1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Spain - Agriculture. Fisheries.

(Part 8)


Spain - Agriculture. Fisheries.

Agriculture. Agriculture is by far the most important Spanish industry, nearly 73 per cent, of those whose occupations were classified at the census of 1877 being entered under that head. In general it is in a backward condition, and is now much less productive than in the time of the Romans and again under the Moors. The expulsion of the latter people in many places inflicted upon agriculture a blow from which it has not recovered to this day. Aragon and Estremadura, the two most thinly peopled of all the old provinces, and the eastern half of Andalusia (above Seville), have all suffered particularly in this manner, later occupiers never having been able to rival the Moors in overcoming the sterility of nature, as in Aragon, or in taking advantage of its fertility, as in Andalusia and the Tierra de Barros. The implements in general use are of the rudest description. The plough is merely a pointed stick shod with iron, crossed by another stick which serves as a share, scratching the ground to the depth of a few inches. But the regular import now of agricultural implements (chiefly from England and France) betokens an improvement in this respect. In general there has been considerable improvement in the condition of agriculture since the introduction of railways, and in every province there is a royal commissioner entrusted with the duty of supervising and encouraging this branch of industry. Among other institutions for the promotion of agriculture the royal central school at Aranjuez, to which is attached a model farm, is of special importance.

The provinces in which agriculture is most advanced are those of Valencia and Catalonia, in both of which the river valleys are thickly seamed with irrigation canals and the hill-slopes carefully terraced for cultivation. In neither province is the soil naturally fertile, and nothing but the untiring industry of the inhabitants, favoured in the one case by the rivers which traverse the province from the tableland of New Castile and the numerous small streams (nacimientos) that issue from the base of the limestone mountains of which the province is largely composed, and in the other case by the numerous torrents from the Pyrenees, has converted them into two of the most productive regions in Spain. In the Basque Provinces and in Galicia the cultivable area is quite as fully utilized, but in these the difficulties that have to be contended with are not so great. The least productive tracts, apart from Aragon and Estremadura, are situated in the south and east of New Castile, in Murcia, and in Lower Andalusia—the marshes or marismas of the lower Guadalquivir and the arenas gordas between that river and the Rio Tinto. By far the greater part of the tableland, however, is anything but fertile, the principal exceptions being the Tierra de Campos, said to be the chief corn-growing district in Spain, occupying the greater part of Palencia in the north-west of Old Castile, and the Tierra de Barros, in the portion of Badajoz lying to the south of the Guadiana in Estremadura, another district noted for its corn.

Except in Leon and the provinces bordering on the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic irrigation is almost everywhere necessary for cultivation, at least in the case of certain crops. Almost all kinds of vegetables and garden-fruits, oranges, rice, hemp, and other products are generally grown solely or mainly on irrigated land, whereas most kinds of grain, vines, and olives are cultivated chiefly on dry soil. The water used for irrigation is sometimes derived from springs and rivers in mountain valleys, whence it is conveyed by long canals (acequias) along the mountain sides and sometimes by lofty aqueducts to the fields on which it is to be used. Sometimes the water of entire rivers or vast artificial reservoirs (pántanos) is used in feeding a dense network of canals distributed over plains many square miles in extent. Such plains in Valencia and Murcia are known by the Spanish name of huertas (gardens), in Andalusia by the Arabic name of vegas, which has the same meaning. Many of the old irrigation works,—such, for example, as those of the plain of Tarragona,—date from the time of the Romans, and many others from the Moorish period, while new ones are still being laid out at the present day. Where no running water is available for irrigation, water is often obtained from wells by means of waterwheels (norias) of simple construction. In most cases such wheels merely have earthenware pitchers attached to their circumference by means of wisps of esparto, and are turned by a horse harnessed to a long arm fitted to a revolving shaft. In recent years many artesian wells have been sunk for irrigation. According to Biggin (see Bibliography), the total area of irrigated land in Spain amounts to 4439 square miles. The effect of irrigation is shown by the fact that the irrigated portion of Murcia has a population of 1681 to the square mile as against 101 for the whole province, and Orihuela a population of 767 to the square mile as against 194 for the whole province of Alicante to which it belongs.

Cereals. Cereals constitute the principal object of cultivation, and among these wheat ranks first, the next in importance being barley, the chief fodder of horses and mules. Both of these grains are cultivated in all parts—on the plains as well as among the mountains, but chiefly on the more level parts of the two Castiles and Leon, and on the plains of the basin of the Guadalquivir. Oats and rye are cultivated only inthehigherpartsof the mountains, the former as a substitute for barley in feeding horses and mules, the latter as a breadstuff. Maize also is cultivated in all the provinces; nevertheless the total extent of its cultivation is limited, since, being a summer crop, it requires irrigation except in the Atlantic provinces, and other products generally yield a more profitable return where irrigation is pursued. Rice is cultivated on a large scale only in Valencia. Among cereals of less importance are buckwheat (in the mountainous regions of the north), millets, including both the common millet (Panicum miliaceum) and the so-called Indian millet (Sorghum vulgare, the joári of India, the durrah of Africa), and even (in La Mancha) guinea-corn (Penicillaria spicaia). As to the quantity of cereals produced in the country we are without official information, and the estimates of the average annual production of cereals of all kinds are very discrepant, varying from 250 to 430 million bushels. The average production of wheat alone has been estimated [209-1] at 177 million bushels, and the average produce of that crop per acre at 11.3 bushels (that of England being about 29 bushels). If these figures can be taken as approximately correct, it follows that the average acreage under wheat in Spain is nearly 16 million acres, or between five and six times the average in Great Britain, which has less than half the area of Spain. The produce per acre just indicated places Spain among those countries of Europe in which the return is least, which is probably fully accounted for by the backward state of cultivation generally and in particular by the small expenditure on manure. As a rule, in fact, the straw left on the ground is the only manure which the land receives.

The cereal and especially the wheat production of the country regularly furnishes a considerable export. During the five years 1879-83 the value of the export of cereals and pod-fruits of all kinds was nearly 3 per cent, of the total value of the exports ; but this export is balanced by a large import, especially of wheat flour. In bad years, indeed, the value of the import under this head greatly exceeds that of the export.

In the production of pod-fruits and kitchen vegetables Spain is ahead of all other countries in Europe. The chick pea forms part of the daily food of all classes of the inhabitants; and among other pod-fruits largely cultivated are various kinds of beans and pease, lentils (Ervum lens), Spanish lentils (Lathyrus sativus) and other species of Lathyrus, lupines, &c. The principal fodder-crops are lucerne (Medicago sativa) and esparcette (a variety of sainfoin). Clover, particularly crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), is grown in the northern provinces. Among vegetables garlic and onions take the chief place, and form an indispensable part of the diet of all Spaniards; besides these, tomatoes and Spanish pepper are the principal garden crops. It is upon such crops that the Spanish peasant in general bestows his chief care.

Wine. As regards the quantity of the product wine comes next after cereals among the objects of cultivation in Spain. Here again we are dependent only upon vague estimates of the average amount produced, but usually the average annual Spanish production of wine is estimated at between 440 and 500 million gallons, an estimate which places Spain third (next after France and Italy) among the wine-producing countries of Europe. So far as quantity is concerned the principal wine-producing districts are in the north-east, but the only wines of Spain which have a world-wide reputation are those of the south, and more particularly those which take the name of "sherry," from the town of Jerez, in the neighbourhood of which they are grown. The total area under the vine is estimated at about 3,480,000 acres (or about 2.8 per cent, of the entire surface), and of this total about 772,700 acres belong to the Catalonian provinces, chiefly Barcelona. The provinces which produce most wine are Barcelona, Saragossa, Cadiz, and Malaga, the annual amount of the production being in the order in which the provinces are mentioned.

The official tables distinguish the wines exported from Spain as common wines, sherry and similar wines, and other full-bodied wines (vino generoso). The returns of recent years, as will be seen from Table III. given below, show that of late an enormous increase has taken place in this export both as regards quantity and value, this increase being chiefly due to the extension of the export of the commoner wines to France by way of Barcelona.

== TABLE ==

There is also a large export of grapes and raisins, especially from the southern provinces (Malaga and Almeria). The average quantity of the two together exported in each of the five years 1879-83 was about 50 millions of kilogrammes (110 million lb), the average value about £1,560,000. The vines whose fruit is intended for table use as grapes or raisins are trained on espaliers or on trees, especially the nettle-tree (Celtis australis).

Fruits. Among fruit-trees the first place belongs to the olive, which is estimated to cover about 3 per cent, of the surface, and accordingly about an equal area to that occupied by the vine. Its range in Spain embraces the whole of the southern half of the tableland, the greater part of the Ebro valley, and a small strip on the west coast of Galicia, Along the base of the Sierra Morena from Andujar to the vicinity of Cordova there run regular forests of olives, embracing hundreds of square miles. The annual production of oil is estimated at 55 millions of gallons, and might be greatly increased in quantity and improved in quality if more attention were bestowed upon the cultivation of the trees and the preparation of the oil. Oranges, excluded from the plateau by the severity of the winter cold, are grown in great quantity on the plains of Andalusia and all round the Mediterranean coast; and figs, almonds, pomegranates, carobs, and other southern fruits are also grown abundantly in all the warmer parts, the first two even in central Spain and the more sheltered parts of the northern maritime provinces. In these last, however, the prevailing fruit-trees are those of central Europe, and above all the apple, which is very extensively cultivated in Asturias, the Basque Provinces, and Navarre. The date-palm is very general in the south-eastern half of the kingdom, but is cultivated for its fruit only in the province of Alicante, in which lies the celebrated date-grove of Elche. In the southern provinces flourish also various subtropical exotics, such as the banana, the "West Indian cherimoya, and the prickly pear or Indian fig (Opuntia vulgaris), the last frequently grown as a hedge-plant, as in other Mediterranean countries, and extending even to the southern part of the tableland. It is specially abundant on the Balearic Islands. The agave or American aloe is cultivated in a similar manner throughout Andalusia.

Sugar. Cotton is now cultivated only here and there in the south; but, on the other hand, sugar-cane, the cultivation of which was introduced by the Arabs in the 12th century or later, and was of great importance in the kingdom of Granada at the time of the expulsion of the Moors at the close of the 15th century, but has since undergone great vicissitudes, first in consequence of the introduction of the cane into America, and afterwards because of the great development of beet-sugar in central Europe, is now becoming every year more and more of a staple in the provinces of Granada, Malaga, and Almeria. The annual production on the Spanish mainland is estimated at about 75,000,000 lb. Such prosperity as this branch of agriculture at present enjoys is largely due to the protection which it receives at the hands of the Spanish Government. A duty imposed on all imported sugars in 1876, while inflicting a severe blow on the Spanish colony of Cuba, has had the desired effect of stimulating the native production, but according to the law at present in force (passed on June 30, 1882) the amount of this duty, as far as regards the produce of the Spanish colonies, is being gradually reduced, and the duty will be entirely abolished on July 1, 1892.

Among the vegetable products not yet mentioned the most important are the mulberry, grown in almost all provinces, but principally in those bordering on the Mediterranean, and above all in Valencia, the chief seat of the Spanish silk production and manufacture; hemp and flax, grown chiefly in Galicia and other northern provinces; among dye-plants, madder, saffron, woad (Isatis tinctoria), and wild woad or dyer's weed (Reseda luteola); ground-nuts (Arachis hypogaea), grown for their oil, for the preparation of which the nuts are exported in considerable quantity to France; liquorice, cummin, colocynth, &c.

Livestock. The rearing of animals has likewise been receiving in recent years. increased attention at the hands of both Government and people, though here also we are without recent official statistics to show the consequent advance. The middle of the present century appears to have been the time when this industry was at its lowest point, and the following table (IV.) shows the increase in numbers that has taken place at certain subsequent dates for which official returns or estimates are obtainable:—

== TABLE ==

In 1865 horses were reared chiefly in the provinces of Seville, Coruña, and Cadiz, mules in Toledo, Cuenca, Teruel, Saragossa, and Badajoz, asses in Badajoz, Toledo, Murcia, Seville, and Granada, cattle in Oviedo, Coruña, Leon, and Pontevedra, sheep in Badajoz, Leon, Teruel, Soria, and Saragossa, goats in Caceres and Badajoz, camels mainly on the Canary Islands, the total number on the Spanish mainland at the date of the enumeration being less than a hundred. Badajoz wras the richest of the provinces in live-stock of all kinds, containing about one-fourteenth of the total number of domestic animals in the kingdom.

The only animals belonging to Spain still noted for their excellence are mules and asses, which are recognized as the best to be found anywhere. The quality of the horses has been greatly improved, however, since the establishment of Government studs more than forty years ago. Besides the cattle reared throughout the kingdom for field-labour and (in the northern provinces) for regular dairy farming, bulls for the great national pastime of bull-fighting are specially reared in many parts of the country, particularly in the forests of Navarre, the mountains separating the two Castiles, the Sierra Morena, and the Serrania de Ronda in Granada, and also in separate enclosures on the islands of the Guadalquivir. Spanish sheep, which in former times enjoyed so high a reputation and formed so important a part of the national wealth, are far from having the same relative importance at the present day, though sheep-rearing also is sharing in the general rise of agricultural and other industries. The most famous breeds of Spanish sheep are the merinos or migrating sheep, which once brought immense revenues to the state as well as to the large proprietors to whom they mostly belonged. These sheep, which are distinguished by their long slim legs and still more by their long wool, are pastured in different districts in summer and winter. Their winter quarters are in the lower parts of Leon and Estremadura, La Mancha, and the lowlands of Andalusia, their summer quarters the more mountainous districts to the east and north (Plasencia in the province of Caceres, Avila, Segovia, Cuenca, Valencia), which are not so much affected by the summer droughts of the Peninsula. The mode of the migration and the routes to be followed are prescribed by law. Each herd consists of about 10,000 individuals, under the command of a mayoral, and is divided into sections containing about 1000 each, each section under the charge of an overseer (capataz), who is assisted by a number of shepherds (pastores) attended by dogs. The shepherds, rudely clad in a sleeveless sheepskin jacket, the wool outside, and leather breeches, and loosely wrapped in a woollen mantle or blanket, are one of the most striking and characteristic objects in a Spanish landscape, especially on the tableland. The migration to the summer quarters takes place at the beginning of April, the return at the end of September. At one time the owners of merino herds enjoyed the right of pasturing their herds during their migrations on a strip of ground about 100 yards in breadth bordering the routes along which the migrations took place, a strip which had accordingly to be left uncultivated; but this right (the mesta, as it was called) was abolished in 1836 as prejudicial to cultivation. Since that date the migrating sheep have been compelled to keep the roads. The average quantity of wool exported in the five years 1879-83 was about 9,000,000 lb. Even in the best of the years (1883-84) the total export of Spanish wool to all countries was only about one-thirtieth of the total average import of that commodity into the United Kingdom during the corresponding period.

Bees are reared chiefly on the cistus heaths and the districts abounding in tomillares (see p. 297). The rearing of the silkworm on the mulberry trees of the Mediterranean provinces has already been referred to; the total annual production of raw silk in Valencia is estimated at 1,500,000 lb, in Murcia at 500,000 lb, and in Catalonia at 200,000 lb. The rearing of the cochineal-insect, which was introduced into southern Spain in 1820, is being carried on with more and more success, especially round Malaga, Velez-Malaga, and Motril.

Fisheries.—The catching of tunnies, sardines, anchovies, and salmon on the coasts employs large numbers of fishermen, and the salting, smoking, and packing of the first three give employment to many others. Spanish fishermen likewise dive for coral on the coasts of Andalusia and the north of Africa. The fishermen of Catalonia and Valencia have the greatest reputation for their skill. The centre of the principal tunny fisheries of Spain is a small rocky islet called Cristina about three leagues from the mouth of the Guadiana. The fishing lasts from May to August, that of sardines from August to the end of January. The average value of the export of fish in 1879-83 was nearly £120,000.


209-1 In an article by M. P. A. Delboy in the Journal of the Statistical Society for March 1884, translated from the Journal de la Société de Statistique de Paris, September 1883.

Read the rest of this article:
Spain - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries