Page images
PDF
EPUB

COTTON CULTIVATION IN WEST AFRICA.

WILLIAM HOWARTH, 66 Mackenzie Street, Bolton, Eng.

A sense of gratitude for the many kindnesses shown to me during my visit to America left me no option but to comply with your Secretary's request to prepare this paper.

A desire to remove the misconception of the American planter both as to the reasons which led to the formation of the British Cotton Growing Association, the possibilities which lie before it, and the success which so far has attended its efforts, was also in

my mind.

In the year 1901, a discussion took place in the Oldham Chamber of Commerce, the subject being “The Growth of Cotton, can it be increased, especially within the British Empire." During the discussion the opinion was expressed, “ that unless new sources of cotton supply are found, the Lancashire trade will, within a very few years, find very great difficulty in getting an adequate supply of raw material.”

Subsequent investigation proved the opinion to be well founded. America herself contributed to this view. The Washington Census Bulletin, issued June 20, 1902, contained the following on cotton consumption:

“It appears that the crop of South Carolina needed to be supplemented by almost exactly 100,000,000 pounds drawn from other states to supply its spinners, that the North Carolina crop was deficient more than 34,000,000 pounds, that Alabama made use at home of two-thirds of its crop, that the great cotton growing state of Georgia consumed more than one-fifth of its crop, and that even Virginia that had made less progress in the industry than the stateś farther south consumed more than one-twelfth of its crop.

“At the present rate of progress it will not be long before the entire cotton supply of the states on the Atlantic seaboard will be taken at home. More than half of it was taken during the census year here reported, for of the 1,260,000,000 pounds raised by the states mentioned, their own mills took 651,800,000 pounds.

“ Co-incident with the above it was also noted that takings of Egyptian cotton were also largely on the increase.”

I need not weary the members of an association like yours with statistics. I take it that each member knows that America has not stood alone in the enormous strides she has taken in the production of cotton manufactures. The movement has been world-wide. Not only are the people of the world growing wealthier and wiser but new uses for cotton are constantly being found.

The features enumerated presented themselves strongly to the leaders of the Lancashire trade. America held out no hope of being capable of meeting the expansion.

Lack of labor, owing largely to industrial developments, the migration of the negro to the towns and poor transport facilities for handling a large crop were cited by a well known American cotton expert, Mr. HENRY KITTREDGE, as disturbing influences. The Lancashire spinner also felt that by extending the area of cotton production over as wide a surface of the earth as possible we should be less liable to crop functuations.

Further, the ideal of the American people seemed to be to manufacture the whole of the cotton they grew. Englishmen could not quarrel with an idea of this character. Neither could they be expected to quietly see the development of an ideal, which in its consummation meant the extinction of England's premier manufacturing industry.

These views were put forward at a meeting held in Manchester on May 7, 1902, and the following resolutions were adopted:

1. That, in the opinion of this meeting the continued prosperity of the British cotton industry depends on an increased supply of cotton and it is desirable that our sources of supply should be extended. • 2. That a guarantee fund of £50,000 be raised, to be spread over five years, no guarantor being required to contribute more than onefifth of his total guarantee in any one year.

The £50,000 was subsequently raised to £100,000. I mention these figures because the planters of the South expressed the view that the British Cotton Growing Association had lost millions of capital "in attempting to grow cotton in a country where God never intended that cotton should be grown.”

With regard to these finances I may say that the Association has now been placed on a semi-commercial basis with £250,000 paid up, and although the terms of the charter expressly declare that «

no dividend shall be paid for a period of seven years, but that all profits shall be devoted to the extension of cotton growing," the Association is being worked on lines which offer promise of enabling a reaping by and by.

The Association was fortunate in having among its promoters Mr. J. Arthur HUTTON, Mr. J. E. NEWTON, and many others of the commercial and industrial leaders of Lancashire, and a survey of the cotton growing possibilities was quickly made.

Professor WYNDHAM R. DUNSTAN, F. R. S., Director of the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, laid down the general rule that,

“Cotton may be successfully grown in those countries which fall in a region lying roughly 40 degrees North and South of the Equator, providing that the soil is appropriate and that the rainfall or irrigation is sufficient.

“Within this region the following British Colonies, Protectorates and Dependencies are included :- British Honduras, The West Indies, British Guiana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, The Gold Coast, Lagos and Nigeria, East Africa and Uganda, South Africa, Mauritus, The Seychelles, India, The Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States, Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, Egypt, Cyprus and Malta.

“In most of these countries the rainfall is adequate, and in those in which it is deficient irrigation is possible in nearly every instance."

It was obviously impossible for the Association to extend its operations over so wide a field. The West Indies, East and West Africa and India were deliberately selected as being the countries which offered to respond most quickly to well directed effort.

Communications were opened up with the West Indies and a large number of white planters expressed themselves as being prepared to experiment in the growing of Sea Island cotton in the West Indies.

The pioneer work was already far advanced, Sir DANIEL MORRIS, the Imperial Director of Agriculture for the West Indies, had for some time been working out in a thoroughly scientific manner the agricultural possibilities of the islands under his control.

As an alternative to sugar and fruit, Sea Island cotton, which by the way, is supposed to have had its origin in Barbadoes, was looked upon with favor. Sir DANIEL relieved the British Cotton Growing Association of all anxiety, with regard to the agricultural side of the movement and beyond setting up a few ginneries and sending financial aid to needy planters the Association was not called upon for material help. In the second season, Mr. E. LOMAS OLIVER of Bollington, who spins the finest Sea Island yarns, visited the West Indies and explained to the plant

qualities which lent value to, or depreciated Sea Island cotton. He also pointed out the types the market could easily absorb.

How well the advice of Mr. OLIVER was taken to heart, and how comprehensive the instruction of Sir DANIEL MORRIS must have been is shown by the 5,057 bales which reached England from the West Indies last year and the high comparative prices realized.

It may also be incidentally remarked that had it not been for the relief afforded by the 5,057 bales referred to there would, last year, have been an insufficiency of this type of cotton.

In India the problem was of a different character. Although a well organized Agricultural Department existed cotton was not one of its chief studies. And yet, India must, at one time, have been the chief cotton producing country of the world and in the days long past grew the cotton from which the fine muslins of the east were made. An analysis of the statistics showed that while America produced, on an average approximately 200 pounds of lint cotton to the acre, India, through various circumstances only produced 80 pounds of lint from a similar area.

The attention of the India Goverment was called to the economic loss which the country was sustaining, through this small production per acre. Experts were therefore called in and these experts have since been engaged in working out experiments in the United Provinces with a view, not only of securing a higher yield, but also a cotton of better grade. There is every promise that the results aimed for will be achieved. Success in this direction means an impetus to the trade of the world which can scarcely be measured.

But it is to West Africa that the energies and moneys of the Association have, in the main, been directed. During the American Civil War some £76,000 worth of cotton was shipped from the colony of Lagos to Liverpool. After the conclusion of the war the shipments ceased. It is not unfair to assume that the cotton which came in the panic days was due to merchants sweeping the coast towns of all the native cotton they could buy. When the panic subsided and prices became normal, the merchants, dealing in less bulky and more profitable commodities, ceased to interest themselves in cotton and the possibilities of West Africa as a cotton producing country were forgotten. But, with the birth of the British Cotton Growing Association a new era began. Sir ALFRED JONES, the president of the British Cotton Growing Association, and others associated with him in trade brought the claims of West Africa before the Association. It was stated that cotton grew wild in almost every colony, and, that although no cotton was exported, the natives away from the coast towns were clothed in clothes spun and woven from native cottons.

« PreviousContinue »