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International trade in wheat and other cereals and the collapse of the first wave of globalization, 1900–38

  • Gema Aparicio (a1) and Vicente Pinilla (a2)

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse the dynamics of international trade in cereals, primarily wheat, in the first third of the twentieth century, with a special focus on the causes of the fall in exchanges and prices that took place in the 1930s. Developments over this period are compared with the general trade in food and agricultural products. An examination of the structure of the trade in wheat, maize, and rice shows the operation of their respective markets, giving special attention to the import and export flows between consumers and producers. To understand the functioning of the market for these products, the article examines the changes in supply, demand, and prices, and the emergence and development of intermediary companies in this business. The argument draws from a new database, based on the statistics published by the International Institute of Agriculture.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. E-mail: vpinilla@unizar.es

Footnotes

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This study has received financial support from the Government of Spain, through its Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, project ECO2015–65582-P. It has also received backing from the European Social Fund and the Government of Aragon, through the Research Group S55_17R. We are grateful for the help provided by Domingo Gallego, Ángel González-Esteban, Michael Kopsidis, Javier Silvestre, and Patrick Svensson, and the comments received on its presentation to the 10th European Social Science History Conference and from two anonymous referees and the editors. Totals given in the tables have been calculated from rounded figures, so may differ slightly from the data totals. The usual disclaimers apply.

Footnotes

References

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18 ‘The level of protection was not high enough to prevent a large increase in imports.’ See Grant, ‘Agriculture and economic development in Germany’, p. 180.

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23 Coclanis, ‘Distant thunder’.

24 Findlay and O’Rourke, Power and plenty.

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28 We are defining a quintal as 100 kg.

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31 Gesine Gerhard, ‘The modernization dilemma: agrarian policies in Nazi Germany’, in Fernández-Prieto, Pan-Montojo, and Cabo, Agriculture in the age of fascism, pp. 139–58.

32 Federico, ‘Natura non facit saltus’, p. 26.

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34 Pinilla, Vicente, Entre la inercia y el cambio: el sector agrario aragonés, 1850–1935, Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1995, pp. 319340 .

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42 Imperial Economic Committee, Grain crops, p. 81.

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52 Davis, World wheat problem.

53 Hevesy, World wheat planning.

54 Malenbaum, World wheat economy, pp. 68–76; Schultz, Henry, The theory and measurement of demand, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1938 ; Holbrook Working, ‘The elasticities of demand for wheat’, Econometrica, 5, 2, 1937, pp. 185186 ; Stone, Richard, The measurement of consumers’ expenditure and behaviour in the United Kingdom, 1920–1938, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954 .

55 Malenbaum, World wheat economy, pp. 244–5.

56 Societé des Nations, Comité Économique, La crise agricole, vol. I, Geneva: Série de Publications de la Societé des Nations, 1931, p. 28.

57 Morgan, Merchants of grain, p. 81.

58 Imperial Economic Committee, Reports of the UK Imperial Economic Committee, p. 11.

59 Imperial Economic Committee, Grain crops: a summary of figures of production and trade relating to wheat, wheat flour, barley, oats, maize, rice, rye, London: Statistics and Intelligence Branch of the Empire Marketing Board, 1939, p. 43.

60 Taylor, Alonzo E., ‘The international wheat conferences during 1930–31’, Wheat Studies, 7, 9, 1931, pp. 439475 .

61 Ibid.

62 Imperial Economic Committee, Reports of the Imperial Economic Committee: maize, twenty-eighth report , London: Statistics and Intelligence Branch of the Empire Marketing Board, 1934 .

63 Pinilla, Vicente and Aparicio, Gema, ‘Navigating in troubled waters: South American exports of food and agricultural products, 1900–1950’, Revista de Historia Económica-Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, 33, 2, 2015, pp. 223255 .

64 Latham, and Neal, , ‘The international market in rice’.

65 Brandt, Loren, ‘Chinese agriculture and the international economy, 1870–1930s: a reassessment’, Explorations in Economic History, 22, 1993, pp. 168193 ; Brandt, Loren, ‘Interwar Japanese agriculture: revisionist views on the impact of the colonial rice policy and the labor-surplus hypothesis’, Explorations in Economic History, 30, 1995, pp. 259293 .

66 Hayami, Yuhiro, ‘Japan’s rice policy in historical perspective’, Food Research Institute Studies, 14, 4, 1975, pp. 359380 .

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69 Loren Brandt, ‘Chinese agriculture’, p. 274.

70 Anderson, Kym and Tyers, Rod, ‘Japanese rice policy in the interwar period: some consequences of imperial self sufficiency’, Japan and the World Economy, 4, 2, 1992, pp. 103127 .

71 Wickizer and Bennett, The rice economy, p. 97.

This study has received financial support from the Government of Spain, through its Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, project ECO2015–65582-P. It has also received backing from the European Social Fund and the Government of Aragon, through the Research Group S55_17R. We are grateful for the help provided by Domingo Gallego, Ángel González-Esteban, Michael Kopsidis, Javier Silvestre, and Patrick Svensson, and the comments received on its presentation to the 10th European Social Science History Conference and from two anonymous referees and the editors. Totals given in the tables have been calculated from rounded figures, so may differ slightly from the data totals. The usual disclaimers apply.

Keywords

International trade in wheat and other cereals and the collapse of the first wave of globalization, 1900–38

  • Gema Aparicio (a1) and Vicente Pinilla (a2)

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