Sir Charles Macara has put forward a scheme of State aid for the cotton industry. Owing to the war, a third of the total cotton crop (usually taken by the continental countries) was thrown on the market. Prices naturally fell, and there was a danger that the cotton planters might not be able to pay the debts they had contracted to enable them to grow their crops, in which case there would be a likelihood of the land being used for other saleable commodities, and the efforts which have been made in the past to increase the cotton crop would be nullified. In the meantime, the surplus cotton on the market created an uncertainty regarding prices, and buying came to a standstill, with the result that the position of the industry as a whole became very critical. The suggestion of Sir Charles Macara is that the Governments of this country and the United States, acting in conjunction, should take the temporarily unsaleable surplus of raw cotton off the market and store it for use in years when the crop is short. In other words, it is proposed to establish a permanent national cotton reserve. It is estimated that the cost of the scheme would mean an outlay of sixty to seventy millions sterling. If the plan were put into operation, however, it is claimed that it would restore confidence, prevent the wholesale stoppage of mills, and at the same time establish a cotton reserve to counteract the fluctuations of crops in the future. These matters need but to be stated as examples of the remarkable adaptability of the State and the possibility of drastic action under the pressure of imperative needs.
[Footnote 1: It should be pointed out that the serious condition of the cotton industry is not due to the war. The overstocking of the Eastern and Indian markets during the trade boom of 1913, together with the financial crisis in India last year, has reduced the demand for cotton goods. The war has merely emphasised a depression which had already fallen on the industry. Sir Charles Macara’s scheme, whilst it may be desirable on other grounds, cannot compensate for the shrinkage in the demand for Lancashire products. The Government, it is interesting to note, have commissioned certain firms in Alexandria “to buy cotton extensively from small proprietors at a reasonable rate, on Government account, to be stored until the arrival of more prosperous times.” (Press Association Telegram, Daily Press, Nov. 2, 1914).]
[Footnote 2: The voluntary gifts of different parts of the Empire should not be overlooked. Besides these other steps have been taken. The Australian Government, for example, in order to induce farmers to extend the area of cultivation, has guaranteed “a fixed minimum price of 4s.” for all wheat grown on the newly cultivated land. (Reuter’s Correspondent, Daily Press, Oct. 27, 1914).]