Uruguay is a typically pastoral country, and sheep and cattle farming, which can have vast and excellent pastures, is the fundamental resource of the country, which in 1930 owned 7,120,000 cattle, 20,558,000 sheep, 623,000 horses, 308,000 pigs, 26,000 goats and 15,000 donkeys and mules. The world economic crisis has also had an unfavorable repercussion on livestock farming and the estancieros were forced to hastily realize at least a part of the capital invested by increasing the slaughter and export of live animals: so that the livestock heritage was impoverished. It seems, for example, that the number of sheep had already dropped to 13,406,000 head in 1932 (a decrease of 1/4).
One of the greatest care of the breeders is that of improving the breeds, and in this they are encouraged by the government, which, in addition to promoting annual fairs-exhibitions in every capital of the department, fights the diseases of livestock with precise and energetic provisions. Towards the middle of the century In the eighteenth century the first saladeros were planted, and the great industry of processing and preserving meat began, today the basis of Uruguayan wealth. An average of one million cattle are slaughtered annually; the number of sheep slaughtered varies greatly from one year to the next (640,000 heads in 1925, over 2 million in 1931, 1.2 million in 1933). Meats are frozen, chilled or salted (salted meat is called charque) and also extracts are made. The refrigeration industry has also centralized and absorbed the salted meat and extracts industry. The four existing refrigeration companies have 3 refrigerators in Montevideo and one in Fray Bentos (the ancient saladero Liebig), 4 saladeros in Montevideo, 3 in Paysandú, one in Artigas, 4 factories of extracts and preserves in Montevideo, 2 in Salto and one in Paysandú. In 1928 the government installed a national refrigerator, which was reserved for the monopoly of cattle slaughter in the department of Montevideo. It also sells and exports livestock products and by-products. The estancieros who sell their livestock to the national refrigerator participate in the profits of the
Milk production is around 1.7 million hectoliters per year; limited is that of butter and cheese. Almost all wool is exported: 656,000 q. in 1931, 263,000 q. in 1934. The leather and leather industries in general (350-400 thousand quintals per year) and that of footwear meet internal needs.
Agriculture is becoming increasingly important: the soil is fertile and easily irrigated, and the climate is favorable; an obstacle to agricultural development is given by the scarcity of rural labor, which is sought to be overcome by a large use of agricultural machinery. Only 7.5% of Uruguayan soil is occupied by crops; 20% are in a mixed economy (agriculture and livestock together); 60% is pastures, and the rest is unproductive. Medium-sized (10-50 hectares) and small properties (less than 10 hectares) predominate; the former are 57% of the total number, and the latter 30%. The farms that exceed 100 hectares are just 3%.
Half of the arable land is occupied by cereals; wheat, grown in particular in the departments of Colonia, San José, Soriano and Canelones, occupies between 350 and 450 thousand hectares, on which about 3 million quintals of product are harvested annually. In 1933-34 it reached almost 4 million q. The average yield is just 9 quintals per hectare. The production satisfies the internal needs and also fuels a considerable export, especially of flour.
Corn is grown especially in the Canelones department, then in San José and Minas. It occupies about 200,000 hectares, overall, and 1.5 million quintals are obtained annually (the yield varies from 5 to 7 quintals per hectare). Production is usually less than the country’s demand.
On the other hand, the linseed is widely exported; flax is grown on 100-150 thousand hectares, and gives an average of 750,000 q. per year of product. The fluctuations from one year to the next are very strong. The largest quantities of linseed come from the departments of San José and Paysandú.
The crops of oats (350-400 thousand quintals per year), barley (30-50 thousand quintals), rice (about 50 thousand quintals), rye, sorghum, legumes, potatoes, etc. Viticulture, which began in 1874, spread mainly in southwestern Uruguay, and occupied 14,600 hectares in 1934. Wine production is almost 600,000 hectoliters per year. Excellent Italian (Nebiolo, Barbera, Grignolino, etc.), French and Spanish types predominate. For Uruguay 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
In the northern departments the cultivation of citrus fruits is spreading, and in the southern ones the cultivation of peaches, pears, apple trees, figs and other fruit plants. The specialized crops of woody plants cover a total area of almost 34,000 hectares. At the beginning are the tobacco crops (production of 3-4 thousand q. Of leaves) and sugar beet. Half a million hectares are dedicated to forage crops. The importance of forestry is scarce. The woods and forests cover almost 600,000 hectares and are rich in precious essences.
The subsoil is still only briefly known, and the mining exploitation is at the beginning and does not have much importance.
Marbles are extracted in the departments of Lavalleja, Maldonado and Florida, granite and porphyry in those of Canelones and Maldonado; these products are widely exported to Argentina. Opals, agates and onyxes (Salto, Artigas), gold (Rivera), manganese and silver are also extracted in small quantities.
Of the industries, in addition to those connected with livestock, we should remember those of furniture, perfumes, tobacco, sugar, chocolate, cement, matches, hats, woolen fabrics, etc., almost all at the beginning. The government has to back them up with customs protection.