Teraviljahinnad Eesti kohalikel turgudel ja neid mõjutanud tegurid 1840–1900

Kersti Lust


Local grain prices in Estonia and price influencing factors, 1840–1900

The article examines the prices of rye and oats on local markets in 1841–1900 and discusses the factors aff ecting them. In Estonian and international scholarly literature, the grain prices have generally been studied on the basis of data from cities. Instead, this article focuses on local markets and their integration. International historiography considers it to be an important issue that is very diffi cult to address. Local grain prices are discussed from the peasant’s point of view. Different sections of the rural population could act as buyers or sellers on the grain market, and farms could become buyers during bad harvests.
Crop yields and export prices are considered the two most important factors aff ecting the internal market prices in the short run. The changes in nominal prices over the decades and price diff erentials between the Estonian districts (Kreise) are examined. Price level convergence and similar price dynamics in different regions give evidence of significant market integration. The first is measured by the coefficient of variation and the second by the correlation coefficient. The coefficient of variation was rather insignificant and did not change over the decades under consideration, and the districts had similar price trends for rye and oats. Only recovery from sharp changes in supply and demand did not proceed in the same way. In the pre-railway time, the regional prices in Estonia were largely determined by demand and supply on the domestic market; breakthrough came with the development of railway transportation. In the pre-railway time, the local prices in the Estonian districts exceeded export prices. The development of a railway network made the local crop yields have much less impact on the local prices than the yields in Russia Proper.
One central question regarding any famine is whether markets functioned to ease the famine or to exacerbate the shortage. In the nineteenth century, the Baltics were an agricultural surplus region despite the fact that the area was repeatedly struck by famines until the end of the 1860s. The third section of the article discusses why the market failed to ease the deficit in food consumption and what stance was taken by the governing elites in relation to the market and price regulation. In the crisis years, the market failed to move sufficient amounts of cereals into famine-stricken areas, since the need for food there was not translated into effective demand because of lack of market-based entitlement and a shortage of purchasing power. State authorities avoided actions to limit exports and refused to ban distillation, which both would have significantly increased the supply on the internal market. Their main anti-crisis initiative was to distribute advance loans to the needy. The grain was bought up from merchants and the local lords of the manors and paid for by state resources.
During the crises in the 1840s and 1860s the grain prices doubled, and in the 1840s the lords of the manors could make profi t from selling their grain stocks to the state for disbursal to needy peasants. The authorities, however, also forced the lords of the manors to give relief loans to their peasants in the mid-century. With the support of guberniya authorities (Governors and Governor-Generals), the Baltic nobilities could effectively avert any attempts of direct market regulation and price control.

KEYWORDS: 19th century, economic history, Baltic provinces, Estonia, grain prices, famines, crop yields, market integration and regulation.

KERSTI LUST (b. 1976) is an independent scholar.

Correspondence: Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu, Estonia. E-mail: kersti_lust@yahoo.com

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/AA.2013.2.04

ISSN 1406-3859 (print)
ISSN 2228-3897 (online)
Journal DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/issn1406-3859