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close this bookCERES No. 096 - November - December 1983 (FAO Ceres, 1983, 50 p.)
close this folderCerescope
View the documentFood shortage strikes a growing number of African states
View the documentChallenge posed to marketing system for India's groundnuts
View the documentEgypt assesses strawberry's potential as export crop
View the documentFast-growing trees new energy source for the Philippines
View the documentChinese striving to upgrade efficiency in dairy industry
View the documentMultipurpose salmwood attracts attention as agroforestry candidate
View the documentIndonesia aims at farm systems tailored to local environments
View the documentPrices of fertilizers vary enormously at farm-gate level

Food shortage strikes a growing number of African states

For millions of people in more than score of African countries, prospects or a better diet appear more remote than ever as another year ends. Over the past few months an awesome combination of spreading drought, livestock disease, crop pests, civil strife, and foreign exchange shortages has further debilitated already weak patterns of agricultural production. Until next year's main cereal crops are harvested - in April or May in the southern hemisphere but not until October or November north of he equator - the extent of hunger and malnourishment will depend to a large degree upon the results of international efforts to bridge the widening gap between the total food import requirements of the affected countries and the amount they are able to purchase on a commercial basis.

For 22 African countries designated by a special FAO/WFP task force as being in need of exceptional international support, total food aid requirements for 1983-84 are estimated at 3.2 million metric tons, more than double all the food aid they received the previous 12-month period. As of the end of last September, less than 20 percent of this amount had been pledged by donors. Addressing a special meeting of affected and donor countries in Rome in mid-October, FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma warned that "suddenly we may be confronted with the situation that a significant proportion of the population of over 150 million of these twenty-two countries faces the most serious economic distress and shortage of food, which may reach proportions of hunger and malnourishment on a massive scale and will certainly result in a serious setback in the development process of these countries. "

A task force situation report made available to the Rome meeting stated that in all 22 countries stocks held by government, private traders and farmers either are already exhausted or will be before next year's crops are harvested The report estimated that the minimum additional food aid required in the next months would be one million tons, of which 700 000 tons represent exceptional needs of the affected countries. In addition to the food aid, the report also identified other external assistance requirements totaling US$76 million for essential production inputs, measures to control animal diseases, and post-emergency agricultural rehabilitation FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System reports that 1983 cereal production prospects are poor in most of the affected countries The decline in output has been especially sharp in southern Africa, where two years of successive drought have reduced the cereal harvest by 42 5 percent from the 1981 level. Seven of the 22 affected countries - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - are in this region. Aggregate cereal production for all 22 countries for 1983 is forecast at 13.9 million tons, more than 3 million tons below the 1981 harvest.

The difficulties that many of the affected countries faced during the past year in overcoming the shortfall in food supplies point toward even more critical shortages in the next nine months. Import requirements for the 1982/83 year were estimated at 4.4 million tons, but actual imports amounted to only 3.3 million tons, of which 1.8 were commercial imports, the balance being made up by food aid shipments. Commercial imports have remained stagnant at about 1.8 million tons during recent years, reflecting balance-of-payments constraints. Food aid shipments in the past year were 100 000 tons below the previous year. With import requirements forecast at 5 million tons for 1983/84 and foreign exchange problems still likely to curtail commercial purchases, the level of food aid shipments becomes even more critical.

Beyond pledges made by donor nations, getting food to where it is needed is a major problem, especially in landlocked countries. The task force found that some countries do not have sufficient vehicles to move the increased volumes of food they require, while others even lack the fuel to operate those vehicles they have.

Nearly half of the non-food external assistance requirements that were identified would be to support agricultural recovery after the emergency period, especially for the building up of seed reserve stocks. Multiple replanting undertaken during unfavorable sowing conditions in 1981/1982 and 1982/83 have created a serious shortage of suitable seeds.

Challenge posed to marketing system for India's groundnuts

Although India is one of the world's major producers of oil seeds, its domestic output averages only about one third of estimated requirements and the overall deficit in production has fluctuated from about 300 000 tons in good years to as much as 800 000 tons with poor harvests. Since most oil seed crops in India are rain fed, they are vulnerable to failure of the monsoon. Farmers are understandably cautious about making large investments in production. The oil seed trade has been noted for speculation and fluctuation in supplies and prices, in the western state of Gujarat, which accounts for about one-third of India's production of groundnuts, the main source of edible oils, the oil seed trade has been concentrated in the hands of a few politically powerful families The standard practice of traders has been to depress prices to producers artificially in good years by delaying the purchase of the crop and to force consumer prices up in bad years by withholding stocks of oil from the market.

These practices are now being challenged through an ambitious new project designed to create an integrated approach to oil seeds production, processing, and marketing and to give growers direct access to their markets, The spearhead of the new project is Dr Verghese Kurien, chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Indian Dairy Corporation. He has already made his mark in organizing Indian dairy farmers into a strong cooperative organization {see "Milk and justice", Ceres, Nov.-Dec. 1978). Now in its third year, the new project has already organized 850 village cooperatives in Gujarat province alone, involving between 50 000 and 60 000 farmers in the Gujarat Cooperative Oil seed Growers Federation. Initially, the project will concentrate on groundnut production; the major beneficiaries will be small to medium farmers There are a total of 347 000 groundnut growers of whom about two-thirds have holdings of less than 10 hectares.

Kurien was able to launch his project, valued at about $200 million, with donated food aid in the form of oil from Canada and the United States. He was thus able to establish a procurement, processing and delivery system for the farmers.

"The Federation owns two of the largest oil seed processing plants in Gujarat now," says Kurien, "and we are going to build three more new ones. Then we feed in the inputs to farmers to increase their production - better seeds, pesticides, aerial spraying, fertilizer supplies. So this whole thing is an integrated approach and the system is commanded by farmers. In my opinion, if you can do this for 10 or 15 percent of the total crop, then that is enough to discipline the competition, that is enough to ensure that the others have to pay similar prices. "

"Last year," Kurien explains, "we said that we would have groundnuts for 4 050 rupees per ton. The normal price would have been 3 100 rupees."

The principal aim of the project will be to help producers use new techniques that will protect them from climatic variation.

"We have 700 officers," says Kurien. "Their average age is about 29 years. They are highly trained and qualified, and very highly motivated. I have started the Institute of Rural Management in order to train managers to serve as employees of the farmers rather than going to multinational companies. We hope to provide managers who will go where their skills are most needed, rather than where their skills are most rewarded."

Egypt assesses strawberry's potential as export crop

Generally regarded as a luxury food, strawberries are often considered an appropriate crop for development funding, which traditionalists tend to see in terms of staple foods. But during the past two or three years, a small group of Egyptian farmers at Ismailiya, in the Suez Canal, have been able to demonstrate that a well planned strawberry production programme can provide other benefits than titillation of the palates of the rich.

For one thing, when produced in large quantities, strawberries respond to Egyptian consumer demand for fruit rich in Vitamin C, particularly March, April, and May when the orange crop ends and summer fruits are not available, thus reducing dependence on imported apples and bananas. The attractive financial returns to growers encourages them to remain on the land, counteracting one serious drain of able-bodied then migrating to the cities and broad. In addition, new jobs are being created in the plants that freeze and process the fruit. Finally, strawberry breeding provides a training found for local agricultural expertise that could be adapted and transferred other high-value crops that are suited to Egyptian soils such as tomatoes, asparagus, and artichokes. The catalyst for this venture in improved strawberry production was $85 000 FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project begun in 1981. Project funds were used to provide equipment for a tissue culture laboratory and strawberry Centre established at the University of Al Shams. At Ismailiya, chosen because of its light soil and favorable climate, 97 farmers who had no experience with this crop participated of the initial planting, a total of 28 hectares. A team of plant pathologists, entomologists, soil scientists, marketing experts, and extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture and the University visited the site two or three times each week to monitor the crop. Training courses were conducted for specialists, field engineers, and farmers. The constant contact between staff and the novice growers was credited with developing good working relationships and strong local support.

Results from the first season were highly encouraging. Average yields were 27.5 tons per hectare. With production costs estimated at approximately 7 500 Egyptian pounds per hectare and gross receipts at 27 500 pounds per hectare, allowing an average net profit of 20 000 pounds per hectare, this return compares favorably with any other crop grown in Egypt.

By the second season, many other farmers in the area wanted to grow strawberries and the area planted was increased to 600 hectares. This was increased to 1 000 hectares for 1983, and plantings of 1 800 hectares are projected for next year.

During the current crop year, emphasis has shifted to improving technological aspects of strawberry production. Packaging and shipping techniques are receiving particular attention. As part of this effort, some Ismailiya farmers have been sent to California to observe practices there.

Bolstered by these initial successes, Egypt is now gearing strawberry production for export markets. A five-year plan now calls for plantings of 10 000 hectares and a total production of 300 000 tons. Of this, half would be reserved for local consumption, 50 000 tons for processing, 50 000 tons for freezing, and 50 000 for direct export. Strawberries are regarded as an attractive means of bringing in foreign currency, helping to offset outlays for imported wheat. Major export markets will include other Arab countries and Western Europe, especially England, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Switzerland.

Fast-growing trees new energy source for the Philippines

Last June, just three years after the first trees had been planted, the new power plant at Bolinao, in a remote area of the Philippines' Luzon Island, began generation of electricity from wood fuel. One of two recently commissioned dendro-thermal power plants in the Philippines, the Bolinao project-has brought to the operational stage an unusual and previously untested concept in the energy field. What is probably most interesting about the Philippines' dendro-thermal programme is that it has multiple objectives: apart from developing wood as a renewable domestic source of energy, it is also intended to foster reforestation, to provide a new agricultural crop for waste land, and to offer new income opportunities in the rural sector.

Eleven other power plants are under construction and should begin operating within the next year. Tree planting is continuing at 36 farm sites where about 10 000 hectares of trees are already growing. Some 3 500 families, previously landless laborers, have been given 50-year leases to their plots and are engaged in the cultivation of fast-growing energy trees.

To cover the costs of wood lot development, estimated at about US$ 400 per hectare, farmers can obtain 12 per cent interest loans, repayable in eight years with four years grace. With a tree density of about 15 000 per hectare, it appears that yields will exceed 35 wet tons per hectare in the first harvest cycle and perhaps 10 per cent higher in the second cycle. It is expected that there will be about five harvests during the 20 year life span of the trees.

Farmers are guaranteed a farm gate price of US $7.50 for their wood. Production costs have been calculated at $4.70 per ton. This includes an allowance of $2.50 per ton for capital costs, $1.20 per ton for other expenses, and $1.00 per ton for the farmer's own lab our. The labour allowance is on the basis of $1.60 per day, and it is estimated that it takes five man hours to harvest, cut to length, and transport one ton of wood to the farm gate. On the basis of labour earnings from an estimated 200 days' work per year, plus the margin of $2.80 per ton, a farm family can be assured of $1 200 to $1 400 a year income, a very attractive income in the Philippine context for farmers who previously had no land. This figure would nearly double after the loan has been repaid.

On the basis of a farm gate price of $7.50 per ton for wood, it has been calculated that electricity can be sold from the plants at about $0.06 per kilowatt hour, a rate considered competitive with alternative sources of electricity in the Philippines. While no other site has yet duplicated the success achieved at Bolinao, Philippine authorities believe that at least a million hectares of land could be developed for energy tree production. This would mean producing the energy equivalent to 25 million barrels of oil, or about one-third of the nation's current oil consumption. Such a development would mean woodcut units for about 100 000 families and the creation of 150 000 new jobs, it is estimated that rural income would increase by $250 million annually. As a bonus, major strides would be made in reforesting the rapidly eroding Philippine hill" sides.

Chinese striving to upgrade efficiency in dairy industry

Probably few areas in the world are more ripe for major improvements in agricultural productivity than some of the underpopulated counties of Heilongjiang province in northeastern China. Foreign visitors are amazed to find there thousands of hectares of flat, tillable land still waiting to be farmed. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to modernize the agricultural sector in this region, but there have been periods, especially during the Cultural Revolution, when access to essential technical knowledge was difficult; the development of efficient farming operations suffered accordingly. The basic challenge to farm workers and managers has been to achieve a good mix of technical inputs. The experience of Anda County in its efforts to build up a highly specialized dairy cattle industry is illustrative of the frustrations that can arise as a result of unbalanced technological development.

While high-performance dairy cattle breeds are something of a rarity in most developing countries, Anda County has maintained well-bred herds of black-and-white Friesian cattle for nearly half a century. The original breeding stock was introduced in the mid-1930s through donations from the Netherlands and dispersed through the province for several hundred kilometers along the Bo-Jin railway from the capital at Harbin.

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, these improved breeds were assigned mainly to state farming enterprises, while the communes tended to keep with the traditional Yellow Chinese breed. The region suffers exceedingly cold winters and hot summers, so that much the same management techniques common to such other temperate continental climates as North America and Europe could be adapted to Chinese conditions. The Chinese, however, face some other natural constraints, the principal one being that most of the land is highly alkaline. It has been used over many centuries by Mongolian herdsmen for grazing of non-specialized herds and flocks. The more specialized state enterprises developed in recent times have tended to concentrate in less alkaline areas in order to be able to grow standard feed crops. As long term soil management strategies are developed, proper drainage schemes connected with the present irrigation system should be able to open up thousands of additional hectares where alkalinity is now too high for intensive crop production. Nevertheless, respectable yields are being obtained from maize, soybeans, mangers and sunflowers, crops for which much of the cultivation is done by hand, and from wheat, which is highly mechanized, including the use of self" propelled combines.

There have been ingenious local efforts to increase hay production from the native alkaline grass stands, but yields are low, generally less than one ton per hectare. One method of harvesting has been to use a large bulldozer-type tractor to pull as many as five converted horse-drawn knowers, hitched together and flanked out on one side of the tractor, while a huge towed hay rake on the other side gathers the swathes of the previous pass round the field. This outfit can cover a tremendous area each day. Unfortunately, because there is no equivalent mechanization for gathering the hay from the wind rows and transporting it to the sheds where it is to be fed to the cattle, loss in hay quality from exposure to rain results.

Another area in which some foreign consultants have observed difficulties is in the use of artificial insemination. This technique was introduced to the area during the 1960s, making it possible to draw upon semen from superior Friesian bulls located in the intensive dairy centres around Beijing and Shanghai. In this case, an attempt to economize by using reusable glass insemination pipettes rather than disposal sterilized plastic models led to widespread incidence of a uterine infection, metritis, resulting from difficulties in cleaning and sterilizing the glass pipettes between inseminations. Metritis causes infertility and results in long calving intervals, reducing the proportion of cows in the herd that are milked.

The Chinese have faced a dilemma in devising milking techniques that would maximize output from each cow. While milking machines are considered essential in dairy operations in industrialized countries in order to obtain the maximum amount of milk during the brief five- or six" minute period of "letdown" that follows udder massage, the Chinese have found that a large proportion of their milking cows do not have teats with shape or size adapted to the milking machine. They are thus faced with the prospect of culling a large number of otherwise productive cows simply to permit the introduction of equipment that would put many people out of work, or of milking several times a day in order to reduce the amount of milk in the udders at any particular milking and thus the time required for satisfactory milking. This, of course, would reduce the cow's time during the pasture season and might even reduce her feed intake when stable-fed during the winter. It remains to be seen whether the abundance of capable farm labour will be taken into account in further development plans.

Multipurpose salmwood attracts attention as agroforestry candidate

A fast-growing tree from Latin America is showing considerable promise both for commercial plantations and for agroforestry. Despite its valuable properties, however, Cordia alliodora, known in the Americas as laurel and in Britain as salmwood, has been tried outside South America on only a small scale.

Cordia wood commands a high market price because it seasons rapidly and is easy to work. It is suitable for furniture, veneer plywood, boat decking and railway sleepers. Though relatively abundant in South America, it is not generally available for export because of strong local demand.

Such a situation was forecast in a 1972 study which concluded that: "if Cordia is ever to become a major export wood, large scale forests must be established. Individual tree growth data suggests that such plantations will be economically feasible if factors influencing variability can be identified and controlled" (1). But although the species has been under testing since then, results are not yet widely available and large-scale plantations are still a thing of the future.

Cordia is found from Mexico to northern Argentina at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1 900 metres. It thrives in a wide variety of soil conditions though it prefers deep, well-drained soils. Due to its intolerance for shade, its establishment in natural forests probably depends on accidental gaps or human intervention.

Conscious of the value of its timber, South American farmers generally leave regenerated Cordia when clearing their fields and pastures. It is often deliberately introduced as shade cover for coffee, cocoa and sugar cane because of its light crown, which does not cut out the tight entirely.

Cordia can also be grown in highly productive agroforestry combinations with fruit trees and agricultural crops. Commenting on agroforestry trials being carried out in Costa Rica, John Beer of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center (CATIE) reports: "These associations often show a structure that imitates the natural forest of this region, in other words a multistrata system is cultured with the crowns of the timber-producing species forming the upper layer, leguminous shade trees, bananas and fruit trees forming the central layer and finally the agricultural crop, such as coffee or cacao, being grown at or near ground level."

Robin Levingston of FAO's Forestry Department suggests that salmwood could even be tried in combination with rice, maize or cassava, and as a support for pepper vines, assuming that the spacing is right. Levingston describes Cordia as "a moderately fast growing species, but in the upper moderate sector." Naturally this is dependent on the climate and on the characteristics of the individual Cordia. One plant at the: University of Michigan's botanical gardens grew from seed to a height of more than three metres in one year. Normal growth is about one and a half to two metres a year for the first five years. At maturity, under optimum conditions, Cordia can reach a height of more than 30 metres and a diameter of a metre or more.

Cordia requires relatively little silvicultural management, partly because of its ability to grow as an isolated tree and yet form a straight, self-pruned trunk. It suffers from no known serious pests, although under very humid conditions it can be damaged by pink disease. Aside from the value of the timber itself, the tree can serve a useful role in combatting erosion. In South America, various species have been put to work as "living" fence posts.

In the last analysis, however, Cordia's suitability for agroforestry comes down to a question of hard cash. In coffee plantations and sugar cane fields in Costa Rica, salmwood timber volumes of up to 130 cubic metres per hectare have been reported, worth approximately $8 000 per hectare if sold at local sawmills. The Costa Rica trials are attempting to measure the annual increase in wood value against the increase or decrease in crop value in the area influenced by the trees. On one experimental plot of Cordia and sugar cane, John Beer reported: "The yields of five-by-five metre plots beneath mature trees, with a stand density equivalent to 161 stems per hectare, were 85 percent of the control yields. But more research is needed for an economic comparison between the reduced profit from cane and the additional value of the wood."

Indonesia aims at farm systems tailored to local environments

In a five-year programme scheduled or launching next year, Indonesia will introduce a new approach to agricultural development planning designed especially to benefit small arm households. Known as Repelita V, Indonesia's plan will be the latest in a series that began in the 1960s and that has been credited with a umber of the country's agricultural successes to date. But while rapid progress was made in certain fields of agricultural development, a large proportion of the rural population as not benefited from these successes.

The primary tool of the latest plan will be an approach called Integrated -arming Systems Development (IFSD), a concept advocated last year in the report of an FAO Programming and Review mission that was sent to Indonesia under the auspices of the Organization's Technical Cooperation Programme. Among points made in the report was that Indonesia historically had developed commodities and commodity support programmes without adequately considering farmers' needs as a whole, crops determined the structure of research; few applied research results were available to farms as a whole in he various agro-ecological zones.

As a solution the report recommended the development of integrated arming systems that would:

- make maximum use of available natural resources;
- respond to the socio-economic needs of the community;
- ensure environmental protection;
- make optimum use of family labour, applying appropriate skills and inputs both on and off the farm;
- ensure that farm income stability and food security are further strengthened by action on the community

The FAO mission foresaw two distinct spheres where IFSD techniques could be of great value in developing Indonesian agriculture:

The first would be in generating viable farming systems in the country's outer islands, according to the requirements of each agro-ecological zone and the socio-economic structure of each area concerned, including those used by transmigrate settlers. (See Cerescope, September-October 1982.)

The second would be in rationalizing and improving the existing farming systems in heavily populated areas to increase productivity within the limits of their human carrying capacity, to improve nutrition and generally to raise living standards of the rural population.

The mission's report also included recommendations for a framework of technical assistance which, if realized, could go a long way toward helping Indonesia solve the equity problem for its teeming population.

Meanwhile, negotiations have begun for a key UN Development Programme project that would assist the Indonesian Government in establishing a network to monitor "agro-ecological farming systems development". The immediate objective would be to support and accelerate the evolution and expansion of the Government's integrated farming systems programme for different agro-ecological and socioeconomic environments in the country. The outputs foreseen included accurate information on the main agro-ecological zones in Indonesia, technologies for integrated farming systems, full-scale area development projects, and an evolved and restructured institutional support system.

The project would help to prepare the ground for launching the Government's IFSD programme and to support its implementation. It would also include testing technologies in pilot operations, preparing development projects for investment and building institutions.

It is proposed that the project be implemented in six stages. The first should be implemented next year with the establishment of a main Integrated Farming Systems Development Centre (IFSDC) in either Jakarta or Bogor under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture. This Centre would eventually operate as the head of the main AFSD network.

A second stage, starting in 1985, would involve establishing two or three sub-centres and three or four pilot schemes in various zones. Pilot operations "should follow a pattern of a gradual introduction of technologies", starting first from the improvement of existing practices with minimum management inputs. Beginning in 1986, a third stage would involve establishing four to five sub-centres and five to six pilot schemes. Eventually, beginning in either 1986 or 1987 and following through to 1988, Stages IV and V would mark the development of full-scale development projects as data accumulated. These would require external investment. It was envisaged that Stage VI begin in 1987 when strategies for land use planning for the outer islands would be developed.

Prices of fertilizers vary enormously at farm-gate level

Increased application of fertilizers has been credited with achieving about 55 per cent of the total increase in yields in developing countries between 1965 and 1976. In those more optimistic days of the green revolution, annual growth rates in fertilizer consumption in the developing world exceeded 10 per cent, more than double the rate of growth in the industrialized world. The momentum has faltered in more recent years as a result of the balance-of-payments difficulties faced by many developing countries and the weakening of many currencies against the dollar, in which international fertilizer prices are normally calculated. Thus a lower dollar price does not necessarily convert to a lower price in terms of the domestic currency of the importing country. Beyond this, at the level of the ultimate consumer, the farmer, it is evident that government pricing policies, subsidies and marketing costs and margins can significantly alter the cost of a ton of fertilizer and thereby become incentives or disincentives for increased fertilizer use.

To cite an extreme example: The ax-factory price of a ton of urea in the Philippines in 1982 was $187, which was $27 a ton less than the cost of a ton of urea in neighbouring Malaysia. Total marketing costs and margins in the Philippines were also less, $97 a ton as compared with $113 a ton in Malaysia. Thus the retail price of urea to a Philippines farmer was $284 a ton. Ostensibly, his counterpart in Malaysia would be paying $327 a ton, or almost 15 percent more. However, farmers in Malaysia with holdings of less than 2.4 hectares receive a 100 percent subsidy for fertilizer they purchase, and so, in effect, receive the fertilizer gratis.

It might be tempting to relate this piece of information to the fact that use of all fertilizers in Malaysia, at an average rate of 92.3 kg per hectare of arable land, is not only above the Asian average of 68.5 kg/ha but also above the world average of 78.5 kg/ha and almost triple that of the Philippines at 32.4 kg/ha. However, judging from data developing in recent surveys conducted by FAO in Asia and Africa none of the relationships is likely to be so tidy. Three FAO marketing specialists, H. J. Mittendorf and H. Trupke, of the Rome headquarters, and C. Y. Lee, of the Regional Office in Bangkok, recently compiled a progress report on the results of ongoing surveys which reveal dramatic differences in marketing costs and margins as well as in government subsidies in a group of 15 selected Asian and African countries.

According to the 1982 data, three groups of countries can be differentiated according to the level of marketing costs. The group with the lowest cost (US$5-50) includes Bangladesh, Burma, the Gambia, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan. In the medium group ($50-100) are Republic of Korea, Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. The highest costs ($100170) are registered for Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, and the Sudan. The share of the total marketing cost in per cent of the total cost of fertilizers at farm level (unsubsidized) ranged in Asia from 12 per cent (India) to 47 percent (Sri Lanka) and in Africa from 22 per cent (the Gambia) to 45 per cent (Nigeria). In the majority of the countries the share of the marketing costs of the farmers' price ranged from 20 to 30 per cent. The major cost items are illustrated in the accompanying graph.

Transport is a major cost item in most countries, amounting to about 20 to 40 percent of the total marketing costs, or between $12 and $25 per ton. Thailand reports relatively low transport costs of only $5 per ton, which may be due to efficient transport arrangements, such as utilization of return loads and water transport.

In the Gambia transport costs also are relatively low because of close integration of produce and input marketing and the extensive use of river transport. Nigeria and Sudan show the highest transport costs of ail countries surveyed. This is obviously partly due to their vast size, but there are also indications that infrastructural limitations and lack of return loads contribute considerably to these high costs.

The exceptionally high transport costs recorded for Nepal, as compared with other countries in the region, are mainly due to the transport costs from Calcutta to the Nepalese border and the high cost of clearing agents.

Interest on capital tied up in stocks is another major cost item ranging from 20 to 50 percent of the total marketing costs (from $2 to $38 per ton), suggesting that financing of stocks should be carefully reviewed. For instance, Bangladesh and Nigeria do not report any interest on operational capital. As the case of Korea shows, the inclusion of this important item in 1982 more than doubled the marketing costs, as compared with 1981 when it was omitted. More efficient stock management, e.g., faster turnover, timely subsidy payment by the governments, and easier access to institutional credit could help in bringing down capital costs.

The aggregate margins of fertilizer marketing enterprises (importers, wholesalers, retailers) were estimated by deducting the identified cost of transport, storage, bagging, handling, losses, taxes/levies, interest, and others from the total marketing costs. These net margins of dealers amounted in Asia to between $3 and $30 per ton or between 1 and 12 percent of the retail price. An exceptionally high margin of $50 was reported from Sri Lanka. In Africa margins between $9 and $64 were registered.

The surveys also provided information on the subsidies that governments grant to stimulate fertilizer application. Aside from the cases of Malaysia and the Philippines already mentioned, subsidy in most Asian countries amounted to 20 to 40 percent of the real cost of the fertilizer or about 4 to $70 per ton. In Africa, only the Sudan does not provide any subsidy, while in the Gambia the subsidy is more than 62 percent and Nigeria 75 percent. No accurate cost details are available for Tanzania, but the given subsidy of 46 percent seems to be partly required support the local fertilizer industry.

The FAO specialists have also pointed out that further more detailed studies will be needed to clarify each national situation and to identify possible measures for improvement. For instance, the exceptionally high cost of bagging and handling in Malaysia be due to the extensive use 20-kg bags instead of the usual 50-kg bags. Malaysia also shows the highest taxes/levies component in the whole region. It appears that high duties are charged to protect the local industry. Alternative ways, however, may be found for the benefit of the small farmer. Similarly, no ready explanation can be found for the high dealer margins in Sri Lanka and Sudan, or the high interest rates in Korea and the Philippines.

While regional or inter-regional comparisons are difficult, the data suggest that marketing costs and margins are generally higher in Africa than in Asia, the only exception being the Gambia. There are a number of explanations for this. African infrastructure in general is less developed. Transport facilities are less reliable. Many government organizations that handle fertilizer distribution lack the proper cost accountancy procedures that would permit valid analyses of efficiency in marketing. A further obstacle is the lack of coordination between the marketing of fertilizers and the marketing of agricultural commodities. Considerable cost reductions could be achieved if the two functions could be integrated.

FAO is presently organizing a seminar on Fertilizer Marketing Policies for Eastern and Southern African Countries tentatively set for Zimbabwe in February 1984. It has also been proposed to convene an expert consultation in Bangkok to discuss a regionally standardized survey methodology and the appropriate intervals at which data should be collected and analysed.