Appendix P : Imports of Vegetables to the United Kingdom
The text is taken from my copy of FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS: or Industry Combined
with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work, Thomas Nelson & Sons, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and New York, 1912.
P.-IMPORTS OF VEGETABLES TO THE UNITED KINGDOM.............447
That the land in this country is not sufficiently utilized for market-gardening, and that the largest portion of the vegetables which are imported from abroad could be grown in this country, has been said over and over again, within the last twenty-five years.
It is certain that considerable improvements have taken place lately- the area under market, and especially the area under glass for the growth of fruit and vegetables, having largely been increased of late. Thus, instead of 38,957 acres, which were given to market-gardening in Great Britain in 1875, there were, in 1894, 88,210 acres, exclusive of vegetable crops on farms, given to that purpose (The Gardeners Chronicle,20th April, 1895, p. 483). But that increase remains a trifle in comparison with similar increases in France, Belgium, and the United States. In France, the area given to market-gardening was estimated in 1892 by M. Baltet (Lhorticulture dans les cinq parties du monde, Paris, Hachette, 1895) at 1,075,000 acres- four times more, in proportion to the cultivable area, than in this country; and the most remarkable of it is that considerable tracts of land formerly treated as uncultivable have been reclaimed for the purposes of market-gardening as also of fruit growing.
As things stand now in this country, we see that very large quantities of the commonest vegetables, each of which could be grown in this country, are imported.
Lettuces are imported- not only from the Azores or from the south of France, but they continue until June to be imported from France where they are mostly grown- not in the open air, but in frames. Early cucumbers, also grown in frames, are largely imported from Holland, and are sold so cheaply that many English gardeners have ceased to grow them.*
* The Gardeners Chronicle, 20th April, 1895, p. 483. The same, I learn from a German grower near Berlin, takes place in Germany.
Even beetroot and pickling cabbage are imported from Holland and Brittany (the neighborhoods of Saint Malo, where I saw them grown in a sandy soil, which would grow nothing without a heavy manuring with guano, as a second crop, after a first one of potatoes); and while onions were formerly largely grown in this country, we see that, in 1894, 5,288,512 bushels of onions, £765,049 worth, were imported from Belgium (chief exporter), Germany, Holland, France, and so on.
Again, that early potatoes should be imported from the Azores and the south of France is quite natural. It is not so natural, however, that more than 50,000 tons of potatoes (58,060 tons, £521,141 worth, on the average during the years 1891-1894) should be imported from the Channel Islands, because there are hundreds if not thousands of acres in South Devon, and most probably in other parts of the south coast too, where early potatoes could be grown equally well. But besides the 90,000 tons of early potatoes (over £700,000 worth) which are imported to this country, enormous quantities of late potatoes are imported from Holland, Germany, and Belgium; so that the total imports of potatoes reach from 200,000 to 450,000 tons every year. Moreover, this country imports every year all sorts of green vegetables, for the sum of at least £4,000,000 and for £5,000,000 all sorts of fruit (apart from exotic fruit); while thousands of acres lie idle, and the country population is driven to the cities in search of work, without finding it.
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