COTTON, TEA, AND OPIUM
Next to the United States, India is the largest cotton-producing country in the world, and, with the exception of Galveston and New Orleans, Bombay claims to be the largest cotton market. The shipments have never reached $50,000,000 a year, but have gone very near that point. Every large state in southern India produces cotton, but Bombay and Berar are the principal producers. The area for the whole of India in 1902-3 was 14,232,000 acres, but this has been often exceeded. In 1893-4 the area planted was nearly 15,500,000. The average is about 14,000,000 acres. Cotton is usually grown in conjunction with some other crop, and in certain portions of India two crops a year are produced on the same soil. The following table will show the number of bales produced during the years named:
Bales of Bales of
400 lbs. 400 lbs.
1892-3 1,924,000 1897-8 2,198,000
1893-4 2,180,000 1898-9 2,425,000
1894-5 1,957,000 1899-0 843,000
1895-6 2,364,000 1900-1 2,309,000
1896-7 1,929,000 1901-2 1,960,000
The failure of the crop in 1899-1900 was due to the drought which caused the great famine.
About one-half of the crop is used in the local mills. The greater part of the remainder is shipped to Japan, which is the best customer. Germany comes next, and, curiously enough, Great Britain is one of the smallest purchasers. Indian cotton is exclusively of the short staple variety and not nearly so good as that produced in Egypt. Repeated attempts have been made to introduce Egyptian cotton, but, while some of the experiments have been temporarily successful, it deteriorates the second year.
The cost of producing cotton is very much less than in the United States, because the land always yields a second crop of something else, which, under ordinary circumstances, ought to pay taxes and often fixed charges, as well as the wages of labor, which are amazingly low, leaving the entire proceeds of the cotton crop to be counted as clear gain. The men and women who work in the cotton fields of India are not paid more than two dollars a month. That is considered very good wages. All the shipping is done in the winter season; the cotton is brought in by railroad and lies in bags on the docks until it is transferred to the holds of ships. During the winter season the cotton docks are the busiest places around Bombay.
The manufacture of cotton is increasing rapidly. There are now eighty-four mills in Bombay alone, with a capital of more than $25,000,000, and all of them have been established since 1870, including some of the most modern, up-to-date plants in existence. The people of Bombay have about $36,000,000 invested in mills, most of it being owned by Parsees. There are mills scattered all over the country. The industry dates from 1851, and during the last twenty years the number of looms has increased 100 per cent and spindles 172 per cent. January 1, 1891, there were 127 mills, with 117,922 operatives, representing an investment of L7,844,000. On the 31st of March, 1904, according to the official records, there were 201 cotton mills in India, containing 43,676,000 looms and 5,164,360 spindles, with a combined capital of L12,175,000. This return, however, does not include thirteen mills which were not heard from, and they will probably increase the number of looms and spindles considerably and the total capital to more than $60,000,000.
The wages paid operatives in the cotton mills of India are almost incredibly low. I have before me an official statement from a mill at Cawnpore, which is said to give a fair average for the entire country. The mills of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta and other large cities pay about one-half more. At smaller places farther in the north the rates are much less. The wages are given in rupees and decimals of a rupee, which in round numbers is worth 33 cents in our money.
MONTHLY WAGES IN A COTTON MILL AT CAWNPORE FOR THE
YEARS NAMED (IN RUPEES AND DECIMALS OF A RUPEE).