HOWEVER the problem of Egyptian finance may ultimately solve itself, its difficulties have at least been in no way caused by any decline in the national trade. Not only has this, till within the last eighteen or twenty months, more than kept pace with the rapid growth of the revenue, but in most of its branches the improvement continues, andbarring only the recent depression, during which the commercial movement in Egypt has shared in the general stagnation of trade everywherethe condition and prospects of the whole are perhaps as solidly satisfactory as at any time since the death of Mehemet All. There have been spurts of much greater activity and larger profits ; but until weakened by this temporary disturbance, the general tone of both the inland and foreign trade of the country has seldom been sounder than during the past year. If revenue, therefore, has recently expanded faster than trade, the fact has signified no serious decline in the latter ; but has simply meant that, under pressure of debt-burthens incurred at ruinous rates, and in any case more rapidly than the country could bear them, taxation has out- stripped the commercial development on which it should mainly feed, and in the rear of which good government should keep it. That the trade of Egypt has in fact, till latterly, grown faster than its budget-estimates, is shown by the chief figures of the national account any time during the past fifteen years ; and equally so if the retrospect be carried farther back. In 1862, when the revenue was under 5,000,000l., the total value of exports and importsexclusive of goods in transitonly slightly exceeded 6,445, 0001., while ten years later, in 1872, they had risen respectively to 7,593,645. and 18,323,800l., with the balance of trade increasing largely in favour of Egypt. In 1873 and 1874, the trade totals, though show ing further marked advance on the previous years, were nearly stationary ; but in 1875, exports fell off about 2, 000,000l., reducing the double total to 18,500, 000l., while the revenue further increased from 10,689,070l. to 10,772,611l. last year.
The commercial expansion thus evidenced began with the present reign, and for such a review of its progress and chief incidents as can be here offered, it will suffice to trace the movement through an average decade of that period, with occasional reference to some features of pre-ceding years. As no complete returns have been avail-able for later than 1875, the decade ending with that year will most fairly serve as an average of the whole, since it excludes both the undue inflation caused by the American war and the temporary depression of last year. Tabulated statements covering a longer period will be found in the Appendix.
No returns whatever have been publishednor till quite lately were even preparedof the inland trade of Egypt ; but this is so inter-dependent on its foreign commerce, that a sketch- of the latter practically tells the economic history of both. Even for the foreign trade, too, only complete details are published of that portion of it which passes through Alexandria ; but that, again, comprises about ninety per cent. of the whole, and what remains can be estimated with sufficient approximate accuracy en bloc.*
The three staple Exports from Egypt are cotton, cereals, and sugar; and after these come, at a long dis tance, a host of minor commodities of which it will suffice to notice only the more important. Turning to the Customs returns of Alexandria, we find Cotton heading the list of the whole with 2,615,120 quintals shipped in 1875. The crop of last year was much larger, but as no official return of it has been available, neither its gross yield nor the quantity exported can be stated. With one or two annual exceptions, the production and export of this staple have been steadily on the increase since the abnormal spurt of 1864-5. The exact rate of this will be seen from the following note of the shipments from Alexandria during the ten years ending 1874-5 :
1866 … … 1,288,797 1871 … .. 1,966,154
1867 … … 1,260,946 1872 … … 2,108,509
1868 . … 1,253,593 1873 … 2,418,484
1869 … 1,391,493 1874 … … 2,599,685
1870 . . 1,351,853 1875 … … 2,615,120
The great fall, however, in the price of cotton within this period not only deprives the increase thus indicated of all fiscal value, but occasioned an actual loss of revenue as between the first and last years of the decade. In 1866 the Liverpool quotation for Egyptian Fair was 211d., which fell in rapid annual succession to 16 1/16d., 10M., 12M., 12 1/16., 8 3/16 d., 10M., 91d., 8 1/4d., and. 8 1/2d. in 1875. But the increase in the quantities exported none the less evidences great agricultural (and so commercial) progress during the period. About four-fifths of the cot-ton thus shipped was sent to England, the balance going to France, Italy, Austria, and Russia. But in addition to the raw staple, cotton seed forms also a large article of exportation. In the same decennial period the following quantities of this were shipped :
1866 … 860,090 1871 … . . . 1,203,756
1867 … 826,637 1872 … .. . 1,274, 765
1868 … 753,406 1873 … … 1,058,111
1869 … 823,707 1874 … … 1,528,693
1870 . 917,688 1875 … … 1,474,968
Unlike that of cotton itself, the price of this rose largely during the decadefrom 60 piastres per ardeb in 1866 to 81 1/2 piastres in 1869, and closing at 80i piastres in 1875. For the seed, as for the staple, Great Britain was again the chief customer, followed at a long distance by France. To these figures have to be added nearly 70,000 quintals of oil-cake, chiefly made up of the refuse seed of this crop, and shipped mainly to the same destinations.
Cereals rank next, but the produce and consequent exportation of these has been much less constant than those of cotton. In 1862 the total yield was 2,300,000 ardebs, which, during the cotton mania of the next couple of years, fell off so largely that the quantity grown was actually insufficient for home consumption, and the government had not only to forbid exportation, but to encourage imports by suspending the Customs duty. This continued till 1866, when exportation was resumed, reaching its highest total in 1872, when 1,800,000 ardebs of all varieties were shipped from Alexandria, but thence gradually falling to 800,000 ; and in 1875 Beans topped the list with the following yearly quantities during the term :
1866 42,527 1871 .. … 711,841
1867 614,664 1872 … … 664,348
1868 745,058 1873 … .. 268,527
1869 505,146 1874 … .,. 334,330
1870 335,268 1875 … . 490,257
The highest mean price of the decade was 211 piastres per ardeb in 1874, and the lowest 152 piastres in 1872, the closing price of 1875 being 195 piastres. Of the whole quantity exported Great Britain took more than eleven twelfths, and France about two-thirds of the small re-
mainder. Wheat followed with :
1866 ,.. .,. 12,555 1871 464,669
1867 . … 798,202 1872 879,345
1868 … .,. 1,147,147 1873 612,723
1869 … … 421,933 1874 186,723
1870 … ,.. 137,815 1875 836,997
The difference between these annual totals is mainly explained by the relative ” ups and downs ” of the Nile during the period, a “good” or “bad” river for the year about equally affecting the crop and the consequent export of the twelvemonth.’ Differently from those of cotton, the prices of this article rose, with some fluctuations, from an average of 180 piastres per ardeb in 1866 to 242 piastres in 1874, but receded in the following year to 192 piastres. Here again more than nine-tenths of the whole quantity shipped went to Great Britain, and about three-fourths of the balance to France. Maize fell far below these other crops, only 512,972 ardebs having left Alexandria during the ten years, of which 431,094 ardebs found a market in England, 35,604 ardebs in France, and the rest elsewhere. The highest price was 211 piastres in 1874, and the lowest 152 piastres in 1872. Barley figured for still less, with a total of 414,327 ardebs, of which Great Britain took nearly three-fourths, and France most of the remainder. Rice contributed 34,085 ardebs, nearly the whole of which went to the Greek islands, Constantinople, and other parts of the Levant. But this forms only a part of the export of this article, which is also sent largely to the same markets from Damietta ; but no complete return of the quantity shipped from that port has been available. Lentils, chick-peas, peas, and helba, which complete the list of the edible grains, added altogether only 197,799 ardebs to the tale, and need not therefore be particularised. For them, as for the larger crops, Great Britain was also the chief customer, taking nearly nine-tenths of the whole, while France absorbed most of what remained.
The returns of the export of Flax show how largely cotton has encroached on the culture of this once important crop, for which much of the soil of Egypt is admirably adapted, and which might still, in point of profit, compete favourably with the more popular staple. A total of only 20,272 bales was shipped from Alexandria during the ten years, of which 16,000 went to England, and most of the remainder to Italy. The highest and lowest prices during the term were 192 piastres per cantar in 1869, and 141 piastres in 1871. The produce of the crop was, however, increased by 30,120 ardebs of linseed, nearly all sent to Great Britain, of an average mean value of 264 piastres per ardeb.
The production and export of Sugar on any large scale date only from 1867, when the erection of the first of the great Daira factories raised the manufacture of this article to the first rank of native industries, and since then the culture of the cane and its mercantile development have made rapid annual progress. Within eight years the quantity exported rose from 8,194 sacks (about 55,000 quintals) to 159,185 sacks (equal to 986,000 quintals) in 1875, after having attained 433,853 sacks in 1874, and 269,378 in 1872. The crop of last year showed a large. recovery, but no exact return of its yield has been obtained. So prodigious an extension in this particular element of trade has few precedents in commercial history, and shows how readily Egypt might be advanced to the very first rank among sugar-producing countries. As it is, the moderate average of the quantity exported in 1875 places her nearly abreast of Brazil, which supplies about one-twelfth of the whole sugar consumption of the world. The mean auction-price in Alexandria varied during the seven years from 87i piastres per cantar for the first quality, in 1869, to 118i piastres in 1875, with wide fluctuations between these rates in the interval, according to the rise and fall of the English and French markets, to which most of this pro-duce was shipped. Of the molasses made only 2,384 cases were exported in the lattar half of the decade, 1,085 of these being entered to 1875. A considerable quantity of rum was also distilled at the four factories of Abouxa, Magagah, Minieh, Mattai, and Erment, but as this was all consumed in the country, none of it figures in the Customs returns.
The export of Natron (muriate of soda) reached 16,485,296 okes (of 21 pounds each) in the ten years, ranging from 1,684,190 okes in 1866 to 2,177,440 okes in 1875, with wide fluctuations in the interval. Italy and Austria were the chief markets for this article, the mean price of the two qualities of which averaged in Alexandria about 8 piastres per 60 okes. No Salt appears in the returns of the latter port, but about 4,000,000 quintals (worth roundly 40,0001.) are annually exported from Suez to Djedda, for the Hedjaz, Aden, and Bombay, with a ready market in all three for a much larger quantity, if the vast deposits of rock salt below Suez were adequately worked.
Up to 1872 the shipment of Bones had formed a considerable feature of this branch of Egyptian trade,mummy bones contributing nearly as much as those of modern cattle to the yearly total of 10,000 tons sent chiefly to England. Since then, however, the pillage of tombs for this purpose has been prohibited, and the sugar refineries of the Daïra now consume as much of this article as can be legitimately collected. Horns have also dropped out of the list since 1871, during which and the preceding five years 830 bundles had been shipped, mostly to Italy, England, and France ; but Hides yielded a steady annual supply of nearly 7, 000 bales, for which Italy, Austria, France, and England were the chief customers in the order mentioned. Since 1869, Flour and Bran figure respectively for 98,320 and 108,297 sacks, most of the former of which was shipped to Syria and England, and the greater part of the latter to Italy. Wool was steadily exported during the decade at a mean annual total of 5,334 bales, more than three-fourths of which went to England ; and Rags, over and above the consumption of the Boulak paper mill, to the yearly extent of 16,036 bales, also for the greater part to the all-absorbing market of Great Britain. The export of Dates with a total of 50,477 cases for the ten yearsincreased from 1,285 cases in 1867 to 10,634 in 1874, the shipments of 1875 however falling off to 5,794. Henna similarly contributed 18,357 parsels, for which France was the principal customer, only forty parcels of the whole being taken by English buyers ; and wax 5,907 caseswith an increase of from 561 in 1866 to 1,027 in 1875nearly one-half of which went to Italy, and most of the remainder to Austria. Saffron, chiefly sent to Trieste, furnished an average yearly quota of 300 parcels, and Opium the small total of 101 (in very fluctuating annual quantities), divided almost equally between the English, French, and Austrian markets.
These and some minor articles constitute, as has been said, above nine-tenths of the whole exports from Egypt, what remains being shipped from the smaller ports of Damietta, Port Said, Suez, and Cossier, or sent through the land custom-house at El-Arish into Palestine. Souakim and Massowah also do a considerable share of the trade with Djedda and Yemen, but chiefly for produce of the Soudan and Abyssinia, and not much for that of Egypt proper. The principal exports from Damiettawhose re. turns rank next, at a vast distance, after those of Alexandriaare rice, dried fish, beans, dates, and linseed, which are mostly shipped coastwise to the Levant and the Greek Islands, to a round yearly total value of 550,000l. Cossier follows with an average of about 400,000l. Suez (since the virtual extinction of the transit trade) with less than half this amount ; and Port Said with about as much, but promising rapidly to attain the second place.
Besides the commodities exported from these various outletswhich are nearly all products of Egypt proper-large quantities of other merchandise are brought by caravan, or by way of the Red Sea, from Nubia, the Soudan, Abyssinia, the Hedjaz, and Yemen, which are in great part ex-ported to Europe, and so swell the gross trade returns of the year. The most important of these are coffee, ivory, mother-of-pearl, gum, skins, incense, wax, ostrich-feathers, tortoise-shell, senna, tamarinds, and other drugs. Cairo is the chief entrépôt for the whole of thesethe delivery-port, so to speak, at which the fleets of the desert from Sennaar, Kordofan, Darfour, and the other remote southern provinces land their camel-borne cargoes. Al-ready there has been a great development in this trade during the past dozen years, which cannot fail to be further largely stimulated by the Soudan railway and the effective opening of navigation on the Upper Nile. The present caravan traffic alone with these sub-tropical regions brings more than 1,000,0001. worth of various goods to Cairo annually, exclusive of the considerable quantities imported through Suez from Souakim and Massowah. Of the whole, 94,488 fards of Coffee were re-exported from Alexandria during the decennial period under notice, with a marked annual decline, however, since 1871, when the quantity was 13,428 fards against only 3,763 in 1875. For this article France and Austria were the chief markets, Great Britain ranking a low third. Ivory figures for 7,018 parcels (roundly worth £350,000), nine-tenths of which was taken by England ; Mother-of-pearl for a mean annual quota of 5,346 parcels, two-thirds of which went to Austria, and most of the remainder to England and France ; Gum-arabic for 31,662 fards a year, taken chiefly by Great Britain, with Austria, France, and Italy ranking next as customers ; Incense for a mean of 1,289 fards a year, with a great decline in the quantity since 1872 ; Ostrich feathers for a similar average of 544 cases, of which France and England were the largest buyers ; and Serena for a decennial total of 17,357 packages, shipped chiefly to Austria and Great Britain.
The sum of the whole export movement during each of the ten years ending 1875 may be thus tabulated
1866 … £9,723,564 1871 £10,192,021
1867 … … 8,623,974 1872 13,317,825
1868 … . 8,094,974 1873 14,208,882
1869 … … 9,089,866 1874 14,801,148
1870 … .. 8,680,702 1875 12,730,195
The significance of these returns is all the greater that they comprise little or none of the old transit trade, which now passes almost exclusively through the Suez Canal. Thus, raw silk fell from 5,147, 770£. in 1871, to 48, 572. in 1875 ; Indian manufactured silk from 112, 3171. to 201. ; tea from 157, 342£. to 5,565£. ; and indigo from 148,0001. to 501. within the same period, and so with nearly all the Indian and Chinese produce formerly landed at Suez, and re-shipped at Alexandria, which added roundly 5, 000,0001. a year to this side of the Egyptian Customs re-turns, without however paying anything but the cost of railway transport and the light transit dues.
Passing to Imports, we meet with similar evidence of a steadily improving trade during the period under review. But while the ratio of expansion on this side has been so much less as to leave a large and yearly growing balance of trade in favour of Egypt, the increase has still indicated a greatly augmented consumption of articles of comfort and even luxury during the term, as is, in fact, shown by the appearance of a class of commodities in the later returns which had no place in those of fifteen or twenty years ago. The contrast between this side of the account and its figures formerly will be still more striking if the whole reign of the Khedive be compared with the preceding thirteen years ;* but the movement of the decade ending September 10, 1875, will suffice to show practically the present condition of this branch of Egyptian trade. The figures, as before, exclude the transit traffic :
1866 … … £4,662,210 1871 … .. £4,512,143
1867 … … 4,399,097 1872 … … 5,005,995
1868 … 3,582,969 1873 … … 6,127,564
1869 … … 4,02,601 1874 … … 5,322,400
1870 … 4,502,969 1875 … … 5,694,820
The chief articles for which Egypt thus pays to foreign markets roundly 5, 500,000£. a year are manufactured cot ton goods, silk, coal, charcoal, building materials, oil, wine, spirits, and machinery. Great Britain stands first as a source of supply for about 45 per cent. of the whole, Turkey and Syria next for about one-fifth, France for rather more than one-tenth, Austria for about a fifteenth, Italy for an eighteenth, and Barbary, Greece, Belgium, Russia, and Sweden for the small remainder in the order mentioned. Most of the madapolams, long cloths, grey T cloths, and cotton yarn are of course from Manchester, although both France and Austria now compete with us in price, if not in quality, for these articles. Nearly the whole of the large annual average of 500,000 tons of coal and coke is also tarnished by England, while Turkey and Syria supply most of the considerable domestic consumption of charcoal. Wood for building purposes comes from Italy, Austria, Sweden, and Turkey for a total annual value of about 350, 0001. ; stone of various kinds from Italy and Austria for about 150, 0001. a year ; oilthe better qualities from Italy, and the inferior from Barbary, Syria, and Greecefor about 160,0001. annually; wine and liquors from France, Italy, and Greece ; silk, raw and manufactured, from France and Italy, for 220, 0001. ; and machinery from England and France for about 170, 0001. Of other articles, tobacco and cigars reckon for about 130, 0001. a year ; various fruits for 160,0001. ; provisions for 170, 0001. ; iron and other metals for 250, 0001. ; candles (nearly all from France and Belgium) for 60,0001. ; hardware for 100,0001. ; broadcloths for about 50,0001. ; carpets for 70, 0001. ; paper for 60, 0001. ; and flour, strange to say, for nearly 30,0001.* a year, from Trieste, Odessa, and Marseilles.
While, therefore, the imports of the decade ending 1875 exceeded those of the previous ten years by more than 15,600,000£., they were 61,631,506£. less than the exports of the same period, which from 59,122,659£. in 1856-65, rose to 109,462,674£. in 186675, leaving, as has been said, a balance of trade in favour of Egypt which, during the latter half of the decade, exceeded an average of 7,500,000£. a year, or more titan twice the value of the whole exports from the country during any but two years of the reign of Saïd Pasha. Of this, no doubt, a considerable portion returned to Europe in payment of the debt annuities, but the residue still represents an addition to the national wealth larger than half the entire revenue at the accession of the Khedive. Such a result supplies its own comment, and abundantly justifies the averment with which this chapter openedthat whatever may be the temporary financial embarrassments of Egypt, they have had no part of their origin in any decline of her trade. The resources of the country were never in modern times more abundant, nor its commercial movements more healthily active than at this moment, when the market price of its unified debt is yielding an interest of 14 per cent.
As regards the Customs duties on this large aggregate of trade, these are regulated by the existing commercial treaties between the Porte and the foreign Powers, which fix the import duty at 8 per cent., and the export rate at 1 per cent. ; but under his new prerogative the Khedive can now negotiate his own tariffs ; and it is expected that those at present in force will shortly be readjusted in a manner which, while advantageous to revenue, will also benefit trade by a more equitable system of valuation than is now applied. Certain it is, too, that if the Egyptian Government is to keep faith with its creditors, it must be permitted to enforce the collection of its Customs revenue without the vexatious restrictions with which not a few of the foreign Consuls at present practically assist fraud at Alexandria.