Battle for Grain
The Battle for Grain was an economic policy undertaken by the Fascists in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 during the 1920s as a move toward autarky
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...



When Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 took over as Prime Minister
Prime minister of Italy
The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

 of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 1922 the economy was in a bad state following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Between 1922 and 1925, the financial and economic situation generally improved dramatically and this helped to increase the power of Italy, who strived to be one of the world's leading countries. But in order to continue their development Mussolini decided that Italy needed to become near enough self-sufficient rather than greatly relying upon foreign imports, particularly of grain. The way that this happened was through the "Battle for Grain".


The policy had a number of aims. These comprised:
  • to boost cereal production to make Italy self-sufficient in grain
  • to reduce the balance of trade
    Balance of trade
    The balance of trade is the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports of output in an economy over a certain period. It is the relationship between a nation's imports and exports...

  • to lower the necessity for foreign imports of bread
  • to show Italy as a major force


The policy was first put into practice in 1925 when high tariffs were placed on imported bread in a similar way to the Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

 in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 during the 19th century. By doing this they hoped that Italians would need to produce more of their own bread instead of relying on cheap imports. Land which had not been used for years and was infertile was now utilised, however it was very expensive to farm. The government also gave grants to those farmers who were producing crops to buy machinery and fertiliser


The policy had both positive and negative effects for Italy. On the positive side, cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

 production doubled from 1922 to 1939 and by 1940 they had become more or less self-sufficient at cereal production; wheat imports went down by 75% in the years 1925-1935. The increased protection on Italian crops was a benefit to the farmers and grain producers, especially the inefficient landowners in the poor south who were offered a guaranteed price for their crops.

However the rearing of animals and growing of vines
Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture...

 (other vital aspects of agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

) did not happen as much as a result of the focus on grain. The self-sufficiency did not stretch to fertilizers and this was a problem in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 when imports of natural and chemical fertilizers were cut. The cost of bread to the everyday Italian rose sharply and the quality of their diet was reduced.

Historical assessment

The historian Denis Mack Smith
Denis Mack Smith
Denis Mack Smith CBE is an English historian, specialising in the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards. He is best known for studies of Garibaldi and Cavour and of Mussolini, and for his single-volume Modern Italy: A Political History...

 wrote in his book Mussolini (1981) "Success in this battle was... another illusory propaganda victory won at the expense of the Italian economy in general and consumers in particular". He also pointed out "Those who gained were the owners of the Latifondia and the propertied classes in general... his policy conferred a heavy subsidy on the Latifondisti".

See also

  • Battle of the Lira
  • Battle for Births
    Battle for Births
    The Battle for Births was one of four economic battles that took place in Fascist Italy , the others being the Battle for Grain , the Battle for the Lira , and the Battle for Land...

  • Economy of Fascist Italy

External links

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