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close this bookThe Courier N° 133 - May - June 1992 - Dossier : Environment and Development - Country Reports - Côte d'lvoire - Papua New Guinea (EC Courier, 1992, 104 p.)
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close this folderCôte d'Ivoire
View the documentDemocracy: Putting principles into practice
View the documentInterview with Prime Minister, Alassane Ouattara
View the documentInterview with Lambert Konan, Minister of Agriculture
View the documentInterview with Professor Alain Ekra, Minister of Health
View the documentThe National Blood Transfusion Centre
View the documentSeydou DIARRA, Head of SACO: From diplomat to industrialist
View the documentOpposition - Running for government means building a credible force
View the documentThe Basilica at Yamoussoukro: The Work of an unfathomable conscience
View the documentEC-Côte d'Ivoire cooperation

Interview with Lambert Konan, Minister of Agriculture

Tax imported meat and rice and boost national output

An important programme of development launched by Lambert Konan, Minister of Agriculture


· Cd'lvoire has a problem with coffee and cocoa, its two main agricultural exports, Minister, hasn't it ? How is the big decline in the price of these commodities- and they are the country's most important ones-affecting production ?

-Coffee and cocoa are indeed the keys to our agriculture, as you say, and they are still the main export products despite all our diversification into palm oil, rubber and cotton. We have industrial plantations and we are developing various food products, but it has to be admitted that coffee and cocoa are still very much to the fore and, obviously, the effect of dwindling prices on a country like ours is dramatic. To be more precise, the drop in prices has affected coffee production badly. Output dropped from 284 000 tonnes in 1990 down to only 200 000 t in 1991. When we were forced to make drastic cuts in the prices paid to the producers, it slumped immediately by almost a third, because the farmers could no longer afford to pay the labourers. There was a complete loss of interest and processing was slack, which affected quality. So, since last year, we have been raising the farmers' morale, telling them that it is quality products from them that will get us back to the top and that we must pull ourselves together.

Cocoa is less of a problem because the purchasing price has stayed a little bit above the price the farmers get for coffee.

· The negotiations for another International Coffee and Cocoa Agreement have come up against the demands of some countries which want quotas and others which don't. Where does Cd'lvoire stand on this?

-Listen-I think it is fair to say that some countries are ideologically opposed to the very idea of an agreement. But we here in Cd'Ivoire believe that we need an agreement and we do not wish to discourage the people who produce. We believe that we need an agreement and that, ultimately, a bad agreement is better than no agreement at all, which is why we support the drive to produce one. The Minister responsible for these issues, Alain Gauze, has consulted a lot of producing countries, friends of ours, and he has been in contact with consumer countries too and I think we are seeing a reversal of the trend at the moment. Some of the countries which are ideologically opposed to agreements are shifting their ground a little bit. But what changes things a little bit today, of course, is, as you say, the arrangements for the forthcoming agreement. Some countries have been looking for purely administrative agreements with no economic clauses, but we in Cd'lvoire do not believe that to be efficient. It is something we have tried out in the past. We, like most producing countries, believe we have to regulate the quantities put on the market -which is why the countries in the cocoa producers' alliance went to Abidjan and made proposals involving setting up a system of buffer stocks rather than quotas. That is what the producers suggest. Some of us think the quota system is too much of a constraint and not more efficient, as I have already mentioned. This is where the discussion has stuck for the moment, but I have every hope that we will find grounds for agreement.

One of the shortcomings of our agriculture...

· Isn't export-oriented agricultural diversification having an effect on food production in this country?

-One of the shortcomings of our agricultural system at the moment, I have to say, is the poor performance we are putting up with our food crops. Although we have no famine as such, it has to be admitted that something like rice, now a staple and widely consumed, is a major weakness. For example, we consume more than 600 000 t of rice every year, but we only produce about half of it. We cover 51% of consumption with the 330 000 t we produce and we can see that, with the towns expanding and pushing up rice consumption, because rice is good and it keeps, we have to make a firm, deliberate move to increase our rice output to self-sufficiency level if we want to avoid import bills of almost CFAF 65 billion (at today's rates) for the almost million tonnes of white rice we shall need come the year 2000.

A rice development plan has been put on the Government's desk and the Government is looking at the finance and everything else involved and we shall soon be giving all it takes to re-establish the country's food balance. There will be two sorts of production-rainfed rice accounting for 80% of output and irrigated lowland rice for the other 20%. This is a deliberate choice because, as you know, although you get a better yield from irrigated rice, it costs a lot more in terms of infrastructure. The year 2000 is only eight years away and we want to be self-sufficient and produce a million tonnes of white rice, the equivalent of 2 million tonnes of paddy, by then. We shall be developing 34 000 ha of lowlands, which will account for 20%, and the other 80% will be improved rainfed rice. We have developed 25 000 ha of lowland plots over the past 25 years, let me tell you, and it may not be easy, but we want to manage 34 000 ha more over the next eight or ten years.

· And your imported rice, I imagine, comes mainly from Asia. Do you import any from any African countries?

-I haven't finished answering your previous question on the measures we are going to take yet. I only dealt with production...

Well, we want the decisions on production and importation to be coordinated. Imports have been the business of the Ministry of Trade so far and production has been in the hands of the Agriculture Ministry and there is a certain dichotomy as a result. The statistics aren't harmonised. You might even say there is competition, harmful competition between cheaper, imported rice and the local rice we produce here, which costs more. We want to put a stop to that and we want to see imported products- because make no mistake about the fact that other countries produce rice more cheaply than we can-taxed and part of that tax go straight into financing local production. Those are the main lines of our policy. The tax added to bring the price of foreign products up would go straight into national production. That is a new and fundamental option.

· That's rather like what happens in Europe wits, the common agricultural policy. The tax on anything produced in the Community is low to encourage producers to trade within the common market and the tax on anything brought in from outside is higher...

-That's exactly what we want to do here. It will cost quite a lot to finance too -an estimated CFAF 1 12 billion to set it up and provide the infrastructure, the storage silos, the industrial processing units and so on-and we plan to cover a good percentage of this outlay with domestic revenue, i.e. tax. The rest will be multilateral aid. The European Community, for example, is giving us a lot of help with this.

· Where do your imports come from ? As you know, other African countries produce rice but don't manage to sell it at home or anywhere else in Africa. What do you think?

-The bulk of our imported rice does indeed come from Asia, mainly from Thailand, Pakistan and Vietnam more recently. But you have to realise that very little of the world rice output, barely 5% in fact, is actually marketed and that the biggest producers-China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines-eat almost all they produce and let only a very tiny amount go on the international market. The FAO has come up with some very reliable statistics showing that there could well be a huge shortfall in rice on the international market by the year 2000, which is one of the things behind our decision to produce rice ourselves. If our rice cannot be made competitive price-wise and quality-wise, we could well see ourselves with supplies that are both unreliable and very expensive by the year 2000. And I should add that we import a small amount of rice from the USA, which gives us the benefit of what they call PL480. It comes as aid, in a way, from the States and we sell it and use the money to develop local production. We are talking to the USA at the moment with a view to increasing the amount of PL480 rice we receive and we want to be able to process it ourselves in order to get our considerable industrial facilities working. Our industrial processing potential is now up past the 400 000 l-mark, but we don't use it all.

Is Cd'lvoire cooperating with other African countries on this:'

-There are two kinds of cooperation with African countries. First of all, on the research front, we have an inter-African organisation called WARDA, the West African Rice Development Association, which has its headquarters here in Bouake in Cd'lvoire and concentrates on different strains and growing methods. We also have working relations with Nigeria in the very high-powered Research Institute in Ibadan. Then all the Agriculture Ministers of West and Central Africa recently met in Dakar and then in Brussels to try and lay the foundations for an economic area in which a cereal market would be prominent. I know that Cameroon' for example, is making a success of growing rice at reasonable cost in the northern part of the country with the SEMRY programme in Yagoua and I am planning to send technicians from my department over to Cameroon to see what they are doing there and how we can develop our cooperation in the rice sector.

· Citrus fruit don't get such a good deal from the agricultural programme, do they... ?

-You are absolutely right. It has been neglected a bit, and wrongly, and the development plan we have just set up will be reviewing all that and we shall be running a major citrus growing and processing operation in central and northern Cd'Ivoire. We want to develop all this in conjunction with other things such as rice or livestock. We want modules for the savannah regions combining trees, food crops and fish farming and herding, with small processing units on the spot.

But you are right. Take pineapples. We set up local processing units which can handle something like 120000 t--and there we made the mistake of thinking too big.

Livestock and competition from imports

· The European Community is financing livestock programmes here, but they either don't work properly or could easily fail because there are people who apparently import second-grade meat from all over the world and Ivorian meat can't compete. So the livestock industry does badly. What can be done to protect your emergent animal industry?

-Briefly, the country has developed the animal sector in three stages. During the first phase, from independence to about 1980, we deliberately reduced our production potential under agreements we had with other countries in the subregion, especially those in the Sahel with no resources other than livestock. Cd'Ivoire voluntarily decided not to push up its production here, but to import from the other countries instead as proof of South-South cooperation. But when the climate changed in these countries and they had disaster on their hands and their herds were destroyed, we had to launch a programme to develop our own national production. Our herds increased a lot, by more than 4% p.a., between 1980 and 1986. But at this very moment, as we are moving into phase three, we are still a long way from self sufficiency, as we can cover barely 35-40% of the people's meat consumption. So we still import meat from the Sahel nations, but as you will remember, we have had unfair competition to cope with from meat from other countries-including, alas, the EEC. This has spoiled our production drive. One of the first things I did when I took over as head of this department was to slap compensatory levies on imported meat and use the revenue to develop national production. It seemed a bit Utopian to begin with, but it has had good results-we made almost CFAF I million in the first year, which isn't bad, and we are going to be able to do a lot for animal production with that. One of the big problems today is that we do not seem able to market large quantities even though we are not self-sufficient. This is because the marketing circuits are badly organised. Some of the people running them prefer imports despite the fact that we produce meat of our own. The money we make on the levies is being used to study the marketing system with a view to getting a better deal for the meat we and our sister countries produce.

· You are a long way behind in your implementation of Community cooperation, aren't you, Minister? What is the position in agriculture?

-I think it is fair to say that we get a great deal of help from the Community and that the aid comes through various channels. A few months ago, Mr Frisch came out here and we signed our indicative programme with the Community for the next five years. It comes to ECU 105 million and we have agreed that 50% of it should go into developing the rural sector. We need an enormous amount for rural development and there is no question of the funds not being put to full use. Quite the contrary-we are asking for funds.

Where things are lagging a little is in the schemes financed from EIB lines of credit. These resources are not always used, we have discovered, because there is a shortage of viable projects, but we are going to put this right by submitting proper schemes, particularly timber and agro-industrial ones.

· One last question-Stabex. What do you think about it? Does it get used properly ?

-Thank you for asking. As you know, Stabex, alas, does not cover all the losses we incur, because it only helps with those made on export earnings. The amounts we obtain from it are very helpful and we have always made good use of them in the agricultural sector. But this year, unfortunately, we are faced with problems which our countries fail to understand- and I think I can speak for more than Cd'Ivoire here. I go to Brussels for ACP-EEC meetings every year and I hear my colleagues saying how surprised they are at the problems of getting the Stabex funds moving this year. These delayed payments cause great losses in the cocoa and coffee industries. We lost almost CFAF 600 million on consignments we should have made in October-December 1991 and if we don't get our consignments going in February and March 1992, it will be another CFAF 2 billion. There are clauses which surprise us, because if you read Lomit doesn't lay down all the conditions we are forced to abide by today. This year, let me tell you, the conditions are far tighter than those of other funders, the World Bank and so on. It came as a great surprise and I hope that explanations will be given at the next ACP-EEC meetings.

Interview by L.P.