HC Deb 14 August 1916 vol 85 cc1438-42W

asked the Secretary to the Board of Trade what were the exact quantities of wool shipped from Australia and South America, respectively, to Italian ports in 1912, 1913, 1914 and 1915; has any portion of the shipments of wool to Italy in 1914 and 1915 found its way to Germany through Switzerland; and, if so, what steps are being taken by the Allied Governments, including Italy, to prevent Germany from obtaining wool in this manner?


With regard to the first part of the question, the following is a summary statement of the information at present available:

Wool for Italy.

1. The quantity of wool shipped from Australia and the River Plate, respectively, to Italy during 1911–15 was as follows:

Shipped from Australia in the undermentioned calendar years:

In 1912. In 1913. In 1914. In 1915.
M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons.
2,376 2,707 431 27,589

Shipped from the River Plate (Argentine and Uruguay) in the undermentioned years ended September:

In 1911–12. In 1912–13. In 1913–14. In 1914–15.
M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons.
5,262 5,404 3,820 38,796

Taken alone, these figures are distinctly misleading. The wool referred to consisted almost entirely of greasy wool of which Italy's requirements in 1915 were greatly increased owing to that country being unable to import washed wool and woollen manufactures in normal quantities.

Moreover, under existing conditions it does not always follow that wool shipped from a producing country reaches the country of alleged destination.

2. A better idea of the position of Italy with regard to Australian, Argentinian and Uruguayan wool is obtained from the following figures:—

Imports of unmanufactured wool into Italy 1912–15:
In 1912. In 1913. In 1914. In 1915.
M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons.
Wool (greasy)—
From Australia 2,370 2,844 2,869 8,180
From Argentina 2,717 3,458 2,787 24,983
From Uruguay 2,762 3,196 2,334 7,825
Total of above 7,849 9,498 7,990 40,988
Total from other Countries 1,892 2,052 2,670 14,431
Total of Greasy Wool 9,741 11,550 10,660 55,419
Total of Wool—washed 6,042 5,359 3,672 3,660

Imports of washed wool into Italy from Australia, Argentina and Uruguay are absolutely insignificant.

The large increase in the imports of greasy wool in 1915 will be noticed. Imports of washed wool were smaller in 1914 and 1915 than in 1913.

3. The imports of manufactured wool into Italy during the same years were as follows:—

Imports of manufactured wool.
In 1912. In 1913. In 1914. In 1915.
M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons.
Woollen tops, waste, shoddy, etc. 11,449 11,731 6,485 1,717
Woollen yarns 353 378 300 134
Woollen piece goods 3,150 3,160 2,509 1,083
Woollen manufactures, other sorts 637 695 468 2,353
Total of Wool manufactured 15,589 15,964 9,762 5,287

It will be seen that imports in 1914 and 1915 were much smaller than in 1913.

Imports of Australian and River Plate greasy wools.

4. Comparison of 1914 with 1913.—Shipments of Australian and River Plate (greasy) wools to Italy amounted to about 4,251 tons in 1914, compared with 8,111 tons in 1913, a decrease of 3,860 tons. Imports into Italy of greasy wools from these countries in 1914 amounted to 7,990 tons, compared with 9,498 tons, a decrease of 1,508 tons.

The apparent discrepancies in these results are due to the fact that the shipments of River Plate wools relate to a year ending Sepember instead of the calendar year as in other cases. The figures, however, do establish the fact that both shipments and imports declined in 1914 as compared with 1913.

5. Comparison of 1915 with 1913.—Shipments in 1915 amounted to 66,385 M. tons, compared with 8,111 M. tons in 1913, an increase of 58,274 M. tons.

Imports in 1915 amounted to 40,988 M. tons, compared with 9,498 M. tons in 1913, an increase of 31,490. The difference between shipments to (66,385 M. tons) and imports into Italy (40,988 M. tons) amounts to 25,397 M. tons. This latter quantity includes—

  1. (a) Wool which passed through Italy en route to Switzerland.
  2. (b) Wool which may have passed through Italy in transit to Germany before 23rd May, 1915, the date on which Italy entered into War.
  3. (c) Wool detained in Italy, if any, on account of supposed enemy destination.
  4. (d) Wool captured by the naval patrols in the Mediterranean and prize courted.
  5. (e) Heavy shipments of wool made towards the end of 1915 which did not arrive in Italy until 1916.

Separate figures under these five headings are not available in the Board of Trade.

The following summary shows the extent of the increased imports of unmanufactured wool and the accompanying decreased imports of washed wool and wool manufactures:

In 1913. In 1915. In 1915, compared with 1913.
M. Tons. M. Tons. M. Tons.
Imports from all sources—
Unmanufactured Wool, Greasy 11,550 55,419 (+) 43,869
Washed Wool 5,359 3,660 (-) 1,699
Manufactured Wool, all kinds 15,964 5,287 (-) 10,677
Increase (+) or decrease (-).

If we make allowance for the fact that the increase in the imports of greasy wool of 43,869 tons would have been much smaller if the wool had been imported in a washed state, and that the equivalent increase in terms of washed wool would probably not exceed about 22,000 tons the net increase in the imports of wool of all kinds expressed in terms of washed wool would appear to have been under 10,000 tons. This increase is, of course, largely due to the requirements of the Italian Army on mobilisation.

I am informed that the amount of production of woollen materials in Italy in 1915 was considerably above the normal amount, that Italy during that year increased her exports to France of manufactured woollens.

No precise information is available as to the disposal of wool shipped to Italy in 1914 and 1915. The export of wool from Italy to Switzerland has, however, been strictly controlled since December, 1915. I have no reason to believe that this control is not generally effective.

The Italian Government are now taking elaborate precautions to prevent leakages, and negotiations are proceeding by which future imports of wool into Italy will be regulated in accordance with her requirements.