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Jamaica, British Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and the Leeward Islands, and to suggest such measures as appeared calculated to restore and maintain the prosperity of these colonies and of their inhabitants.
The colonies may, as a whole, be described as eminently suited, both by climate and soil, for the growth of special tropical products such as sugar cane, cocoa, coffee, logwood, nutmegs, and various descriptions of fruit, of which the most important are bananas, oranges, cocoanuts, and pineapples.
In some of the islands cattle and horses can be profitably reared, but the raising of stock is never likely to be of more than local importance. There are extensive savannas in the interior of British Guiana which are said to be well suited for this purpose, but they can not be utilized until means of access from the coast are provided.
There is no prospect of manufacturing industries being established on any considerable scale, nor is there any mineral wealth of importance known to exist, with the exception of asphalt, which is obtained from the well-known Pitch Lake of Trinidad, and the gold which has been exported in considerable quantities from British Guiana in recent years.
Owing to the nature of the soil and climate such articles of human food as are yielded by cultivation in the Tropics can, as a rule, be readily produced in large quantities, and there is consequently no likelihood of any permanent deficiency of the bare necessaries of existence for the laboring classes. For this class of food, which includes yams, sweet potatoes, and generally what is known in the West Indies as ground provisions, there is, however, no foreign market of any importance. For articles of food which can only be produced in temperate climates, and for manufactured goods, including clothes, and generally, for the purchase of imports of any kind, Your Majesty's West Indian possessions are dependent on being able to find a profitable foreign market for the special tropical products. It is, moreover, only by means of such an export trade that the population can be maintained in such a condition of prosperity as will permit of sufficient revenue being raised to meet the cost of a civilized government.
* * * We do not consider it necessary to treat at any length of the economic history of the West Indies, seeing that the special causes of the present depression have only begun seriously to affect the sugar-producing colonies within the last fifteen years; and the tables of statistics which we shall submit are therefore confined to that period, commencing with the year 1882.
The prosperity of the West Indies in former times was mainly due to sugar and rum, and the production of these commodities attained such dimensions as to dwarf, and, at one time, almost to extinguish every competing industry. For many years the sugar industry has, from various causes, been growing less profitable than it used to be, and the production for export of such articles as cocoa and fruit has made considerable progress in some of the islands; but the extent to which Your Majesty's possessions in the West Indies are dependent, even in the present day, on the cultivation of the sugar cane is clearly indicated in the following table, which shows. approximately the amount and percentage of the total exports of each possession in the year 1896 which was due to that industry.
The total value of the sugar products exported was about £3,250,000, the value of the sugar being some £2,790,000, of the ruń £265,000, and of the molasses £195,000.
It will be seen that in most of Your Majesty's possessions in the West Indies the products of the sugar cane, though they are now valued at prices which are much below those which prevailed a few years ago, still form by far the larger portion of the total exports of native produce.
EFFECT OF FAILURE OF SUGAR PRODUCTION.
The gravity of the immediate danger to the welfare of each colony which would arise from a failure of the sugar-cane industry may, for practical purposes, be measured by the proportion which the exports of sugar, rum, and molasses bear to the total exports of that colony:
In such an event the welfare of each colony would, in the long run, however, depend on the extent to which it might be found possible to establish other industries.
There has been a great increase in the total production of sugar, and to that increase, which has been accompanied by a progressive economy in production, must the fall in the price of sugar be mainly attributed. The chief increase has been in beet sugar, which is alleged to be the dominant factor in regulating the price in the present day. The production of beet sugar has been stimulated by the grant of bounties, and within the past year Germany and Austria have doubled their bounties on the export of sugar, and France has very largely increased hers. *
Dealing broadly with the whole question, we may say at once that, looking to the low prices now prevailing and to the probabilities as to the future of prices, which we have just discussed, the sugar-cane industry of the West Indies is threatened with such reduction in the immediate future as may not, in some of the colonies, differ very greatly from extinction, and must seriously affect all of them, with the single exception of Grenada, which no longer produces sugar for export.
If such reduction or extinction of the industry occurs, and if its place can not be adequately filled by the substitution of other industries, the consequences are likely to be of a very serious character. **
The remedies which may be applied to the state of things which we have shown to exist, or to be rapidly approaching, may be discussed under one or other of the three heads:
(a) The restoration of the sugar industry to a condition in which it can be profitably carried on.
The adoption of subsidiary neasures which may assist in preventing or alleviating the strain which is about to be experienced by the colonies in question, such as greater economy in public expenditure, the promotion of emigration from places where the population is excessive, and, generally, the encouragement of all measures having a tendency to maintain the well-being of the population.
Of these remedies the first is the only one that would completely avert the dangers which now threaten your Majesty's West India possessions. Any other measures that might be adopted could only be slowly applied, and must, in some cases at least, be found in the outcome to be partial and inadequate. For this reason we propose to deal, in the first place, with the question of the possibility of a restoration of the sugar industry to a condition in which it can be profitably carried on, and subsequently to consider the remedies and palliatives which could be adopted in case of failure of that industry.
Under any circumstances that can at present be foreseen, the days of very large or excessive profits from the sugar-cane industry appear to us to have passed away; and in those portions of the West Indies which are unsuited for the establishment of large factories equipped with the best machinery, and which do not in soil, climate, and the supply of labor possess special advantages for the production of sugar, even the abolition of the bounty system would probably fail to restore the industry to a condition of permanent prosperity.
There are, however, many places in the West Indies where large and well-equipped factories have already been established, and there are others in which such factories could be established; and, moreover, some of the islands, Barbados for example, possess special advantages for carrying on the sugar-cane industry, and so far as we are able to form a judgment on the question we are of the opinion that the abolition of the bounty system on the Continent would render it possible under present conditions to maintain profitably a large proportion of the present area of sugar-cane cultivation.
FUTURE OF THE SUGAR INDUSTRY.
The conclusions with regard to the sugar industry at which we have so far arrived may be summed up as follows:
The effect which the imposition of countervailing duties on the import of bounty-fed sugar into the United Kingdom would have upon price is uncertain, and, for reasons which we have stated, we are unable to recommend such imposition or the grant of a bounty on West Indian sugar.
The cost of producing sugar in those portions of the West Indies where the old processes of manufacture are still followed could in many places be reduced by the introduction, at a considerable cost, of new machinery, but the prospect of profit is not such as to induce capitalists generally to supply the necessary funds.
It is possible that improved varieties of sugar cane may be discovered, but in no case is any such discovery likely to be made in sufficient time to materially alleviate the present distressed condition of the industry.
Some disadvantage is imposed on the producers of rum by the imperial surtax on imported spirits.
Absentee ownership is not a cause of the present depression, and the extension of resident ownership of estates would not materially improve the prospects of the industry.
Wages and salaries have already been reduced, and no further economy can be expected in respect of them.
We feel some hesitation in expressing a positive opinion regarding the future of such an industry as that of the production of sugar, which is liable to be affected by so many unforeseen influences, economic and others, but on a full consideration of the circumstances of the sugar industry in the West Indies we are driven to the conclusion that there is no prospect of the present area of cultivation being maintained. Where the conditions for the production of sugar are favorable, and the latest processes have been adopted, and the best machinery introduced, we believe that some West Indian sugar estates may, even at present prices, continue to show a surplus of receipts over working expenses, but that surplus will not, in our opinion, be sufficient in all cases, after providing for deterioration, and for the results of exceptionally unfavorable seasons, to yield the ordinary market rate of profit on the capital involved in the estates. Under present conditions, therefore, the prospect before the sugar industry is the gradual abandonment of the weaker estates, a process which has already begun, and, in some cases, a failure to renew the machinery as it wears out on estates that are now well equipped, followed in time by similar abandonment.
It may be that no industry, or series of industries, can be introduced into the West Indies which will ever completely take the place of sugar, and certainly no such results will be attained within the space of a few years, but it is of the utmost importance that no time should be lost in making a beginning of substituting other industries for the cultivation of the sugar cane.
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SYSTEM OF PEASANT PROPRIETORS.
If the sugar estates are thrown out of cultivation, it is extremely improbable, and in fact it may be stated to be impossible, that any industry to be conducted on large estates can ever completely take its place. We have, therefore, no choice but to consider how means can be found to enable the mass of the population to support themselves in other ways than as laborers on estates. If work can not be found for the laboring population on estates, they must either emigrate or support themselves by cultivating small plots of land on their own account. No large industry other than agriculture offers any prospect of success, except possibly the gold industry in British Guiana; and when large estates can not be profitably worked, the adoption of the system of cultivation by petty proprietors is inevitable.
The laboring population in the West Indies is mainly of negro blood, but there is also in some of the colonies a strong body of East Indian immigrants, and the descendants of such immigrants. The negro is an efficient laborer, especially when he receives good wages. He is disinclined to continuous labor, extending over a long period of time, and he is often unwilling to work if the wages offered are low, though there may be no prospect of his getting higher wages from any other employer. He is fond of display, openhanded, careless as to the future, ordinarily good-humored, but excitable and difficult to manage, especially in large numbers, when his temper is aroused.
The East Indian immigrant, ordinarily known as the coolie, is not so strong a workman, but he is a steadier and more reliable laborer. He is economical in his habits, is fond of saving money, and will turn his hand to anything by which he can improve his position.
The cultivation of the sugar cane has been almost entirely carried on in the past on large estates, but both the negro and the coolie like to own small patches of land by which they make their livelihood, and take a pride in their position as landholders, though in some cases they also labor at times on large estates, and are generally glad to have the opportunity of earning money occasionally by working on such estates, and on the construction and maintenance of roads and other public works. The existence of a class of small proprietors among the population is a source of both economic and political strength.
The settlement of the laborer on the land has not, as a rule, been viewed with favor in the past by the persons interested in sugar estates. What suited them best was a large supply of laborers, entirely dependent on being able to find work on the estates, and consequently subject to their control and willing to work at low rates of wages. But it seems to us that no reform affords so good a prospect for the permanent welfare in the future of the West Indies as the settlement of the laboring population on the land as small peasant proprietors, and in many places this is the only means by which the population can in future be supported. The drawbacks to the system of peasant proprietors have hitherto been their want of knowledge and care in cultivation, and the habit of what is called prædial larceny. The latter term is applied to the theft of growing crops, which is said to be very prevalent. We do not believe it will disappear until such practices are universally condemned by native and public opinion, which unfortunately does not appear to be the case at present, and in the meantime each colony must deal with the question as may seem best. The small proprietors show some desire to improve their modes of cultivation, and we shall have some suggestions to make on this subject.
But while we think that the governments of the different colonies should exert themselves in the direction of facilitating the settlement of the laboring population on the land, we see no objection to the system of large estates when they can be maintained under natural economic conditions. On the contrary, we are convinced that in many places they afford the best, and, sometimes, the only profitable means of cultivating certain products, and that it is not impossible for the two systems—of large estates and peasant holdings to exist side by side with mutual advantage.
* * *
ESTABLISHMENT OF A DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC BOTANY IN THE WEST INDIES.
The practical work of cultivating new products must be left in the hands of private persons, whether owners of large estates or peasant proprietors, but there are certain directions in which assistance can be given by the state.
Your Majesty's West Indian possessions are, as a rule, not of large extent, and some of them, though possessing separate administrative and financial systems, are of very limited area. Communication between them is difficult, and with the outside world it is both tedious and expensive. The persons engaged in cultivation suffer from this state of isolation, and are often without any information as to what is being done elsewhere. The cultivator of one product is often quite ignorant of the best means of cultivating any other, and does not know whether his soil and climate might be better adapted for something else. These remarks have special reference to the small cultivators, but they are not wholly inapplicable to persons interested in the larger estates.
The botanical establishments in the larger colonies, such as Jamaica, Trinidad, and British Guiana, have already rendered considerable assistance in improving agricultural industries, and they are capable of being made increasingly useful in this respect. In the Windward and Leeward islands and Barbados, small establishments called botanic stations were established a few years ago on the advice of the director of Kew Gardens, and the results, though not yet extensive, have been of a distinctly promising character. It is evident that to grapple with the present circumstances, there is required for the smaller islands a special public department capable of dealing with all questions connected with economic plants suitable for growth in tropical countries, and we recommend the establishment of such a department, under which should be placed the various botanic stations already in existence. These stations should be enlarged in their scope and character, and be organized on the lines found so successful in Jamaica. In the latter colony it is admitted that intelligent and progressive action in the direction of encouraging a diversity of industries has produced most satisfactory results. To achieve this result has, however, taken more than twenty years of persistent effort, and the Government has spent more than £100,000 during that period on its botanical establishments. The department has distributed seeds and plants at nominal prices by means of the post-office, Government railways, and coastal steam service; it has supplied information orally, or by means of bulletins, regarding the cultivation of economic plants, and has encouraged the careful preparation of the produce by sending agricultural instructors on tour through the island to give lectures, demonstrations, and advice.
The special department recommended for carrying on similar work in the Windward and Leeward islands should be under the charge of a competent imperial officer, whose duty it would be to advise the governors in regard to all matters affecting the agricultural development of the islands. He would take part in consultations with the object of improving agricultural teaching in colleges and schools, and of training students in agricultural pursuits, and would attend to the preparation of suitable literature on agricultural subjects. The existing botanic stations should be placed under his supervision, and the charge of maintaining them transferred to imperial funds. Each botanic station would be actively engaged in the introduction and improvement of economic plants, and in propagating and distributing them throughout the island. It would carry out the experimental cultivation of new plants to serve as an object lesson to cultivators, and it would be prepared to give the latest information to inquirers regarding economic products and to provide suitable men as agricultural instructors.
EDUCATION—ELEMENTARY, AGRICULTURAL, AND INDUSTRIAL. At the present time a system of training in agricultural occupation is much needed. We think that some, at least, of the botanic stations should have agricultural schools attached to them, where the best means of cultivating tropical plants would be taught, and if elementary training in agriculture were made a part of the course of education in the public schools generally, the botanic department would be in a position to render valuable assistance.
Agriculture, in one form or another, must always be the chief and the only great industry in the West Indies, but a system of training in other industrial occupations, on a limited scale, is desirable, and would be beneficial to the community.
There are good grounds for thinking that the West Indies might profitably grow fruit for export in larger quantities than at present. The fruit trade between Jamaica and New York has already attained important dimensions, and it seems possible that a similar trade might be established with some of the other islands.
In time it might be found practicable to send fruit to the London market. If this could be done, the gain to the whole of the West Indies would be very great. We believe that the opportunity of selling their fruit cheaply in London would be of the greatest value, and there would be no risk of the trade being interfered with by hostile tariffs. If a number of steamers were regularly employed in such a trade, they would, no doubt, carry British products to the West Indies on their return voyage, and to a certain degree reduce the loss of trade which has been caused by the diversion to the United States of West Indian sugar and of the Jamaica fruit exports. *
It is of great importance that there should be cheap, regular, and frequent means of communication between the different islands. The want of such facilities was especially brought to our notice in many of the colonies.
Such means of communication will assist, or even create, trade in local products, will tend to remove that condition of isolation which exists at present, and will enable laborers to move freely to the best markets for labor, a result which is of special importance at a time when many persons are likely to be thrown out of employment in some of the islands.
In view of the probable reduction, in the immediate future, of the area of sugar-cane cultivation, and the serious effect which such reduction and the general depression of the industry must have on the welfare of the colony, the chief remedial measures which we have to suggest for the island of Trinidad are: (1) The substitution of other agricultural industries for the cane cultivation; (2) the settlement of the surplus population on the land as peasant proprietors, and (3) the facilitating of access to foreign markets.
The practical work of carrying on new industries must be left in the hands of private persons, but there are certain directions in which the
Government can assist. The botanical department should be entirely relieved of the business of ornamental gardening and the supply of ornamental plants, and should devote itself to the introduction and experimental cultivation of economic plants, and to attempts to secure improved varieties of such plants, and especially of sugar cane. It should comprise a branch for the teaching of tropical agriculture, and should form a center from which teachers would be sent to give practical lessons in the cultivation of tropical plants and the selection of suitable localities for growing them.
Special and well-considered arrangements should be made for facilitating the settlement of the Creole and East Indian population as peasant proprietors on the Crown lands, and on any other suitable lands that may be or may become available. * *
* * *
DIVERSIFICATION OF INDUSTRIES NECESSARY.
When the general depression of the sugar industry took effect in 1885 there was a collapse of that industry in Tobago. The people began to turn their attention to various minor industries, and they now export cocoa, cocoanuts, pease, corn, potatoes, plantains, poultry, eggs, cocoanut oil, cattle, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep. Their proximity to Trinidad enables them to find a market for many of the articles which we have just enumerated.
Communication between the two islands should, as far as possible, be facilitated. If, as we have recommended, a cheap and regular service of steamers is established between Barbados and the southern islands, it may be arranged that Tobago shall participate in that benefit.
It also appears desirable that a botanic station should be established at Tobago, subordinate to the botanic department at Trinidad, and having for its object the attainment of the same ends.
Finally, we recommend that the settlement of the population on Crown and other available lands should be persevered with and encouraged.
The recommendations which we desire to make in the case of Grenada are, to a great extent, the same as those which we have to make in the case of most of the West India Islands, and may be briefly summarized as follows:
(1) The work of the botanic station should be extended, and it should be held responsible for agricultural instruction, for the introduction and experimental cultivation of tropical plants of economic importance, and for the supply of such plants, on payment, to the public.
* * *
(2) The Government should, as far as may be practicable, encourage the settlement of the creole population on the land as small proprietors. The Crown lands are of small extent, and are situated in the highest portions of the islands. They are covered with forest, which it is of the utmost importance to preserve, and they are, therefore, not available for settlement. The question whether the Government should not purchase estates with the view of reselling them in small lots may fairly be raised in connection with Carriacou, where it is of special urgency, as that island is in a very depressed condition, while the medical officer states that “most of the estates here are owned by absentee proprietors, who demand rents that are much too high under existing circumstances.”
(3) Grenada will participate in the arrangements which we have proposed for securing cheap and regular communication between the islands by means of small subsidized steamers.
(4) The cultivation of fruit in Grenada should be encouraged, and the best kinds should be supplied from the botanic station. We do not recommend that any special attempt should be made at the present time to start a fruit trade between Grenada and New York, but we have made a recommendation of this nature in the case of St. Vincent and Dominica, and if the experiment should prove Successful there is no reason why it should not in time be extended to Grenada. It would greatly facilitate such extension if in the meantime Grenada were placed in a position to grow suitable kinds of fruit in sufficient quantities.*
* * The most important measure to be taken for the welfare of St. Lucia is the settlement of the people on the land. There is already a large number of persons who cultivate small plots, but we have no doubt that the number can be increased. Roads should be provided for the benefit of the small settlers, and arrangements made for giving them instructions in agriculture. This instruction can be best given in connection with the botanic station, the operations of which should be extended in the way we have indicated in the case of the other islands. More suitable land for the purpose of experimental cultivation in connection with the botanic station is very much required. St. Lucia will, of course, share in the benefits of the scheme for facilitating communication between the different islands, which we have recommended, if that scheme should be approved.
In view of the approaching extinction of the sugar industry in St. Vincent, and of the fact that there is no prospect of private enterprise establishing other industries on a sufficiently large scale to afford employment to the laboring classes, the problem of providing for these classes becomes one of extreme urgency, and is beset with difficulties.
We have already made a general recommendation that the settlement of the creole population of the West Indies as cultivating proprietors should be recognized as the settled policy of the government of the different colonies, and we see no reason to depart from that policy in the case of St. Vincent. On the contrary, it seems to us that, whether the sugar industry is maintained or disappears, it is absolutely essential in the interests of the native population that their settlement on the land should be facilitated. In no other way does it seem to us to be possible to maintain even the most moderate degree of prosperity in St. Vincent.
LAND OWNERSHIP BY THE NATIVES IS ESSENTIAL. At the same time the question is surrounded with special difficulties in the case of this island. There is, no doubt, a large extent of Crown land, but this land is situated in the center of the island, at a considerable elevation, remote from the markets, and is unprovided with roads. A great deal of the land consists of steep slopes, difficult to cultivate, and liable to suffer from heavy rains and floods.
The attempts that have been made in recent years to settle cultivators on the Crown lands have not so far met with much success. A considerable number of the plots were taken up, to be paid for in installments, but the owners complain of the want of roads. They have suffered from the low prices of produce, and owing to the general depression they have found themselves unable to get work so as to earn the wages on which they relied in some degree to pay for their holdings. În 1896 many of these holdings were damaged by floods, to an extent which has made it difficult or impossible for the purchasers to pay the installments due, while much of their cultivation has been swept away. Whether the attempt to settle the population on the Crown lands under such conditions ultimately proves successful or not, we are convinced that it does not afford any prospect of providing in sufficient time for the bulk of the population likely to be thrown out of employment by the stoppage of the sugar-cane cultivation, and we are doubtful whether it is expedient to reduce largely the area of the central forests; a reduction which is inevitable if the lands are occupied by settlers.
There are, however, round the seacoast, thousands of acres of fertile land in the hands of private owners, uncultivated and likely to remain so. The holders of these lands appear to be unwilling to sell them in small lots or at a reasonable price, and are unable to cultivate them. Under the circumstances, we have no hesitation in recommending that suitable portions of these lands be acquired by the State and made available for settlement in small plots. If suitable lands can not be obtained by private agreement with the owners, powers should be taken by the Government to expropriate them on payment of reasonable compensation.
sation. The condition of St. Vincent is so critical as to justify the adoption of prompt and drastic measures of reform. A monopoly of the most accessible and fertile lands by a few persons who are unable any longer to make a beneficial use of them can not, in the general interests of the island, be tolerated, and is a source of public danger. ***
Another measure which we recommend is an attempt to establish a fruit trade with New York, such, though on a smaller scale, as that which has proved of such benefit to Jamaica. In this enterprise Dominica may with advantage be associated with St. Vincent. We have already recommended that a guarantee for five years be given for a fruit steamer to run from St. Vincent and Dominica to New York, to be extended, if necessary, for another period of five years, on condition that each island undertakes to put at least 2,000 acres under banana cultivation. It is, however, probable that private persons will be found willing to make an agreement to this effect when they understand that proper means of communication may be depended upon for at least ten years. As regards agricultural education, the extension of the operations of the botanic station, and
the establishment of steam communication between the islands, our recommendations are practically the same as those which we offered in the case of Grenada, and need not be repeated in detail. *
Since, however, Dominica has never been so great a sugar-producing colony as most of the others, and sugar exports now only form 15 per cent of the value of the whole, it is unnecessary to discuss the question of taking special measures, as far as Dominica is concerned, to reestablish the sugar industry there.
It is with the development of the other industries that the colony will be mainly concerned in future. In this direction there is not only very good ground for hope, but considerable progress has already been made. The value of the exports of cocoa have risen from £6,375 in 1882 to £13,453 in 1896; of limes and lime juice from £5,102 to £14,851; of essential oils from £295 to £5,012; of fruit and vegetables from £607 to £1,348; and of coffee from £321 to £967 in the same period.
But this is not enough. If Dominica is to be self-supporting, if an efficient government is to be provided for out of its revenue, and the people are to be prosperous, or even comfortable, these industries must extend still further; and there is, happily, no reason why this should not be the case.
At present the population lives almost entirely within a mile or two of the coast, because there are no roads to the interior. The first step requisite is to make the land, or some parts of it, accessible by a system of roads. When this has been done, the cultivation of cocoa and coffee will probably extend more rapidly than it has been doing, and that of limes also, if the market is not overstocked.
There is, however, no reason why fruit of first-rate quality should not be grown in Dominica as well as in Jamaica, and become a very large industry if only means of communication are provided. We have, therefore, recommended that Dominica should from the first share with St. Vincent in the advantage of direct communication with New York, for which a subsidy must be given. * * *
The excellent prospect as far as the climate and soil of Dominica are concerned, of establishing a fruit industry, and of growing other tropical produce, makes it more than ever desirable that the botanic station should be maintained, its work extended, and instruction in agriculture provided. *
Montserrat can only be developed and supported by variety of produce, and for this two things are essential--a good botanic station, capable of supplying plants and giving instruction, and access to markets. Both these needs have been dealt with in connection with other islands, in the general report, but it should be noticed that the work of the botanic station, which might have been made very useful in Montserrat, has been discontinued owing to lack of funds-an illustration of how the island is being pinched by the failure of the sugar industry, and of how, just as its need is greatest, it becomes impossible for it to provide unaided the means which are essential for overcoming its difficulties.
In Antigua, as in several other Islands, the Government must, to meet the altered circumstances, take steps
1. To promote the settlement of the laboring population on the land as peasant cultivators. Some Crown lands are available for this purpose, and the low price of sugar has made it necessary to abandon some sugar estates, and may bring others into the market.
2. To provide more facilities of communication by steamer with other islands. 3. To encourage and extend the work of the botanic station. *
The course to be pursued by the Government in St. Kitts-Nevis can only be the same as that recommended for Antigua; the prospects as regards new industries and the future generally are the same.
Whereas most of the other colonies are almost entirely dependent on sugar cane, Jamaica produces, besides coffee, logwood, bananas, oranges, pimento, ginger, cocoa, cocoanut, tobacco, and other articles of export, the value of which, as shown in the returns of 1895–96, amounted altogether to about £1,415,000, as against £360,059, the value of the exports of sugar, rum, and molasses.
Jamaica is, therefore, in a better position to meet a falling off in the sugar trade than any of the other West Indian colonies, except Grenada, which has ceased to produce sugar except for local con simption, and is supporting itself entirely by other products.
The number of holdings of land in the island is 92,979, of ; hich 81,924 are under 10 acres each. In 1882 there were only 52,608 holdings, of which 43,707 were under 10 acres each. Even allowing for the fact that some persons may hold two or more plots of land, it is clear that the island already contains a very large and increasing number of peasant proprietors.
The Crown-land regulations offer facilities for the settlement of the laboring population on the land, and as sugar estates are abandoned some of them will probably fall into the hands of small cultivators.
Some of the evidence which we received does not give a very satisfactory account of the general condition of many of the people, and there was a tendency on the part of some witnesses to dwell a good deal on the depressed state of the Jamaica peasantry, but there is little doubt that the bulk of them are in a position which compares not unfavorably with that of the peasantry of most countries in the world, and the facts stated in the following paragraph show that the condition of the laboring classes can hardly have deteriorated.
In the last ten years the number of savings bank accounts of the amount of £5 and under has nearly doubled. The census returns of 1891 show that in ten years, 1881 to 1891, there had been an increase of 30 per cent in the unmber of persons able to read and write. The acreage of provision grounds has increased more than 30 per cent in ten years. There are 70,000 holdings of less than 5 acres. The area in coffee, usually in small lots, increased in ten years from 17,000 to 23,000 acres. More than 6,000 small sugar mills are owned by the peasantry. The number of enrolled scholars was 100,400 in 1896, as against 49,000 in 1881, while the actual average daily attendance at schools had increased from 26,600 to 59,600. These facts indicate considerable advance, though no doubt in certain districts the people are poor. Distress was, perhaps, more apparent at the time of our visit than is usually the case, for there was a severe drought, the logwood industry, which had been flourishing, had fallen off, and employment on railway works had ceased.
On the whole there appears to us no ground for despondency as to the future of Jamaica, either in view of the possible failure of the sugar industry or on general considerations, but it is most desirable that the settlement of the people on the land should be encouraged. * *
The results, in any case, of a falling off in sugar production will not be so serious as in other West Indian colonies, and we ascertained by personal observation and inquiry that in two large parishes at least, where sugar-cane cultivation has ceased and bananas have been substituted, a larger population is now maintained than existed in former days, nor was there any reason to suppose that there was any special poverty in those parishes.
It does not follow that all abandoned sugar estates could be made to produce bananas, but we received evidence that some such estates were capable of producing abundant crops of bananas, and that in some cases portions of coffee estates which had been abandoned owing to the supposed exhaustion of the soil could, under certain conditions, which are referred to by Dr. Morris, be again brought under the same cultivation. * *
The education of the people in Jamaica, though no doubt capable of improvement, has made great strides. No school fees are now paid in the elementary schools, and the cost of the education department has risen from £25,000 in 1882–1883 to an estimated cost in 1897–1898 of £69,365. The number of schools has risen from 687 in 1881–1882 to 932 in 1896. There is considerable provision for higher education in Jamaica, partly due to generous bequests of individuals in former days, and partly due to the action of the various churches in the colony. There are also training colleges for male and female teachers, and efforts are being made to introduce training in agriculture and in trades.
The botanical department of the island has done excellent service in the development of various industries, and has no doubt helped the sugar industry also by attention to the best methods of cultivation and by endeavoring to improve the canes. It has also imparted knowledge of cultivation to the peasantry. These efforts should be continued, and there seems no reason to alter the constitution of the department or its relation to the local government, but a competent agricultural chemist is required to be constantly employed in conjunction with the botanical department in analyzing the soil and its products.
There is evidence that good results have arisen from the action of the Jamaica Institute and of the two agricultural associations that exist in the colony.
Before we conclude our remarks on Jamaica some reference must be made to the system of coolie immigration in the island. By the last return received there were 14,128 East Indian immigrants in Jamaica, of whom 3,762 were still serving under indenture; 27,096 have been introduced since immigration began in 1845, and 8,809 have returned to India. Under the present system the whole cost of recruiting of Indian immigrants and of their passage to and from India is paid by those who employ them, the government bearing the cost of the supervising and medical establishment in the island.
Formerly, and until quite recently, the immigrants were imported almost exclusively for the sugar planters, though a small proportion were assigned to coffee estates. Of late, however, they have been allotted to work on banana plantations. This may lead to complaints by peasant cultivators of bananas that the coolie is imported to compete with them, but if such complaints arise the Jamaica legislature, which is elected by the taxpayers, can deal with them, and we do not make any recommendation as to the discontinuance of immigration in Jamaica under the present system, although we look forward to a time when, owing to an improvement in the industrial habits of the negro, there will be no necessity to import labor. * * *
The special remedies or measures of relief which we unanimously recommend are-
(2) The establishment of minor agricultural industries, and the improvement of the system of cultivation, especially in the case of small proprietors.
(3) The improvement of the means of communication between the different islands.
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