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Across Unknown South America by Landor

The cost of extracting the latex was prohibitive


I

was taken round the estate by Mr. J. A. Davy, the general manager, whose good and sensible work was noticeable at every turn. The trees seemed in excellent condition and likely to have a long life on the specially suitable rich red soil, and with sufficient breathing space allowed to maintain them in good health. The soil was of such unusual richness in that particular spot that no artificial stimulation was required in order to keep the trees healthy and vigorous. One could walk for miles and miles along the beautiful groves of coffee trees, clean-looking with their rich deep green foliage.

They seemed to have no great difficulty on the Dumont estate in obtaining sufficient labour--greatly, I think, owing to the fair way in which labourers were treated. Mr. Davy told me that over an area of 13,261 acres a crop had been maintained which averaged 81/4 cwts. per acre.

Experiments have also been made on the Dumont Estate (at an elevation of 2,100 ft. above the sea level)--chiefly, I believe, to satisfy the wish of shareholders in London--in the cultivation of rubber, but it did not prove a success--as was, after all, to be expected. It is not easy to make the majority of people understand that coffee grows lustily in that particular part of the State of Sao Paulo mainly because of the eminently suitable quality of the soil; but it does not at all follow that soil or climatic conditions which are good for coffee

are suitable for rubber trees, or vice versa. In the case of the Dumont Estates, although the best possible land was chosen and three different varieties of rubber--the Para, Ceara and the Castilloa were experimented with, it was soon discovered that only one kind--the Ceara--attained any growth at all, and this gave very little latex--owing undoubtedly to the nature of the soil and the climate. The cost of extracting the latex was prohibitive. With wages at four shillings a day a man could collect about one-third of a pound of latex a day. Rubber trees could, in that region, not be expected to produce more than one-fifth of a pound of rubber a year, so that the cost of collecting and shipping rubber from ten-year-old trees would amount to 3_s._ 3_d._ per lb., without counting the cost of planting and upkeep.

By a special train on the Dumont Railway line I travelled across beautiful country--all coffee plantations--the property of the Dumont Company and of Colonel Schmidt, the "Coffee King," whose magnificent estate lies along the Dumont Railway line. I regretted that I could not visit this great estate also, but I was most anxious to get on with my journey and get away as soon as possible from civilization. It was pleasant to see that no rivalry existed between the various larger estates, and I learnt that the Dumont Railway actually carried--for a consideration, naturally--all the coffee from the Schmidt Estate to the Riberao Preto station on the Mogyana Railway.

CHAPTER III

On the Mogyana Railway

I ARRIVED at Riberao Preto at 3.45 p.m. on March 29th. Riberao Preto--421 kil. N.N.W. of Sao Paulo and 500 kil. from Santos--is without doubt the most important commercial centre in the northern part of the State of Sao Paulo, and is a handsome active city, neat and clean-looking, with an Italian, Spanish and Portuguese population of some 25,000 souls. Its elevation above the sea level is 1,950 ft. The people of Riberao Preto subsist chiefly on the coffee industry. There are one or two theatres in the city, the principal being a provincial one. There are several hotels of various degrees of cleanliness and several industrial establishments. Unlike other cities of the interior, Riberao Preto boasts of a good supply of _agua potavel_ (drinking water), and the town is lighted by the electric light.


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