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FRANCE .: Vilgrain on Wheat

3 minute read


The best metal is iron, the best vegetable wheat, and the worst animal man.

—French Proverb.

A tall, suave, dark-haired Frenchman for whom wheat is assuredly “the best vegetable” stepped off the liner Paris at Manhattan, last week, and set smart U. S. citizens to thinking back to the origins of bread & cake. The French wheat-man—a close friend of Herbert Hoover, and of Georges Clemenceau—is M. Ernest Vilgrain, president of the famed Société des Grands Moulins de Paris. Unlike the Mills of the Gods, the Moulins de Paris grind swiftly, grind more flour than any other chain of mills in France, and grind out steady profits absolutely without the selling thrust of advertising.

Throughout France the U. S. Washburn Crosby flour company asks from many a billboard “Eventuellement, Pourquoi Pas Maintenant?”;* but the Grands Moulins de Paris have no slogan. Explaining, last week, Miller Vilgrain said: “We French millers do not advertise, and sell almost wholly to bakers, seldom to the housewife, who does little of her own bread or pastry making. The competition offered by American flour firms in France is negligible.* The French miller does not advertise or claim superiority for his individual brand of flour, because both the price and quality are regulated by law.”

Probing more basically into the world wheat situation, Grand Meunier Vilgrain declared that French wheat kernels have been of poor quality since the War, and do not now contain a sufficient proportion of protein and gluten. This effect has been wrought by the post War shortage of man power on the farms, which has induced land owners to plant a species of wheat seeds giving a greater harvest with less care, but an inferior grade of wheat. For this reason the Grands Moulins de Paris bought 10,000,000 bushels of prime U. S. wheat for milling, last year, and are placing still heavier orders at present.

The chief wheat producing regions are the great plains of the U. S. & Canada, the Argentine pampas, Australia and the rich black earth of Southern Russia. But new wheat lands are being rapidly opened up in North African colonies of Italy and France.

Wheat exports move chiefly from the Americas and Australia into Europe and the Balkans, although most European states grow a major portion of what they consume. France, for example, grows one-fourth as much wheat as the U. S., three times as much as Germany, twice as much as Rumania and slightly more than Italy.

*”Eventually, Why Not Now?”

*Because flour imported into France is subject to the high protective tariff of 65 francs per cwt., whereas the corresponding duty on unmilled wheat is only 35 francs.

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