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has to surmount before he can become the proprietor of even -^=0^
a scrap of ground ; and in the lack of serious attempts at
colonisation, which would provide the cultivator with the
means of working his holding and finally of becoming its
proprietor. "How many immigrants," says Senor Girola,
"coming to this country with the idea of buying a little piece ^y'
of land, have been forced to abandon their dream, on account "nJ
of the diiJiculties put in the waj^ of their obtaining the desired
holding ! " *

• Far from encouraging the promotion of a class of small
land-owners, the State has assisted in the establishment of
enormous holdings, which are the chief obstacle to the
peopling of the country. In place of dividing into small
allotments, accessible to modest fortunes, the great stretches
of land near the railways or the ports, and offering them .
for sale at low prices in the European communities from =-=r
which a number of immigrants come each year, as is done
by the United States, Australia, and Canada, the Argentine
administration has subjected all the operations of purchase
to long and wearisome formalities which quickly exhaust
both the savings and the patience of the purchaser.

Argentina, then, if she wishes to solve this vital
problem of colonisation, which is for her the problem of
immigration, must give careful thought to the adoption of
some well-devised scheme, with the object of subdividing
the present great parcels of land, and of attaching the
agriculturalist to the land he tills, by allowing him to become
its owner. Without this necessary reform, the country will
continue to experience the phenomenon of temporary
immigrati<m ; the immigration of men who return to their
own countries as soon as they have been able to save a little
money : a process exceedingly prejudicial to the best interests
of the country.

* Investiyacion agricola, 1904, Carlos D. Girola.





Natubal Conditions — The Constitution of Property — The three principal
agricultural districts — The northern, central, and southern districts — The
division of crops and thoir varieties.

The constitution of rural property— The division of property — The great
estates, called "estancias," and their dimenBious.

The drawbacks of largo properties — The necessity of a better subdivision of
the public lands — The division into lots of large tracts of land, in order to
encourage colonisation— The system of exploiting property.

Agbicultural Production — Progress realised in the last seventeen years-
Comparative yield of the chief products, wheat, flax, and maize — Lucerne ;
the importance of the crop and the excellent results obtained.

Increase of the area under seed — The total area cultivated in the agricultural
years 1908-1909— The great agricultural belts.

The Province of Buenos Ayres, its agricultural development and its crops — The
Province of Santa Fe — The Province of Cordoba — The Territory of the
Pampa Central.

Agricultural machinery, its importation from abroad, and especially from the
United States.

Thk Agricultural Yield — The yield of the soil in the different Provinces —
Exceptional results in certain districts— Detailed calculation of the yield
of a wheat farm — Two instances of great wealth realised by immigrants
into the Argentine.

Natural Conditions — The Constitution of Property.

THE Argentine Republic, which we are now about to
consider from the geological and hydrographical point
of view, ofiers, by the mere fact of its physical constitution,
an immense future for agriculture on the largest possible
scale, and at the same time for stock-raising and the rural

We find that the country contains three principal agri-
cultural regions : (1) the region to the north of the provinces
of Santa Fe and Entre Rios ; (2) the central region which
runs southward from the limits of the northern, as far as
the south of the Province of Buenos Ayres and the Territory
of La Pampa, including a portion of the Territories of Rio
Negro and Neuquen ; (.i) the southern region, which runs

1 125


southward from the limits of the central region, down to
Tierra del Fuego.

The first region is characterised by a hot climate, with
regular rains in the eastern parts ; in the west the rainfall
is leas frequent. The central region enjoys a temperate
climate ; there, as in the northern region, the rains are
regularly distributed in the eastern parts, but are very
rare in the west, which is subject to long periods of drought.
In the southern region the rains are less frequent and the
climate is more severe, with the exception of the west and
the extreme south, which are also in a rainy belt.

After long experience a kind of natural selection has
come into operation with regard to agriculture ; the various
crops are to-day distributed nearly as follows : Cereals, such
as wheat, barley, oats, maize, and millet,* are cultivated more
especially in the region formed by the Provinces of Buenos
Ayres, Santa Fe, Entre Rios, CcSrdoba, and the Territor^;_of
the Pampa, which latter is par excellence the cereal-growing
district. Maize, however, is grown over a still wider region ;
it is cultivated with success in the whole of the central and
northern regions of the Republic. Rice can also be grown
in these regions ; its culture is being developed in ^e
Provinces of Tucuman, San Juan, Mendoza, Salta, La Rioja,
and Jujuy, and also in Corrientes, Formosa, Chaco and
Misiones. The Provinces of Santa Fe, Entre Rios, and
Buenos Ayres are also capable of producing rice.t

Oleaginous plants, such as the castor-oil plant, sesame,
and the poppy, find favourable conditions of growth in the
north, while linseed, t colza, and rape prosper in the cereal

The sugar-cane is cultivated in the northern region, but

* Millet is an article of diet among the Latins of Southern Europe. The
ordinary "minestra" or soup of the Italian wayside albergo consists, to English
eyes, of a pint of hot water poured over a cup of bird-seed. Pounded, it makes
a kind of cake or bread ; when boiled it swells slightly and is partly digested.

t Invcstigaci6n agricola, by Carlos D. Girola, 1904.

X It should perhaps be stated that the flux or linen plant (Fr. Un) so often
mentioned in this book, produces not only the flax or linen fibre of commerce,
but also linseed, with its valuable products, oil-cake and linseed-oil ; the first
used for fattening cattle, the second for paints, varnishes, oilskins, and " inlaid
linoleums," as well aa the basis or " ski'im " of ordinary oilcloth. — [Tbans.]


especially in Tucuman, in part of Santiago de I'Estero, Salta,
Jujuy, and Corrientes, and in the north oi" Santa Fe, Formosa,
Chaco and Misiones.

The vine is cultivated chietly in Mendoza and San Juan,
where the conditions of soil and climate are favourable, and
wliere it is methodically irrigated by the canals v^hich water
the whole of the vine-growing districts ; but the wine and the
dessert grape can be grown in the whole of the central region.
It also prospers in La Rioja, Catamarca, Salta, and Entre Rios.

Stock-raising is followed especially in the Provinces of
Buenos Ayres, Santa Fe, and Entre Rios^ and in the south
of the Province of Cordoba; and in a great part of the
Pampa Central.

" The principal characteristics of Argentine agriculture
having been considered, we must now inquire how rural
property is constituted ; that is, among how many proprietors
or tenants the 35,000,000 acres under cultivation at the end
of 1908 are shared.

In the United States, for example, we know by the census
of 1900 that the 840,000,000 acres given over to agriculture
are divided into 5,739,657 distinct holdings, giving an average
of about 142 acres per holding. In France, according to
the statistics for 1892, 11,250,000 acres were divided into
5,702,000 holdings, the average extent being about 21 acres.

Is it possible to obtain similar figures for the Argentine ?
The national census of 1895 gives us certain data respecting
the division of rural property in this country. The 172,000
holdings, agricultural or pastoral, which were included in
this census, had an area of 20,295,000 acres, according to
the declarations of the owners ; and comparing this figure
with the area actually under cultivation, amounting to
12,800,000 acres, we find that only about the half of these
holdings is tilled and sown, the rest being left as pasture.

This census also took note of the area of each agricultural
holding, and although the result of this inquiry has not been
published, a simple division of the number of acres by that
of the holdings gives us an average of 118 to 123 acres per
h^olding ; a figure that would be satisfactory enough, if it
came anywhere near the reality,*

* Cy. Censo Nacional, vol. ii. p. xli.


The national inventory giv^es (mly these data in respect
of this subject. As we see, they are far from complete ; but
even if they were, the progress of agriculture during the last
few years has been so great that to-day they would only
possess a purely historical interest.

Happily the agricultural census (including a census of
stock), which was taken during the first half of May 1908
throughout the whole Republic, gives us some valuable
information on this head.

This inquiry affected 222,174 holdings, agricultural or
pastoral, which had a total area of 450,000 square miles, the
area of the Republic being 1,134,700 square miles. This is
how these 222,174 holdings are divided : —

There are 53,954 holdings measuring from 27"2 to ]23'4
acres ; 48,323 of less than 25 acres ; 46,553 of from 250 to
740 acres ; 29,624 of from 125 to 247 acres ; 12,992 of from
743-5 to 1234 acres; 11,104 of from 1236 to 2470 acres;
2968 of from 2970 to 9260 acres; 2052 of from 9260 to
12,350 acres; 1157 of from 12,350 to 24,680 acres. Holdings
of more than 24,680 acres are relatively rare, in comparison
with the rest; 423 have an area of from 24,680 to 30.870
acres ; 781 of from 30,870 to 61,750 acres"; rB8 of from
61,750 to 114,250 acres ; 65 of from 114,250 to 123,440 acres,
and finally there are 104 holdings of more than 123,440 acrfis.

These figures, compared with those of the census of 1895, ,
reveal the fact that in thirteen years the number of rural
holdings has increased by 50,174, and that the area given
over to the two forms of usage, which lie at the base of the
wealth of the Republic, has increased by 276,760,000 acres.

But in spite of this extraordinary development during
the last few years, from the point of view of the distribution
■^ of the soil, the Argentine is still in a primitive, indeed, almost
in a feudal state, by reason of the enormous tracts of lands
which are monopolised by a small number of owners. These
owners utilise their enormous properties in raising cattle on
the great ranches known as " estancias," or employ them iov
agricultural purposes, when they do not prefer to leave them
in a waste and unproductive condition, waiting until time
and economic progress shall give them a value which the'r
own efforts are incapable of giving them.


These "estancias" — that is to say, tlie most usual system
of utilisinc^ the soil — vary in area from 12,000 to 180,000 or
200,000 acres; some are even over 830,000 acres in extent.
Many of them are only a few hours distant fi'om the city of
IJuonos Ayres, or border on the outskirts of important urban

Such tracts of land given over to stock-raising and
owned by private individuals would be inconceivable in
most European countries, where private holdings are small ;
nor are Ihey much more usual in a new country of vast area,
like the United States, where more than half the cultivated
lands arc divided into farms of less than 100 acres each, and
where holdings of more than 1000 acres, whether under seed
or in pasture, are the exception, the average of all properties
and holdings being 143 acres.

It is easy to understand, without a lengthy demonstra-
tioujliow far this state of affairs goes to retard the general
development of the country. It is equally easy to under-
stand that in order to stimulate this development it is
necessar}^ before all else to secure an increased foreign popu-
lation, by attracting it through the powerful bait of landed

• ">f The great obstacle in the way of the agricultural develop-
ment, of the Argentine arises essentially from the faulty
property system; from the fact that enormous tracts of
land are held by a few men ; from the establishment, in
sRort, of the most odious system of lafifundia ever known.
TEis trouble arises from the lack of foresight with which
tte State has parted with enormous tracts of land, which
have passed into the hands of speculators or large land-owners,
who have left them untouched, while waiting for the value
of their holdings to rise.

In the national territories, according to the deputy
Joachim Castellanos, who is busily fighting the system of
latifundia, there are belts of land, now private property,
which are divided in the following proportions : 2,470,000
acres into holdings of from 25 to 99,000 acres each ; 7,400,000
acres into holdings of from 99,000 to 198,000 acres each ; and
7,934,000 acres into properties of 190,000 or 200,000, and
over. This means that there are 17,280,000 acres of useful


and cultivable laud, in the hands of unenterprising capita-
Tists remaining, unproductive, used to increase neither ^tbe
population nor the production of the country.*

The principal author of this deep-rooted evil is incon-
testahly the Argentine State, which has squandered its rich
inheritance, by allowing it to pass into the hands of specu-
lators, instead of dividing it equitably among the new
colonists. The subdivision of these great tracts of land,
now concentrated in the hands of a few large proprietors,
is, to-day, one of the necessary conditions of the develop-
ment of the country, and it is with reason that influential
voices are raising themselves, in Parliament and in the Press,
to proclaim this economic truth.

The great "estancias" of ISO square miles in area, covered
by immense herds of cattle, must finally, says M. F. Segni,
author of an Investigacion agricola, be divided into small
concerns of from 4000 to 12,000 acres, which would, wT^
fewer animals but a better system, yield a greater profit both
to the owner and to the country. The old system of large
ranchir)g must gradually give way to an intensive system,
when stock-raising, combined with agriculture, will employ
a larger population, attract more capital, and realise better

There is happily no need to be greatly pessimistic on this
point, as we can already perceive a tendency to the sub-
division of property, which comes from the powers of the
State as well as from land-owners or commercial companies.
Thus the land law of 1907 was passed solely with the object
of preventing large monopolies ; it prohibits the acquisition
for the benefit of a single person of any portion of the
national domains of greater area than 6170 acres. The
importance of this step will be understood, when we re-
member that the State has still to dispose of 212 millioas
of acres of desert land, suitable for agriculture, and situated
in territories which are rapidly becoming peopled.

On the other hand, there are certain business concerns
which, as owners of enormous tracts of land, are dividing
them into small lots, which they are oflfering freehold to
prospective farmers at fairly moderate prices, and facilities

* Speech delivered on 21st September 1903.


of payment are offered at the same time. Among these firms
we^ may mention the " Sociedad Anonima la (^urumalaa,"
owning some 600,000 acres of land in the southern portion
of the Province of Buenos Ayres, suitable both for cattle-
raising and for agriculture, which is selling land at from
£2, 2s. to £3 per acre, according to the quality and the
situation, payable in three or four years ; the payment by
instalments being increased by an interest varying from
7 to 9 percent, yearly. The " Stroeder Colonisation Society,"
which has exploited a large belt of agricultural country ;
the "Compania de Colonisation del Rio de la Plata;" the
" Estancia y Colonia Trenel," founded by the great Argentine
land-owner, Antonio Devoto, and a large number of other
companies and syndicates are working on the basis of
enabling the colonist to acquire his own laud, and are doing
successful business.

i^ A striking example of progress in this matter of the
subJTvisioii of property is furnished by the statistics of
tl^ Province of Cordoba for the years between 1898-1899
and 1905-1906. During this period 3,193,600 acres of land^'
out of a total of 9,823,300 acres, which represent the colonies
and settled land of the province, have been sold to farmers ;
that iSj_ nearly a third. Thanks to this subdivision, the
number of colonists in this province who have become the
acTualproprietors of larger or smaller holdings has risen to
4568. What is happening in Cdrdoba is also happening
more or less rapidly in the other agricultural provinces; and
it is l)y this method that the Argentine will one day succeed
in abolishing the latifundia, whose progressive disappear-
ance is a condition of further development.

We might multiply the instances of land-owners or
commercial enterprises which are helping the labourer to
buy land, for the system of dividing the land into small
allotments, selling it at a cheap price, and allowing payment
by instalments, is every day becoming more widespread.
The journals are full of announcements of the sale by
auction of lands which, until to-day, have never felt the
ploughshare, and are now given over to colonisation. One
a^so hears men speak, as of an accomplished fact, of the
method initiated by several railwaj^-companies which propose,


by means of their own capital, to bring into the market and
increase the value of the vast tracts of uncultivated land
which they own on the outskirts of their systems.
jA- Unhappily, in spite of this tendency to the subdivision of
the soil, the most usual system of working the land is still
that of letting it at a fixed rent, or for a certain proportion
of the yield in place of rent, or by a profit-sharing system,
lihder which the tenant receives 50, 40, or 30 per cent._ of the
harvest. The large land-owners, who are the most numerous,
prefer the former method, and often impose on the farmer
the obligation of leaving a crop of lucerne on the landjn
the last year of the tenancy.

The chief drawback of this system is that the labourer
never becomes the owner of the soil he cultivates, so that
he is not actuated by the powerful ties of property, which
"should attach him to the country and its destinies. On the
other hand, too, the tenant tries to obtain from the soil the
largest profit he can, without troubling to consider whether
he is exhausting it or not ; he leaves not even a tree behind
him as a monument of his tenancy. But in spite of all these
drawbacks this system does furnish the colonist with means
to buy land cheaply later on, and in another district. Such
is the history of many farmers, who began by humbly
labouring under the conditions above described, and are to-day
rich land-owners, possessing enormous tracts of land, which
they work in the way that they find most profitable.

It is hardly necessary to say that the agricultural methods
employed vary according to the situation of the farms, their
fertility, and the means of communication. Agriculture,
properly so called, establishes itself and spreads along th^
waterways or railways which facilitate the transport of
the harvests. The crops principally grown cannot afford
the cost of transport at a greater distance than 180 or
190 miles by railway from the nearest point of embarkation
or consumption, and the nearest railway-station must not
be further than 18 or 20 miles. There are only a few crops
of greater value that can be profitably grown at greater
distances, their higher prices covering the increased cost of

The region consisting of the Provinces of Buenos Ayres,


Santa Fe, Cdrdoba, and Entre Rios, which is the richest in
cereals, is also that in which the greatest number of small
farms are to be found. The statistics for 1901-1902 show that
out of 37,434 farms 13,150, or about 36 per cent., were worked
byHiheir owners ; 18,819, or 50 per cent., by tenants; and 5465,
or 14 per cent., by metayers — that is, tenants who give up from
half to two-thirds of the crops to the owner of tlie land. Other
more recent statistics, relating to the Province of Santa F^,
give the number of farmers owning their land at the time of
the harvest as 6747, or 32 per cent., and the number of tenants
as 14,227, or 68 per cent.

The majority of the farms, especially those cultivated by
the owners, says the Jnvestigacidn agricola, have an area
varying from 60 to 250 acres. Farms held on lease or by
payment of part of the harvest are usually larger, especially
in the former case, and the work is done with greater ex-
pedition, but as a rule less perfectly and without the same
stimulus. Farms varying from 750 to 1500 acres and more
which employ day-labourers are still less numerous, since
as a general thing nothing is gained by employing them.
On the other hand, however, there are large farms whose
owners in reality only supervise matters of administration,
and which are divided among tenant-farmers or metayers,
paying so much per cent, of the harvest, or a rent in kind,
according to the crops anrl the conditions agreed upon. In
such a case the proprietor or colonist is not actually an
agriculturalist, but a business man, who more often than
not has not sufficient knowledge to assume the scientific or
even the rational direction of the operations on his estate.

— • Agricultural Products. ">— —

Having considered the physical conditions of the Argentine
soil, the regions given over to particular forms of agriculture,
and the disposition of rural property, the moment has now
come to consider what areas are at present respectively pro-
ducing crops of various kinds from seed, comparing them
not only with the area of each province, but also with the
statistics of previous years. In making this inquiry, we
have a valuable starting-point in the CeriHO agropecuario,


taken in the month of October 1888 ; the first serious under-
taking of the kind ever attempted in the Republic under
competent direction.*

In an introductory chapter the Director of this census
says : " It is only eleven years since the products of
Argentine agriculture have been greater than the country's
needs. For example, the quantities of wheat exported before
1878 were so small as to be negligible. Now we see that in
eleven years we have reached a point at which we export
8,800,000 bushels of wheat (1887), 255,000 bushels of flour
(1888), 14,470,000 bushels of maize (1887), and 3,248,000
bushels of linseed (1887). Those who will look into these
figures will perhaps agree that they represent a great progress
for so short a time."

The area of agricultural land in cultivation, according
to the census of 1888, amounted for the whole Republic
to 5,984,790 acres, of which 2,014,000 acres, or about 33 per
cent, were under wheat ; 1,979,830 acres, or 33 per cent., under
maize; 963,320 acres, or 16 per cent., under lucerne ; 299,050
acres, or 5 per cent., under linseed; 71,420 acres, or 1-2 per
cent., under barley; 97,660 acres, or '9 percent., under vines;
52,020 acres, or '8 per cent., under sugar-cane, and the rest
under crops of no great importance.

This point of departure being established, let us pass
over the follies of and the damage caused by the frantic
speculations of 1888 and 1889, as well as the financial
failures of 1890, and let us call a halt at the year 1895,
in which the country, still under the eflPect of a terrible
catastrophe only lately undergone, had recovered itself and
resumed work with a fresh ardour : the only proper remedy
to heal its wounds, and to set it once more on the paths of
progress. This inventory of the progress realised by the

Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 11 of 33)