Grain Trade - Encyclopedia




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GRAIN TRADE. The complexity of the conditions of life in the 20th century may be well illustrated from the grain trade of the world. The ordinary bread sold in Great Britain represents, for example, produce of nearly every country in the world outside the tropics.

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44

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a

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O 8

U

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

Oz.

26

13

9

5

4

3

2

I

I

Or

expres

sed in

percent

ages as

follow

s: -

20

8

6

5

3

2

2

Wheat has been cultivated from remote antiquity. In a wild state it is practically unknown. It is alleged to have been found growing wild between the Euphrates and the Tigris; but the discovery has never been authenticated, and unless the plant be sedulously cared for, the species p dies out in a surprisingly short space of time. Modern experiments in cross-fertilization in Lancashire by the Garton Brothers have evolved the most extraordinary "sports," showing, it is claimed, that the plant has probably passed through stages of which until the present day there had been no conception. The tales that grains of wheat found in the cerements of Egyptian mummies have been planted and come to maturity are no longer credited, for the vital principle in the wheat berry is extremely evanescent; indeed, it is doubtful whether wheat twenty years old is capable of reproduction. The Garton artificial fertilization experiments have shown endless deviations from the ordinary type, ranging from minute seeds with a closely adhering husk to big berries almost as large as sloes and about as worthless. It is conjectured that the wheat plant, as now known, is a degenerate form of something much finer which flourished thousands of years ago, and that possibly it may be restored to its pristine excellence, yielding an increase twice or thrice as large as it now does, thus postponing to a distant period the famine doom prophesied by Sir W. Crookes in his presidential address to the British Association in 1898. Wheat well repays careful attention; contrast the produce of a carelessly tilled Russian or Indian field and the bountiful yield on a good Lincolnshire farm, the former with its average yield of 8 bushels, the latter with its 50 bushels per acre; or compare the quality, as regards the quantity and flavour of the flour from a fine sample of British wheat, such as is on sale at almost every agricultural show in Great Britain, with the produce of an Egyptian or Syrian field; the difference is so great as to cause one to doubt whether the berries are of the same species. It may be stated roundly that an average quartern loaf in Great Britain is made from wheat grown in the following countries in the proportions named: - For details connected with grain and its handling see Agriculture, Corn Laws, Granaries, Flour, Baking, Wheat, &C. Wheat occupies of all cereals the widest region of any foodstuff. Rice, which shares with millet the distinction of being the principal food-stuff of the greatest number of human beings, is not grown nearly as widely as is wheat, the staple food of the white races. Wheat grows as far south as Patagonia, and as far north as the edge of the Arctic Circle; it flourishes throughout Europe, and across the whole of northern Asia and in Japan; it is cultivated in Persia, and raised largely in India, as far south as the Nizam's dominions. It is grown over nearly the whole of North America. In Canada a very fine wheat crop was raised in the autumn of 1898 as far north as the mission at Fort Providence, on the Mackenzie river, in a latitude above 62° - or less than m. south of the latitude of Dawson City - the period between seed-time and harvest having been ninety-one days. In Africa it was an article of commerce in the days of Jacob, whose son Joseph may be said to have run the first and only successful "corner" in wheat. For many centuries Egypt was famous as a wheat raiser; it was a cargo of wheat from Alexandria which St Paul helped to jettison on one of his shipwrecks, as was also, in all probability, that of the "ship of Alexandria whose sign was Castor and Pollux," named in the same narrative. General Gordon is quoted as having stated that the Sudan if properly settled would be capable of feeding the whole of Europe. Along the north coast of Africa are areas which, if properly irrigated, as was done in the days of Carthage, could produce enough wheat to feed half of the Caucasian race. For instance, the vilayet of Tripoli, with an area of 400,000 sq. m., or three times the extent of Great Britain and Ireland, according to the opinion of a British consul, could raise millions of acres of wheat. The cereal flourishes on all the high plateaus of South Africa, from Cape Town to the Zambezi. Land is being extensively put under wheat in the pampas of South America and in the prairies of Siberia.

In the raising of the standard of farming to an English level the volume of the world's crop would be trebled, another fact which Sir William Crookes seems to have overlooked. The experiments of the late Sir J. B. Lawes in Hertfordshire have proved that the natural fruitfulness of the wheat plant can be increased threefold by the application of the proper fertilizer. The results of these experiments will be found in a compendium issued from the Rothamsted Agricultural Experimental Station.

It is by no means, however, the wheat which yields the greatest number of bushels per acre which is the most valuable from a miller's standpoint, for the thinness of the bran and the fineness and strength of the flour are with him important considerations, too often overlooked by the farmer when buying his seed. Nevertheless it is the deficient quantity of the wheat raised in the British Islands, and not the quality of the grain, which has been the cause of so much anxiety to economists and statesmen.

1858-

1863-

1868-

1873-

1878-

1883-

1888-

1893-

1862.

1867.

1872.

1877.

1882.

1887.

1892.

1897.

3 8.43

3142

27.91

21.29

16.77

14.67

14.52

12.88

1858-

1863-

1868-

187 3 -

1878-

1883-

1888-

1893-

1862.

1867.

1872.

18 77 .

1882.

1887.

1892.

18 9 7.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

12 8

10 6

9 3

7 I

5 7

4 Ioz

4 I ' D

4 3

Sir J. Caird, writing in the year 1880, expressed the opinion that arable land in Great Britain would always command a substantial rent of at least 30s. per acre. His figures. were based on the assumption that wheat was imported rates duty free. He calculated that the cost of carriage from abroad of wheat, or the equivalent of the product of an acre of good wheat land in Great Britain, would not be less than 30s. per ton. But freights had come down by 1900 to half the rates predicated by Caird; indeed, during a portion of the interval they ruled very close to zero, as far as steamer freights from America were concerned. In 190o an all-round freight rate for wheat might be taken at 15s. per ton (a ton representing approximately the produce of an acre of good wheat land in England), say from ios. for Atlantic American and Russian, to 30s. for Pacific American and Australian; about midway between these two extremes we find Indian and Argentine, the greatest bulk coming at about the 15s. rate. Inferior land bearing less than 42 quarters per acre would not be protected to the same extent, and moreover, seeing that a portion of the British wheat crop has to stand a charge as heavy for land carriage across a county as that borne by foreign wheat across a continent or an ocean, the protection is not nearly so substantial as Caird would make out. The compilation showing the changes in the rates of charges for the railway and other transportation services issued by the Division of Statistics, Department of Agriculture, U.S.A. (Miscellaneous series, Bulletin No. 15, 1898), is a valuable reference book. From its pages are culled the following facts relating to the changes in the rates of freight up to the year 1897.1 In Table 3 the average rates per ton per mile in cents are shown since 1846. For the Fitchburg Railroad the rate for that year was 4.523 cents per ton per mile, since when a great and almost continuous fall has been taking place, until in 1897, I Valuable information will also be found in Bulletin No. 38 (1905), "Crop Export Movement and Port Facilities on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts"; in Bulletin No. 49 (1907), "Cost of Hauling Crops from Farms to Shipping Points"; and in Bulletin No. 69 +(1908), "European Grain Trade." the latest year given, the rate had declined to 870 of a cent per ton per mile. The railway which shows the greatest fall is the Chesapeake & Ohio, for the charge has fallen from over 7 cents in 1862 and 1863 to. 419 of a cent in 1897, whereas the Erie rates have fallen only from 1.948 in 1852 to. 609 in 1897. Putting the rates of the twelve returning railways together, we find the average freight in the two years 1859-1860 was 3o06 cents per ton per mile, and that in 1896-1897 the average rate had fallen to 797 of a cent per ton per mile. This difference is very large compared with the smallness of the unit. Coming to the rates on grain, we find (in Table 23) a record for the forty years 1858-1897 of the charge on wheat from Chicago to New York, via all rail from 1858, and via lake and rail since 1868, the authority being the secretary of the Chicago Board of Trade. From 1858 to 1862 the rate varied between 42.37 and 3480 cents per bushel for the whole trip of roundly 1000 m., the average rate in the quinquennium being 38.43. In the five years immediately prior to the time at which Sir J. Caird expressed the opinion that the cost of carriage from abroad would always protect the British grower, the average all-rail freight from Chicago to New York was 17.76 cents, while the summer rate (partly by water) was 13.17 cents. These rates in 1897, the last year shown on the table, had fallen to 12.50 and 7.42 respectively. The rates have been as follows in quinquennial periods, via all rail: Chicago to New York in Cents per Bushel. Calculating roundly a cent as equal to a halfpenny, and eight bushels to the quarter, the above would appear in English currency as follows: Chicago to New York in Shillings and Pence per Quarter. Another table (No. 38) shows the average rates from Chicago to New York by lakes, canal and river. These in their quinquennial periods are given for the season as follows: In Cents per Bushel of 60 lb.

18J7-1861.

1876-1880 .

1893-1897 .

22.15

10.47

4.92

In Shillings and Pence per Quarter of 480 lb.

18 5 7-1861.

1876-1880 .

18 93 -189 7 .

s.

d.

s.

d.

s.

d.

7

4

3

6

I

7

In Shillings and Pence per Ton of 2240 lb.

18 57 -1861.

1876-1880 .

18 93 -1897.

s.

34

d.

6

s.

16

d.

6

s.

7

d.

6

Wheat.

Corn.

Rate, Chi-

Number

Rate, Chi-

Number

Year.

Export

P

cago to

New York

of Bushels

carried

Export

p rice

cago to

New York

of Bushels

carried

Price per

by Lake

for Price

per

Bushel.

by Lake

for Price

Bushel.

and Canal,

perBushel.

of One

Bushel.

and Canal,

perBushel.

of One

Bushel.

Cents.

Cents.

1867

$0.92

15.95

5.77

$ 0.7 2

14.58

4'94

1868

1.36

16.23

8.38

84.1

13.57

6.20

1869

1.05

17.20

6.10

.72.8

14.98

4.86

1870

1.1[2

14'85

7.54

.80.5

1 3.7 8

5.84

1871

118

17.75

6.65

.67.9

16.53

4.II

1872

I.31

21.55

608

.618

19.62

3.15

1873

115

16.89

6.81

54.3

1 5.39

3.53

1874

1.29

12.75

Io12

64.7

II29

5'73

18 75

'97

9.90

9.80

.73.8

8.93

8.26

1876

1II

8.63

12.86

.60.3

7.93

7'60

1877

I12

10.76

1041

56.0

9.41

5'95

1878

1.33

9.10

14'62

'55.8

8.27

6'75

1879

1.07

II60

9.22

47'1

10.43

4'52

1880

125

12.27

10.19

54.3

11.14

4.87

1881

1.11

8.19

1 3.55

55.2

7.26

7.60

1882

119

7.89

15.08

.66.8

7.23

9.24

1883

1.13

8.37

1 3.5 o

'68.4

7.66

8.93

1884

1.07

6.31

16.96

61.1

5.64

10.83

1885

86

5.87

14.65

.54.0

5.38

1004

1886

87

8.71

9.99

049'8

7.98

6.24

1887

89

8.51

10.4 6

.47.9

7.88

608

1888

85

5.93

1 4.33

.55.o

5.41

10.17

1889

90

6.89

13.06

.47.4

6.19

7.66

1890

.83

5.86

14.16

.41.8

5.10

8.20

18 9 1

.93

5'96

15.60

57.4

5'36

10.71

1892

1.03

5.61

18.3 6

.55

5'03

10.93

1893

.80

6.31

12.68

.53

5'71

9.28

18 94

'67

4'44

1 5.0 9

.46

3.99

11.53

1895

58

4.II

14.11

53

3.71

14.29

1896

65

5.38

12.08

.38

4'94

7.69

1897

.75

4'35

17.24

31

3.79

8.18

This latter mode is the cheapest by which grain can be carried to the eastern seaboard from the American prairies, and it can now be done at a cost of 7s. 6d. per ton. The ocean freight has to be added before the grain can be delivered free on the quay at Liverpool. A rate from New York to Liverpool of 22d. per bushel, or 7s. iod. per ton, a low rate, reached in Dec. 1900, is yet sufficiently high, it is claimed, to leave a profit; indeed, there have frequently been times when the rate was as low as id. per bushel, or 3s. id. per ton; and in periods of great trade depression wheat is carried from New York to Liverpool as ballast, being paid for by the ship-owner. Another route worked more cheaply than formerly is that by river, from the centre of the winter wheat belt, say at St Louis, to New Orleans, and thence by steamer to Liverpool. The river rate has fallen below five cents per bushel, or 7s. per ton, 2 240 lb. In Table No. 71 the cost of transportation is compared year by year with the export price of the two leading cereals in the States as follows: Wheat and Corn-Export Prices and Transportation Rates compared. The farmers of the United States have now to meet a greatly increased output from Canada-the cost of transport from that country to England being much the same as from the United States. So much improved is the position of the farmer in North America compared with what it was about 1870, that the transport companies in 1901 carried 174 bushels of his grain to the seaboard in exchange for the value of one bushel, whereas in 1867 he had to give up one bushel in every six in return for the service. As regards the British farmer, it does not appear as if he had improved his position; for he has to send his wheat to greater distances, owing to the collapse of many country millers or their removal to the seaboard, while railway rates have fallen only to a very small extent; again the farmer's wheat is worth only half of what it was formerly; it may be said that the British farmer has to give up one bushel in nine to the railway company for the purpose of transportation, whereas in the 'seventies he gave up one in eighteen only. Enough has been said to prove that the advantage of position claimed for the British farmer by Caird was somewhat illusory. Speaking broadly, the Kansas or Minnesota farmer's wheat does not have to pay for carriage to Liverpool more than 2S. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per ton in excess of the rate paid by a Yorkshire farmer; this, it will be admitted, does not go very far towards enabling the latter to pay rent, tithes and rates and taxes.

The subject of the rates of ocean carriage at different periods requires consideration if a proper understanding of the working of the foreign grain trade is to be obtained. Only a very small proportion of the decline in the price of wheat since 1880 is due to cheapened transport rates; for while the mileage rate has been falling, the length of haulage has been extending, until in 1900 the principal wheat fields of America were 2000 m. farther from the eastern seaboard than was the case in 1870, and consequently, notwithstanding the fall in the mileage rate 'of 50 to 75%, it still costs the United Kingdom nearly as much to have its quota of foreign wheat fetched from abroad as it did then. The difference in the cost of the operation is shown in the following tabular statement, both the cost in the aggregate on a year's imports and the cost per quarter: Quantity of Wheat and Wheaten Flour (as wheat) imported into the United Kingdom from various sources during the calendar year 1900, together with the average rate of freight. 1900.

Countries of Origin.

Quantities.

Qrs. 480 lb.

Ocean Freight

to United

Kingdom.

Per 480 lb.

Total Cost

of Ocean

Carriage.

s. d.

£

Atlantic America .

11,171,100

2 3

1,257,100

South Russia.. .

569,000

2 2

62,000

Pacific America .

2,389,900

8 I

966,000

Canada. ... .

1,877,100

2 8

250,000

Rumania .

176,400

2 6

22,000

Argentina and Uruguay

4,322,300

4 10

1,045,000

France

251,900

I 3

16,000

Bulgaria and Rumelia

30,600

2 6

4,000

India. .. .

2,200

4 0

400

Austria-Hungary. .

389,300

1 9

34,000

Chile

60

. .

North Russia.. .

462,700

I 6

35,000

Germany... .

438,700

I 6

33,000

Australasia. .

883,900

6 5

284,000

Minor Countries .

225,100

2 6

28,000

Total. .. .

23,190,800

Average 3s. 6d.

£4,036,500

Comparing these figures with a similar statement for the year 1872, the most remote year for which similar facts are available, it will be found that the actual total cost per quarter for ocean carriage has not much decreased.

Quantity of Wheat and Wheaten Flour (as wheat) imported into the United Kingdom from various sources during the calendar year 1872, together with the average rate of freight. 1872.

Countries of Origin.

Quantities.

Qrs.

Ocean Freight

to United

Kingdom.

Per qr.

Total Cost

of Carriage.

s. d.

£

South Russia.. .

3,678,000

8 6

1,563,000

United States.. .

2,030,000

6 6

659,000

Germany. .. .

910,000

2 0

91,000

France. ... .

660,000

3 0

99,000

Egypt.. .

536,000

4 6

120,000

North Russia.. .

490,000

2 0

49,000

Canada. ... .

400,000

7 6

150,000

Chile. ... .

330,000

12 0

198,000

Turkey. .. .

195,000

7 6

72,000

Spain

130,000

3 6

23,000

Scandinavia .

160,000

2 0

16,000

Total, Chief Countries

9,519,000

Average 6s. 5d.

£3,040,000

N.B.-A trifling quantity of Californian and Australian wheat was imported in the period in question, but the Board of Trade records do not distinguish the quantities, therefore they cannot be given. The freight in that year from those countries averaged about 13s. per quarter.

The exact difference between the average freight for the years 1872 and 1900 amounts to about 2S. Ird. per quarter (480 lb), a trifle in comparison with the actual fall in the price of wheat during the same years.

United Kingdom

Ocean Freight

Annual Imports.

to United

Aggregate Cost

Year.

Wheat and Flour.

Kingdom.

of Carriage.

Qrs.

Per qr.

s. d.

£

1872

9,469,000

6 5

3,040,000

1882

14,850,000

7 4

5,420,000

1894

16,229,000

3 9

3,041,000

18 95

25,197,000

3 0

3,825,000

1896

23,431,000

2 9

3,258,000

1900

23,196,000

3 6

4,036,000

The following data bearing upon the subject, for selected periods, are partly taken from the Corn Trade Year-Book:- In passing, it may be pointed out that for a period of four years, from 1871 to 1874, the price of wheat averaged 56s. per quarter (or 7s. per bushel), with the charge for ocean carriage at 6s. 5d. per quarter, whereas in 1901 wheat was sold in England at 28s. (or 3s. 6d. per bushel), and the charge for ocean carriage was 3s. 6d. per quarter; the ocean transport companies carried eight bushels of wheat across the seas in 1901 for the value of one bushel, or exactly at the same ratio as in 1872.

The contrast between the case of railway freight and ocean freight is to be explained by the greater length of the present ocean voyage, which now extends to 1 o,000 miles in the case of Europe's importation of white wheat from the Pacific Coast of the United States and Australia, in contrast with the short voyage from the Black Sea or across the English Channel or German Ocean. It is largely due to the overlooking of this phase of the question that an American statistician has fallen into the error of stating that about 16s. per quarter of the fall in the price of,wheat, which happened between 1880 and 1894, is attributable to the lessened cost of transport.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

1656

38 2

1706

23 I

17 5 6

40 11806

7911856

69 2

16 57

4 1 5

1707

2 5 4

1 757

53 4

1807

75 4

18 57

5 6 4

16 5 8

57 9

1708

36 Io

1 75 8

44 5

1808

84 4

1858

44 2

16 59

58 8

1709

6 9 9

1 759

35 3

1809

97 4

18 59

43 9

1660

50 2

1710

69 4

1760

32 5

1810

106 5

1860

53 3

1661

62 2

1711

48 0 1761

26 9

1811

95 3

186r

55 4

1662

65 9

1712

41 2 1762

34 8

1812

126 6

1862

55 5

1663

50 8

1713

45 4 1763

36 I

1813

109 9

1863

44 9

1664

36 0

1714

44 9' 1764

41 5

1814

74 4

1864

40 2

1665

43 10

1715

38 2 1765

48 0

1815

65 7

1865

41 pp

1666

32 0

1716

42 8 1766

43 I

1816

78 6

1866

4 9 II

1667

32 0'1717

4071767

57 4

1817

96 II

1867

6 4 5

1668

3 5 6

1718

3461768

53 9

1818

86 3

1868

63 9

1669

39 5

1719

31 11769

40 7

1819

74 6

1869

48 2

1670

37 0

1720

32 10 1 77 0

43 6

1820

67 10

1870

46 II

16 7 1

37 4

1 7 21

334177 1

47 2

1821

56 I

1871

56 8

1672

36 5

1722

320177 2

50 8

1822

44 7

18 7 2

57 0

16 73

41 5

1723

3 o 10 1 773

51 0

1823

53 4

18 73

58 8

16 74

61 0

1724

32 10 1774

52 8

1824

63 II

18 74

55 9

16 75

57 5

1725

4311775

48 4

1825

68 6

18 75

45 2

16 7 6

33 9

1726

40 10 17 7 6

38 2

1826

58 8

1876

46 2

16 77

37 4

1727

3741777

45 6

1827

58 6

18 77

5 6 9

1678

52 5

1728

48 5.1 77 8

42 0

1828

60 5

1878

46 5

16 79

53 4

1729

4171 779

33 8

1829

66 3

18 79

43 10

1680

40 01730

32 5 1780

35 8

1830

64 3

1880

44 4

1681

41 5

17 3 1

29 2 1781

44 8

1831

66 4

1881

45 4

1682

39 11732

23 8 1782

4 7 10

1832

58 8

1882

4 5 I

1683

35 6

1 733

2521783

52 8

1833

52 II

1883

4 1 7

1684

39 1

1 734

34 6 1784

48 io

1834

46 2

1884

35 8

1685

4 1 5

1 735

38 2 1785

51 10

18 35

39 4

1885

32 10

1686

30 2

1 73 6

35 10 1786

38 10

1836

48 6

1886

31 0

1687

22 4

1 737

33917 8 7

41 2

18 37

55 0

1887

32 6

1688

40 10

1 73 8

31 6 1788

45 0

1838

64 7

1888

31 10

1689

26 8

1 739

34 2 1789

51 2

18 39

70 8

1889

2 9 9

16 9 0

3 o 9

1 74 0

451179 0

54 9

1840

66 4

1890

31 II

1691

30 2

1 74 1

4151 79 1

48 7

1841

64 4

1891

3 7 0

1692

41 5

17 4 2

302179 2

43 0

18 4 2

57 3

1892

3 o 3

16 93

60 1

1743

2211793

49 3

18 43

50 118 93

26 4

16 94

56 Io

1744

22.11 794

5 2 3

18 44

51 3

18 94

22 10

16 95

47 1

1 745

2 4 -5 1 795

75 2

18 45

50 10

18 95

23 I

1696

63 11 74 6

348179 6

78 7

1846

54 8

1896

26 2

16 97

53 4

1 747

30 II 1 797

53 9

18 47

6 9 9

1897

30 2

1698

60 9

1 74 8

32 10 17 9 8

51 10

1848

50 6

1898

34 0

16 99

56 10

1749

32 10 1 799

69 0

18 49

44 3

18 99

2 5 8

1700

35 6

1 75 0

28 10 1800

113 10

1850

40 3

1900

26 II

1701

33 5

1 75 1

34 2; 1801

119 6

1851

38 6.1901

26 9

1702

26 2

1 75 2

37 2 1802

69 10

1852

40 9.1902

28 I

1703

32 0

1 753

39 8 1803

58 Io

18 53

53 3.1903

2 6 9

1704

4 1 4

1 754

30 9 1804

62 3

18 54

7 2 5

1904

2 8 4

1705

26 8

1 755

30 1 1805

36 0

89 9

51 9

1 8 55

74 8

65 10

1905

2 9 8

142 7

??

m?

; h

;, 42 10

>

¢?

Thus, whatever the cause of the decline in the price of wheat may be, it cannot be attributed solely to the fall in the rate of Wheat Prices The following figures show the fluctuations from year to year of English wheat, chiefly according to a record published by Mr T. Smith, Melford, the period covered being from 1656 to 1905: Price per Quarter 1 Average for 46 years only.

rail or ocean freights. Incidental charges are lower than they were in 1870; handling charges, brokers' commissions and insurance premiums have been in many instances reduced, but all these economies when combined only amount to about 2S. per quarter. Now if we add together all these savings in the rate of rail and ocean freights and incidental expenses, we arrive at an aggregate economy of 8s. per quarter, or not one-third of the actual difference between the average price of wheat in 1872 and 1900. To what the remaining difference was due it is difficult to say with certitude; there are some who argue that the tendency of prices to fall is inherent, and that the constant whittling away of intermediaries' profits is sufficient explanation, while bi-metallists have maintained that the phenomenon is clearly to be traced to the action of the German government in demonetizing silver in 1872.

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