AGRICULTURE; PRESENT POSITION 137
In the first case a large airy shed is required, and the process takes three months. In the latter case three days of sunshine will suffice, but the kernels must be protected from the dew at night and from any chance shower of rain. Artificial heat does not produce good copra, and besides is expensive to apply.
Making copra is one of the most paying enterprises in the Philippines, but it requires capital to be laid out several years beforehand, unless a plantation can be bought to start with.
Previous to 1890, the quantity of copra exported was so small that no record was kept of it. In that year 74,447 piculs were exported, and the trade has gone up by leaps and bounds, so that in 1897 no less than 811,440 piculs were sent out, over fifty thousand tons.
The present position of agriculture seems to be that there are in the Philippines somewhere about six millions of civilised Christian people tilling eight million acres of land, and exporting some thirty million dollars' worth of produce each year. They also raise a large quantity of food-stuffs for their own consumption, but import perhaps a couple of million dollars' worth of rice because it is cheaper to buy it than to grow it, as we in England import wheat for the same reason. The area of land under cultivation is computed at one-ninth of the total area of the islands.
The author of the circular Plant Products of the Philippines, to which I have before referred, makes the following remarks: "In view of the natural fertility of the soil and the vast extent of these rich lands not yet under cultivation, it is safely assumed that the total agricultural production of the islands could be increased tenfold."
This gentleman seems to be of a sanguine disposition, and he reminds me rather of Oscar F. Williams' cheerful optimism. But in one way he is more cautious than that gentleman. He does not fix a time for his prophecy to be accomplished.
I would point out, however, that in the seventy-five million acres comprised in the islands there are volcanic cones, peaks of basalt, stony plains, unexplored regions, swamps and other undesirable localities for establishing farms or plantations, and that some of the good lands are held by warlike tribes who would resent any intrusion into their domains.
There are, it is true, great tracts of land in MindanaoThere are, it is true, great tracts of land in Mindanao