Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/37

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Area in sq. m.

Population 1881.

Population 1901.

No. of Communes.


per sq. m.


Caltanissetta . Catania . Girgenti . Messina . Palermo . Syracuse . Trapani .

1263 1917 1172 1246 1948 1442 948


563,457 312,487 460,924

699,151 341,526 283,977

329,449 703,598 380,666 550,895 796,151 433,796 373,569

28 63 41 97 76 32 20

262 371 317 440

403 296



  • 2 ,927,901



Av. 352

  • In 1861, 2,392,414; in 1871, 2,584,099.

The chief towns in each of these provinces, with their communal populations in 1901, are as follow: Caltanissetta (43,023), Castro- giovanni (26,081), Piazza Armerina (24,119), Terranova (22,019), San Cataldo (18,090); Catania (146,504), Caltagirone (44,527), Acireale (35,203), Giarre (26,194), Paterno (22,857), Leonforte (21,236), Bronte (20,166), Vizzini (18,013), Agira (17,634), Nicosia (15,811),- Grammichele (15,017); Girgenti (24,872), Canicatti (24,687), Sciacca (24,645), Licata (22,993), Favara (20,403) ; Messina (147,106), Racalmuto (16,028), Palma (14,384), Barcellona (24,133), Milazzo (16,214), Mistretta (14,041); Palermo (305,716), Partinico (23,668), Monreale (23,556), Termini Imerese (20,633), Bagheria (18,329), Corleone (16,350), Cefalu (14,518); Syracuse (31,807), Modica (49,951), Ragusa (32,453), Vittoria (32,219), Comiso (25,837), Noto (22,284), Lentini (17,100), Avola (16,301), Scicli (16,220), Palazzolo Acreide (15,106); Trapani (61,448), Marsala (57,824), Alcamo (51,798), Monte S. Giuliano (29,824), Castelvetrano (24,510), Castellammare del Golfo (20,665), Mazzara del Vallo (20,044) , Salemi

(17,159)- . .

The archiepiscopal sees (the suffragan sees, if any, being placed after each in brackets) are Catania (Acireale), Messina (Lipari, Nicosia, Patti), Monreale (Caltanissetta, Girgenti), Palermo (Cefalu, Mazara, Trapani), Syracuse (Caltagirone, Noto, Piazza Armerina).

Agriculture. — Sicily, formerly called the granary of Italy, ex- ported grain until the end of the 18th century. Now, although the island still produces every year some 15 million bushels, the supply barely suffices for the consumption of a population of which bread is almost the exclusive diet. The falling-off in the exportation of cereals is not a consequence of any decadence in Sicilian agriculture, but rather of the increase of population, which nearly doubled within the 19th century. Two types of agriculture prevail in Sicily — the extensive and the intensive. The former covers mainly the interior of the island and half the southern coast, while the latter is generally adopted on the eastern and northern coasts. Large holdings of at least 500 hectares (a hectare equals about 25 acres) are indispensable to the profitable pursuit of extensive agriculture. These holdings are usually called feudi or latifondi. Their proprietors alternate the cultivation of wheat with that of barley and beans. During the years in which the soil is allowed to lie fallow, the grass and weeds which spring up serve as pasture for cattle, but the poverty of the pasture is such that at least two hectares are required for the maintenance of every animal. This poverty is due to the lack of rain, which, though attaining an annual average of 29 in. at Palermo, reaches only 21 in. at Syracuse on the east coast, and about 19! in. at Caltanissetta, on the central high plateau. The system of extensive cultivation proper to the latifondi gives an annual average gross return of about 200 lire per hectare (£3. 4s- 5d- per acre).

Intensive agriculture in Sicily is limited to fruit trees and fruit- bearing plants, and is not combined with the culture of cereals and vegetables, as in central and parts of northern Italy. Originally the Sicilian system was perhaps due to climatic difficulties, but now it is recognized in most cases to be more rational than com- bined culture. Large extents of land along the coasts are therefore exclusively cultivated as vineyards, or as olive, orange, and lemon groves. Vineyards give an annual gross return of between £11 and £13 per acre, and orange and lemon groves between £32 and £48 per acre. The by-products of the citrus-essences, citrate of lime, &c. are also of some importance. Much damage is done by the olive fly. Vegetables are grown chiefly in the neighbourhood of large cities. Almonds are freely cultivated, and they seem to be the only trees susceptible also of cultivation upon the latifondi together with grain. A large export trade in almonds is carried on with north and central Europe. Hazel nuts are grown in woods at a level of more than 1200 ft. above the sea. These also are largely exported to central Europe for use in the manufacture of chocolate. The locust bean (used for forage), figs, and peaches are widely grown, while in certain special zones the pistachio and the manna-ash yield rich returns. On the more barren soil the sumach shrub, the leaves of which are used for tanning, and the prickly pear grow freely. The latter fruit constitutes, with bread, the staple food of the poorest part of the rural population for several months in the year. The cultivation of cotton, which spread during the American War of Secession, is now rare, since it has not been able to withstand the competition of more favoured countries. All these branches of

intensive cultivation yield a higher gross return than that of the extensive system. Along the coast landed property is as a rule broken up into small holdings, usually cultivated by their owners. There is possibility of great development of market-gardening.

Climatic conditions prevent cattle-raising in Sicily from being as prosperous an undertaking as in central Italy. The total number of bullocks in the island is calculated to be less than 200,000; and although the ratio of consumption of meat is low in proportion to the population, some of the cattle for slaughter have to be imported. Sheep and goats, which subsist more easily on scanty pasturage, are relatively more numerous, the total number being calculated at 700,000. Yet the wool harvest is scarce, and the pro- . duction of butter a negligible quantity, though there

is abundance of the principal product of Sicilian pasture lands, cheese of various kinds, for which there is a lively local demand. The Sicilian race of horses would be good but that it is not prolific, and has degenerated in consequence of insufficient nourishment and overwork. A better breed of horses is being obtained by more care- ful selection, and by crossing with Arab and English stallions imported by the government. Donkeys and mules of various breeds are good, and would be better were they not so often weakened by heavy work before attaining full maturity.

Forests.— The absence of forests, which cover hardly 3% of the total area of the island, constitutes a serious obstacle to the pros- perity of Sicilian pastoral and agrarian undertakings. The few remaining forests are almost all grouped around Etna and upon the high zone of the Madonian Mountains, a range which rises 40 m. west of Palermo, running parallel to the northern coast almost as far as Messina, and of which many peaks reach nearly 6000 ft. above the sea. Here they are chiefly composed of oaks and chestnuts.

In that part of the island which is cultivated intensively some 100 million gallons of wine are annually produced. Had not the phylloxera devastated the vineyards during the last decade of the 19th century, the production would be considerably higher; 7,700,000 gallons of olive oil and 2500 million oranges and lemons are also produced, besides the other minor products above referred to. The zone of the latifondi, or extensive culture, yields, besides wheat, nearly 8,000,000 bushels of barley and beans every year.

Mining. — The most important Sicilian mineral is undoubtedly sulphur, which is mined principally in the provinces of Caltanissetta and Girgenti, and in minor quantities in those of Palermo and Catania. Up to 1896 the sulphur industry was in a state of crisis due to the competition of pyrites, to the subdivision of the mines, to antiquated methods, and to a series of other causes which oc- casioned violent oscillations in and a continual reduction of prices. The formation of the Anglo-Italian sulphur syndicate arrested the downward tendency of prices and increased the output of sulphur, so that the amount exported in 1899 was 424,018 tons, worth £1,738,475, whereas some years previously the value of sulphur exported had hardly been £800,000. Ninetejen-twentieths of the sulphur consumed in the world was formerly drawn from Sicilian mines, while some 50,000 persons were employed in the extrac- tion, manufacture, transport and trade in the mineral. But the development of the United States sulphur industry at the beginning of the 20th century created considerable difficulties, including the practical loss of the United States market. In 1906, when the con- cession to the Anglo-Sicilian Sulphur Company was about to expire, the government decreed that it'should be formed into an obligatory syndicate for a term of twelve years for the control of all sulphur produced in Sicily, and exempted from taxation and legal dues, foreign companies established in Italy to exploit industries in which sulphur is a principal element. The Bank of Sicily was further obliged to make advances to the sulphur industry up to four-fifths of the value of the sulphur deposited in the warehouses. The ex- ports of sulphur in December 1906 were 17,534 tons, as compared with 40,713 tons in 1905; in the year 1904 the total production was 3,291,710 tons (value about £1,522,229) and the total exports 508,980 tons, as compared with 470,341 tons in 1905.

Another Sicilian mineral industry is that of common salt and rock- salt. The former is distilled from sea-water near Trapani, and the latter obtained in smaller quantities from mines. The two branches of the industry yielded in 1899 about 180,000 tons per annum, worth £80,000, while in 1906 about 200,000 tons were made at Trapani' alone. About half this quantity is exported, principally to Norway. Besides salt, the asphalt mining industry may be mentioned. Its centre is the province of Syracuse. The value of the annual output is about £40,000, and the exports in 1906 amounted to nearly 103,000 tons. Pumice stone is also exported from Lipari (11,010 tons in 1904).

Other Industries. — Deep-sea fisheries give employment to some twenty thousand Sicilians, who exercise their calling not only off the coasts of their island, but along the north African shore, from Morocco to Tripoli. In 1894 (the last year for which accurate statistics have been issued) 350 fishing smacks active service, giving a catch of 2480 tons of fish. Approximately, the value of the annual catch may be reckoned at from £600,000 to £800,000. During 1904 the coial fisheries employed 98 vessels with 1138 men: the