|THE QUESTION OF WHEAT.|
CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF STATISTICS, TREASURY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C.
IN passing from a market where no customs duties are imposed upon foreign breadstuffs to markets where such duties play an important part in controlling competition from abroad, a political rather than a commercial question is encountered. The form of protection which seeks to encourage the home production of food, and especially of grain, is of very early origin and of very wide application. It ranges from the almost brutal disregard of the wants of a neighboring nation implied by an embargo on exports of cereals to the light and insignificant registration duty, intended to assure a good quality of imported wheat. It runs from duties on imports so high as to permit of a commerce only in the face of actual famine, to the revenue duty that has no immediate purpose in hindering purchases abroad, but regards the necessities of the treasury. History offers a remarkable collection of experience in attempts to regulate the grain trade; but it offers a record of a far larger number of failures than of successes attending these attempts.
Throughout continental Europe wheat is generally subject to customs duties on importation, and the prevailing tendency in recent years has been toward higher duties. In five countries no duties are imposed; three are importers—Denmark, Belgium, and Holland—and two are exporters—Russia and Roumania. Of countries taxing wheat only one is an exporter, Austria-Hungary, where the duty is about seventy-five cents a metric quintal. Germany collects under her general tariff about one dollar and twenty cents the quintal, and