Jewish immigrants are arriving in Cyprus almost daily, and Jewish companies acquire thousands of acres of land, evidently considering Cyprus to be a more attractive country for citrus planting than Palestine. For the Jew, Cyprus cannot have the romance of Palestine, so its material advantages must be very considerable.
In Cyprus the peasant farmer still tallies forth from his mud-brick house driving oxen drawing a wooden plough, or a threshing sledge set beneath with chips of flint. But cereals produced in this archaic manner cannot compete with machine-produced Australian flour. Yet it is impossible for the Cypriot to plough by machinery as his small plots of land are scattered, and he lacks money to buy a tractor.
In a good year the average income of a whole Cypriot family is about $165. But a series of droughts and the low price of corn have brought incomes down. In addition, each family owes on an average about $200â€”the total mortgages on land in Cyprus are over $10,000,000.
During the War, when the British Armies in Egypt and Salonica paid him over well for all he produced, the Cypriot farmer had a golden opportunity of paying his debts. Instead he bought more land, and increased his mortgages. Then the price of land and its products fell enormously, but his debts remained the same. So the whole country population is unanimous in asking for strong protection of cereals, the reduction of debts, and the founding of an Agricultural Bank ready to lend money at, say, five per cent interest.
Protection of cereals can be afforded by a direct tax on imported wheat, or by forming a wheat clearing house and obliging consumers to use a proportion of native grain.
OAKDEN STUDIES TRADE
Sir Ralph Oakden, the Financial Commissioner sent out recently, is still studying the economic position. Meanwhile meetings have been held in the chief towns, attended by the headmen of the villages, and proposals have been submitted to him for the improvement of the administration. For many years the island was bled of a large part of its revenue to pay the Turkish tribute, ingenuously accepted at a far too high figure by British officials at the occupation.
The most pressing problem is to find alternative employment for the cereal farmer, who even in a bad year produces unremunerative cereals worth over $2,500,000. His only important side-line is stock raising, and, luckily, he and his animals can eat what he cannot sell at a profit.
The copper and asbestos mines have done a little to ease the situation. Irrigation could be greatly extended were capital available for plants to raise semi-artesian water, and the area under profitable crops, such as citrus and potatoes, could be greatly increased. The export of the latter, however, is precarious owing to frequent tariff changes in neighboring countries. It would probably be to the interest of the government to lend to farmers wishing to install small pumping engines.
HALF OF WATER LOST
Half the water of the perennial streams that originate in the mountains is lost through want of piping or concrete channels. The government is at last awaking to the fact that the mountain valleys would produce all kinds of English fruits, for which there is a ready market in Egypt and Palestine. It is even rumored that a scheme is under consideration for damming a stream in a mountain gorge. But such schemes are beyond the island’s unaided resources. And the irrigation works hitherto carried out have been failures.
The Cyprus government seems alive to the importance of the tourist traffic. Some 8,000 visitors, principally from Egypt, patronize the mountain resorts of Cyprus every Summer. But this year many have been attracted to Greece owing to the low rate of exchange.
A law recently passed divides the hotels into three classes, and fixes maximum and minimum prices, which cannot be altered without permission. Hotel staffs are to receive a percentage calculated on the bills, and the hotel proprietor acquires a lien on the client’s goods.