in each country where it is applied, a plausible case may be made out on paper, as a proper advantage for the producing class or as a defense against foreign aggression. It is, however, necessary to give attention to the broader relations. The reader is invited to envisage the international division of labor as applied to the resources of the world under an accredited system of governmental controls in which all importing and exporting countries employ as many of these devices as possible. Undeterred by any formal theory in favor of unrestricted interstate supply and demand, discarding the long view for the short view, debtor countries may come to regard it as advantageous, or at least defensible tactics, to facilitate their international payments by using every artificial device to enlarge the volume and enhance the value of their exports and reduce the volume and depress the value of their imports. Perhaps the most disquieting result of debt settlements the world over lies in the impetus that fixed international payments seem to give to the development of offensive and defensive controls of production and commerce.

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