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## CHAPTER III: BREAD IN FRANCE - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection [1906]

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The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).

Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

#### CHAPTER III

Flour and bread—A hundredweight of corn equals a hundredweight of bread—Forty-three departments fall below the standard—Insufficiency of 29 per cent.—Importation—Substitutes.

The question is often put, “How much bread is there in a hundredweight of flour?” The answer is quite simple—a hundredweight, the rest is water. Thus when the Report on the Food of the Army estimates that good wheat flour sifted of 20 per cent. at 139/100, one is forced to the conclusion that this bread has too much water in it. This sifting is imperfect. MM. Aimmé Girard and Fleury prove that really nourishing bread should be made from the inside of the wheat, representing 55 to 65 per cent. of its total weight.

From the time of Lagrange a pound of bread has been recognised as the equivalent of a pound of corn. Lagrange said, “Wheat loses a quarter of its weight in grinding and the separation of the bran, but flour is increased by a third weight by the addition of water.” Then, since we have taken the military ration as our standard we will adhere to it, assuming with the Customs Tariff that 1 cwt. of wheat = 1 cwt. of bread.

The Agricultural Inquiry of 1892 gives Eure-et-Loire with a production of 2,491 bushels for 100 inhabitants as the department in which the proportion of corn grown is greatest relatively to the population. 2,491 bushels = 1,560 cwt.; allowing for the fact that only 75 per cent. of the population needs the ration of 26 ozs. of bread per day, 1,750 cwt. for 100 inhabitants. The standard ration allows 790 lbs. per head per year; this allowance, therefore, at 1,925 lbs. per head per year, gives an excess of 1,133 lbs. Going through the same calculation for the other departments, we find that any district producing less than 9 bushels per head must either have too little food or else import it from other departments, and half the departments—43 out of 87—are in this position.

In wheat the average supply, allowing for seed sowing, for the last ten years was 7,500,000 tons. Then, according to our formula, 35 ozs. of bread per day = 790 lbs. per year, and for 30,000,000 inhabitants = 10,800,000 tons—i.e., there is a deficiency in supply of 3 million tons, nearly 29 per cent. There are, indeed, certain inferior grains which can be used for human food. The annual average for 1893-1902 gives 1,590,000 tons of rye; 971,000 tons of barley, which, however, is little use for food; 4,115,000 tons of oats, and 554,000 tons of buckwheat, neither of which is a desirable food. The potato harvest was 12,148,000 tons during the decennial period, but 5 million tons go for cattle-feeding, distilleries, and sowing. And according to M. Armand Gautier’s table, the proportion of albuminoids is 12·64 per cent. in fresh grain, home or foreign grown, while in potatoes it is only 1·3 per cent. In a word, for the same amount of albuminous matter, 972 tons of potatoes go to 100 tons of wheat.

The corn harvest is 29 per cent. below what is needed. Including rye and buckwheat as 2 million tons, and potatoes as 1 million, this deficit is practically made good. Vegetables cannot be regarded as substitutes for wheat.

In spite of all the stimuli given to corn production, the surest proof that France needs foreign corn is that importation continued in spite of the 2s. 10d. duty per cwt. imposed in 1904.

Year.Wheat.
1895450,000 tons
1897526,000 tons
18981,945,000 tons
1899130,000 tons
1902245,000 tons
1903472,000 tons
1904205,000 tons

When the harvests are abundant, the effect of the duty is felt only in a limited degree. Internal competition is active, and prices are cut down to a minimum. As soon as there is any threat of a shortage, prices rise in the protected country above the selling price of the same quality in the free markets.