Trade. – Internal trade is hampered by the difficulty of transport between one region and another. Coastal oases send tropical products to the Sierra and receive products from temperate zones: thus, for example, the departments of Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Ancash and Cajamarca supply cereals to Lima and the other centers of the coast; but the competition from foreign flours is very strong and tends to reduce this internal traffic. In foreign trade the balance is largely favorable to Peru (the value of exports far exceeds that of imports), as can be seen in the following table, which gives the value of exports and imports in millions of soles (the sol, Peruvian monetary unit, is worth one tenth of the pound sterling):
In recent years, 75 to 85% of the value of exports has been given by these four products: oil, copper, cotton and sugar (see table). They are followed, still with conspicuous values, by wool and silver.
The great mass of the Peruvian population, made up in absolute prevalence, as we have seen, of Mestizos and Amerindians, undoubtedly has a very low standard of living.
According to Ebizdir, Amerindio represents a negative factor in commercial production, when it does not work in the haciendas of the coast or in the mines of the Sierra; the little money he earns he spends to buy almost nothing but coke and liqueurs. This explains the fact that while the population of Peru is just over half of Argentina’s population, the value of imports is not even 1 / 5 of that of Argentine imports.
Peruvian imports are mainly given by manufactured products: machines and metallurgical products in general are in first place, since the considerable iron and coal deposits owned by the country are located in inaccessible areas of the Sierra, and therefore industry metallurgical can be said to be non-existent. The machines imported in greater numbers (mainly from the United States) concern the mining industry; followed by those for foundries, drilling machines, machines for the textile industries, for the sugar industry, locomotives, pumps, agricultural machines, cars, electrical machinery, etc.
Remarkable is then importing food, especially wheat and flour: the first comes to 2 / 3 from Argentina, and for the rest from Chile and Canada; the flours are purchased in the United States. Lard (from the United States), rice (from East Asia), fruit, preserved meats, butter, fish, condensed milk are also imported. Although cotton and wool are among the main products of Peru and the textile industry one of its most developed activities, there is still a strong import of cotton and woolen fabrics (from Great Britain, Germany and Italy). It is also worth mentioning the import of timber (almost exclusively from the United States of the Pacific: the great Peruvian forests cannot yet be exploited to advantage), of chemicals (mainly from the United States) and coal (from Great Britain).
The United States has a dominant position in Peruvian trade, achieved after the outbreak of the World War and the opening of the Panama Canal. In 1931 they had 40% of the value of imports (22% in the period 1910-12 and 44% in 1921-23) and 36% of that of exports (32% in 1910-12 and 38% in 1921-23). They are followed by Great Britain, which once was in first place both for imports (31% in 1910-12, 17% in 1921-23, 14% in 1931) and for exports (respectively: 34, 34, 22%), Germany, Chile, France, Argentina, Canada, Italy.
Italy exports cotton and woolen goods, pasta and food preserves, oil, wine, electrical machinery to Peru (for a value of 4.7 million soles in 1930 and 3 million in 1931).