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close this bookCERES No. 101 - Septembe r- October 1984 (FAO Ceres, 1984, 50 p.)
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FAO Review on Agriculture and Development:
Food security: fashioning a policy framework

''Tobacco economics'' decried as sham by medical experts

The short-term attractions of growing tobacco seem evident enough, particularly in developing countries faced with high unemployment, limited tax revenues, unstable prices for commodities, and lack of capital and technical expertise. Tobacco can be grown on marginal soils, and supplies of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides as well as training and supervision are usually available. Tobacco companies often offer loans to producers or help them to get credit to buy tractors and other equipment. The market for the crop is normally stable, and many buyers pay in US dollars, providing national governments with much needed foreign exchange.

This picture, however, is far from complete. Many developing countries are becoming involved in a process that could be deleterious in terms of both public health and longer-term national economic interest.

Third World countries, already overburdened with diseases associated with poverty, malnutrition, and lack of health care, now appear to be risking the additional costs and problems of the tobacco-linked diseases that have long been of concern to developed countries. In recent years, cigarette consumption in developing countries has been increasing at significantly higher rates than in the industrialized world In Pakistan, where tobacco is an important cash crop, more than 80 per cent of males over 15 years of age use tobacco, according to a report in the WHO Chronicle Another set of statistics shows that carcinoma of the bronchus, trachea, and lungs, once the fourth most frequent tumor in males, moved up in just four years 1197478) to first place. In Thailand, one fifth of the population over 10 years of age smokes, mainly cigarettes, at a per caput average of 10 cigarettes a day. Meanwhile, physicians warn, heart disease and obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as cancer of the lung, have shown a steady upward climb. The WHO Chronicle also reported that in China, a nation of heavy smokers, lung cancer cases doubled between 1963 and 1975. A similar trend was evident in the Philippines, where tobacco is second only to oil as a source of government revenue. Lung cancer is now the most common cancer among men and is increasing among women

The WHO publication, Tobacco Report, announced in 1982 that "In the developing world, cigarette consumption is growing at a rate of 3.9 per cent, stimulated by the aggressive marketing of the tobacco companies. In contrast, the growth rate in the western world is 1.2 per cent."

"The most alarming trend," Dr Halfdean Mahler, Director-General of WHO, told participants in the Fifth World Conference on Smoking and Health in Winnipeg, Canada, last year, "is toward major increases in tobacco consumption in developing countries.

In some of these countries smokers form the majority, or are close to it. This is not purely fortuitous, since we now know that the major tobacco companies in the world have set their sights on this population to offset declining sales in industrialized countries. "

Even much earlier, in its 1977 annual report, the largest firm in this field, British-American Tobacco Company Ltd., told its shareholders how sales in the Third World were prospering. "In Brazil... another successful year achieving higher sales volume together with increased prices, improved profits... in Venezuela a very successful year with substantially higher volume and increased market share.... The companies in Central America generally showed improved sales volume and profits.... Overall sales and profits (in Asia) have again moved ahead... in Indonesia, higher profits were achieved owing to an increased share of an improved market... in Kenya, high growth in sales..."

Aside from the direct threat to human health posed by increased cigarette consumption, the competition created by tobacco cultivation for land that might be used for food production causes concern in some quarters. A delegate to the World Conference on Smoking and Health last year warned that in the Sokoto region of Nigeria" tobacco thrives in flood plains where rice would normally be expected to grow," The delegate, Dr Deji Femi-Pearse, said the net result of such displacement of staple food crops is that rice now has to be imported into Nigeria.

Although the world's tobacco crop, per se, occupies only 0.3 per cent of all arable land, wood requirements for building tobacco barns and fueling kilns have contributed substantially to deforestation, especially in countries that have found the cost of petroleum fuels prohibitive. (See Ceres, May-June, 1979, page 11.) It is calculated that between two and three hectares of forest are required to cure one ton of tobacco. That means, for example, that annual tobacco production in Kenya requires the felling of from 5 000 to 8 000 hectares of forest each year. The Kenya Green Belt Movement estimates that at the present rate of felling, there will be no trees left in Kenya by the year 2000.

Journalist Praful Bidwal recently gave a graphic description in The Times of India of the impact of tobacco cultivation: "In the central black soil belt of Andhra Pradesh," he wrote, "one can hardly see a tree taller than five feet. In Guntur district, the first in India to grow Virginia tobacco, about 200 000 hectares of land that were once forests or cultivable fallows and pastures are now no more than a horrifying barren waste, where nothing may grow.... The process is now being replicated in the northern and southern districts.... The devastation continues relentlessly."

Another long-term consideration is the destabilizing effect of growing tobacco as a cash crop on the structure of agriculture as a whole. "It is true that tobacco now provides employment for many small farmers and tenants," says Dr Roberto Masironi, technical officer in charge of the WHO Smoking and Health Programme, "but sooner or later the wave of mechanization that has swept across United States' tobacco farms will also reach the Third World. As agribusiness takes over, the small farmer and the tenant will find themselves jobless, and often will be forced to sell the land that provided food for their ancestors for generations. Willy-nilly, they will join the trek to the urban centers, adding more millions of hungry people to the swelling populations of the shantytowns."

Some 120 developing countries now grow tobacco. The markets in which producers sell their crop is usually tightly controlled, since the manufacturing side of the industry is characterized by a small number of huge enterprises that do not compete on price. Fifty-five per cent of the world's cigarette output is accounted for by state monopolies that are found in both centrally planned and market economies. The remaining 45 per cent of the market is dominated by seven international conglomerates, led by British-American Tobacco with 119 factories in 52 countries and sales that had reached $9.2 billion by 1978. Most of these manufacturers also have licensing arrangements through state monopolies in both Eastern and Western Europe and in developing countries, thus extending the degree of their control. UNCTAD has estimated that these firms handle from 85 to 90 per cent of all leaf tobacco entering international trade.

"When all these factors are weighed," says Dr Masironi, "it becomes evident that for the developing countries the cultivation of tobacco is a no-win situation. They are losers on the economic side of the ledger because in most cases they are only growers of tobacco. The lion's share of annual profits from the industry accrue to the manufacturers of cigarettes. The developing countries lose again when they become consumers, because the money they receive for growing the tobacco is increasingly being recouped by the manufacturers as their exports of cigarettes to the developing countries increase. The hoped-for net gains in earnings are simply being wiped out as domestic smoking rises. They are also losers in terms of the threat to the health of people who are already sorely deprived of the means to defend themselves against disease, and they are again heavy losers because of the long-term threat to social balance that tobacco cultivation represents."

In a study commissioned by WHO, two researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada recently examined the relative costs and benefits of the tobacco industry in that country and produced results refuting the view that smoking benefits a country's economy. Counting business and personal incomes, wages, and salaries, as well as official taxes, W.E. Forbes and M.E. Thompson calculated that annual benefits came to about Can $3 billion. (This even included a calculation of the saving to the national budget resulting from premature deaths of smokers who would otherwise draw state pensions.) In contrast, the investigators estimated, costs, including physicians' services, hospital bills, drugs, and administrative services, would amount to $2.4 billion. To this was added another $1.5 billion estimated as the loss of productivity caused by smoking-related health ailments. Thus, total costs exceeded total benefits by nearly Can $1 billion.

In the United States, the American Cancer Society has estimated direct health costs of smoking at $15 billion annually, compared with an annual value of the tobacco crop of $2.3 billion.

Dr Masironi argues the case for alternative crops to tobacco, including cereals, pulses, sugar-cane, bananas, coconuts, pineapple, many vegetables, and cotton. "If part of the attraction of tobacco is the possibility of stable market prices, then it is an urgent responsibility for the international community to take action to offer similarly stable prices for other crops," declares Dr Masironi. "Tobacco economics is sham economics. No more and no less."

Going underground for storage needs becomes a science

During the last decade, the possibility of using underground space for a variety of purposes has attracted increasing attention. One sign of the growing interest: the United Nations Committee on Natural Resources has identified subsurface space as a natural resource. There is even a magazine devoted exclusively to the subject: Underground Space, the official journal of the American Underground Space Association.

The United Nations, in collaboration with the Government of Sweden, sponsored a workshop in Stockholm on the utilization of subsurface space in developing countries with emphasis on underground storage of food and water.

Underground storage of food is not new. It dates back to neolithic times and was used in many grain growing, regions of the world until the beginning of the nineteenth century Many warm countries, such as Ethiopia, India, Somalia, Cameroon, and China, where cereals were the staple food, preserved large bulks of grain underground. One example is the "Hanjia cellars" in Henan province, China, built some 1 300 years ago with a total capacity of half a million tons of grain. When they were excavated recently, samples of their grain were found to be in a remarkable state of preservation.

Because they are airtight and insects and fungi cannot survive without oxygen, underground structures could achieve effective pest control with comparative ease. Preventing the progressive dampening of the stored grain, aggravated by the presence of ground water, has been a greater problem. In the past 200 years, large surface warehouses and silos have been more successful in overcoming this handicap.

Nonetheless, a number of countries, including China and the USA, have accumulated considerable experience in the underground storage field in more recent times. In Argentina and Kenya, pit and trench storage has been used on an emergency basis for large cereal surpluses.

At present, the desire to keep larger stocks of the main staples closer to the areas where they are to be eventually consumed spurs the demand for storage space, particularly for cheap storage space within the large metropolitan areas, where available space is usually at a premium.

The question thus arises: Can subsurface storage meet this demand better than conventional warehouses and silos?

Some participants at the Stockholm workshop two years ago advised caution. "Underground construction is expensive," said Anders Forsse, Director-General of the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA). "It requires sophisticated technology and elaborate and complicated equipment - the very opposite of what we usually refer to as adapted techniques."

"The aim," said Enzo Fano, a senior official in the United Nations Division of Natural Resources and Energy, "is to convince decision makers that the exploitation of underground space must form an integral part of the planning process, that the planning should be done ahead of time, rather than belatedly and at far greater cost."

In many countries grain is put in 50- to 100-kg bags for transport and storage in flat warehouses. More sophisticated systems rely on bulk collection, transport, and storage in silos. Initial investment costs, which range from $100 to $200 per ton for flat warehouses, are closer to $400 for bulk storage facilities.

In some special cases, such as where unused mines have become available, either of these grain handling systems can achieve lower initial costs. Otherwise, costs can be reduced by the economy of scale or by combining storage of lower-cost staples with that of higher-cost commodities or processed foods.

Silos are not actually intended for long-term storage; they are, rather, a facility to handle grain in bulk and should, ideally, have a turnover of stocks several times each year. On the other hand, government reserve stocks or the larger lots handled by the trade might be stored more cheaply underground. Potatoes could also benefit from combined underground storage, since optimum conditions for their preservation approach closely those provided by underground storage methods in the absence of mechanical cooling equipment. (Potatoes cannot, however, be kept in airtight storage.)

There may, of course, be many reasons other than cost to advocate underground storage - safekeeping of national stocks for civil defense or for disaster and famine relief, for example, or lack of surface space in heavily built-up areas, or because of health regulations.

Many such reasons accrue in the case of water. The traditional way of storing large amounts of water in surface dams or reservoirs has a number of drawbacks, including heavy evaporation losses, sedimentation of reservoirs, or risk of contamination. The Scandinavian countries appear to be leading a trend toward storage of drinking water in caverns blasted in rock. In Norway, health authorities no longer accept open municipal reservoirs for storage of drinking water

As household heads, women encounter social, legal bias

Women head at least 30 per cent of all households in many developing countries According to a recent International Labour Office study by Nadia Youssef and Carol Hetler, most of these fall well below the poverty line. In sub-Saharan Africa most women-headed poor households are in rural areas; in Latin America they are divided about evenly between rural and urban areas. Everywhere, the efforts of women who are sole providers for their families to improve their economic situation are often frustrated by a variety of laws, customs, and biases. Some of the obstacles encountered by these women are:

- Many civil and inheritance codes, even ones that cover areas under land reform or resettlement programmes, explicitly or implicitly exclude women from land ownership.

- Formal or cooperative credit systems discriminate against female clients, leaving them no recourse except traditional loan sharks.

- Women lack access to innovations in agricultural and animal husbandry techniques, which restricts their productivity and earning power.

- Most agricultural and rural extension programmes overlook women's productive and managerial roles and direct their attention almost entirely toward men.

The study contends that the growing phenomenon of women-headed households is "closely linked to processes of economic modernization, internal and international migration, the mechanization of agriculture and the resulting surpluses of labour, and the existence of a system of wage labour." In these conditions, the study says, many men "may become unable to assume financial responsibility for their families and abandon them, leaving women to assume the family's "economic burden." However, the largest contributor to the rise of female-headed households has been outward migration for employment.

Left to act as decision makers, but usually lacking the necessary legal status, women are in a socially and economically vulnerable position. Remittances from absentee husbands cannot always be relied upon. In Lesotho, the study reports, only 50 per cent of the woman-headed house holds received remittances. In Pakistan and India, male members of the family, not the wife, usually receive the remittances.

The number of single mothers is also growing in significance, especially in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In Botswana, 80 per cent of all unmarried women above the age of 25 have children. Often, the fathers of their children have m migrated to urban centres or abroad, but the study also found that unwed mothers in some African countries prefer to stay single "to avoid polygamy, to retain their freedom, or because they cannot rely upon the financial support of their partners".

Although women's greater average longevity results in "a pool of widows who have few options in rural areas to improve their conditions", the study says that they are rarely recognized as a group needing special consideration, job opportunities, or assistance. "The lack of support on the part of both the family and the community has meant that in many settings widows have had to establish independent households."

According to the study, the majority of women-headed households in the Third World range in size from two to four persons. Since a disproportionate share of poor households are dependent on women, children in these families are especially affected and risk being trapped in the marginalized existence of their mothers.

The study urges "a redirection of development thinking" to help alleviate the plight of the many millions of people involved. Remedial measures should be incorporated into policies intended to benefit poor rural women and poor households in general but ought to contain specific elements directed to women who are family providers. There is need, the study suggests, to involve these women more actively in decisions relating to community activities, extension programmes, cooperatives, and problems related to production and credit. "There must be recognition that a critical component of motherhood among the poor consists not only in the woman being the nurturer but in being the economic provider as well. This means that rural women will now have to be perceived not only as subsistence cultivators, but as economic beings and wage earners who are in need of employment and income generating opportunities."

Trauma of acid rain: is Third World's turn coming?

International forestry experts have drawn up new guidelines to help countries confront the growing problem of acid rain. In broad areas of central Europe and eastern North America, trees are suffering from the effects of sulphur and nitrogen oxides that are chemically transformed in the atmosphere and fall to earth as acids in precipitation or as acid-forming particles. Needles and leaves yellow and drop prematurely, crowns thin or snap off, and ultimately trees die. Even those that appear unhurt are often declining in growth and productivity.

Although scientists cannot yet fully explain how the damage is occurring, acid rain and air pollutants are apparently weakening forests beyond their ability to cope with such other stresses as drought and disease. Rain, snow, and fog in many industrial regions is now 10 to 30 times more acidic than it would be in an unpolluted environment. The acids come from sulphur and nitrogen oxides emitted during the burning of fossil fuels and smelting.

Ironically, the phenomenon of acid rain has developed mainly as a consequence of attempts during the past two decades to clean up air in built-up areas. Tall smokestacks designed to disperse heavy emissions high into the atmosphere, such as the International Nickel company's 380-metre stack in Sudbury, Canada, have merely sent pollutants to other areas hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometers away. The longer the sulphur and nitrogen oxides remain in the atmosphere, the more probable it is that oxidation will turn into sulphuric and nitric acid, the main components of acid rain. Acid rain adds hydrogen ions to the soil which displace important nutrients. Research has also indicated that as soil becomes more acidic, heavy metals such as aluminium become soluble and attack tree filaments, diminishing the tree's ability to nourish itself. Chemical reactions involving nitric acid lead to the formation of ozone, which removes the protective waxy covering of foliage. During the past dozen years, emission levels of sulphur dioxide, blamed for about 70 per cent of the acidity in acid rain, have stabilized or declined in Europe and America as a result of antipollution measures, but emissions of odourless nitrogen oxide have continued to increase markedly. Since the 1950s, nitrogen oxide emissions have tripled in Canada.

Although acid rain at present afflicts mainly industrialized countries, trends indicate that the Third World's turn may not be far off. Large regions of Brazil, Southern India, Southeast Asia, and eastern China feature the soil types most susceptible to acidification. And in most developing countries, following the path taken by industrialized nations at the beginning of the century, plans call for vast increases in coal burning. Sulphur dioxide emissions have tripled since the early 1960s in India. In cities there and in China, rain has been measured with a pH of 4.5 or below, roughly the same level as in the areas of Europe and North America where trees are dying. Of special concern for developing countries is acid rain's potential impact on plantation forestry. Altered soil conditions brought about by acidification can inhibit the functioning of microorganisms such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which are important in the development of plantations on degraded lands, where much tree planting is in progress.

Only a few countries in the world require that power plants control their sulphur dioxide emissions. New plants in the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Netherlands must by law install "scrubbers", flue gas desulfurization (FGD) equipment, which cuts sulphur dioxide emissions by 80-90 per cent, adding 10-15 per cent to electricity costs. The technology to limit nitrogen oxides similarly, with selective catalytic reduction (SCR), also exists, but few steps have been taken to install it. Only in Japan, where pollution controls account for a quarter of the total cost of coal power and electricity bills are among the highest in the world, are plants obliged to deal with both sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. New technologies are being developed which control both sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Fluidized bed combustion (FBC), in which crushed coal is burned on limestone suspended by injected air, reduces sulphur dioxide by 90 per cent while cutting nitrogen oxide by as much as 35 per cent. The Limestone Injection Multistage Burner (LIMB), still in the pilot-test stages, promises to remove 50 to 70 per cent of both gases simultaneously.

Behind technology always looms the question of cost, the would-be pollution-fighter's biggest foe. "Pollution control is a very expensive business," one forestry specialist explains. "To convince people to do something about acid rain, you must first prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that a problem exists."

Establishing a standard framework for compiling such proof was one of the achievements of a meeting of an ad hoc working group of the FAO European Forestry Commission this past June in Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany. The group, discussing the impact of air pollution on forests, recommended that countries follow a four-part programme in dealing with acid rain, including: - establishment of stations to measure the amount of deposition - periodic surveys of forest health - periodic national surveys of tree growth and yield - observation of stand and soil properties in permanent plots.

Such a framework is, of course, relevant only in places where the problem of acid rain already exists. Developing countries are in the position of being able to avoid reaching that point. Crucial to the Third World's future is long-term planning which recognizes the necessity for controlling the emission of sulphur and nitrogen oxides and the fact that such preventive programmes are vastly cheaper if undertaken from the start. New power stations fired with normal or high-sulphur fuels, for example, must have flue gas desulphurization incorporated at the beginning.

Dairy productivity: where comparison is especially invidious

Official statistics reveal the perplexing fact that one cow in lactation in Israel (the world-record holder) produces as much milk as 45 in Tanzania. But isolated figures cannot, of course, communicate the realities of milk production in these two countries, nor of the needs or priorities to which they, or any country, must respond.

For example, where nomadism is still widespread or where milk production is distributed among many small farms, sometimes at the rate of only a few head of cattle per family, it is very difficult to count the number of livestock and the amount of national milk production. The census is often a matter of judgment; even in developed countries, it is not always possible to obtain official figures.

It is also necessary to be wary of definitions: in developed countries, the category "cows in lactation" consists of selected and highly specialized herds, whereas in developing countries all cows are considered "in lactation", even if they are kept for purposes other than milk production, such as meat production, breeding, or simply testimony to the owner's wealth.

This should be reason enough to realize that it is not a simple matter for the country with the lowest rate of return to increase its milk production, other problems lurk behind the figures.

The demographic explosion or overgrazing, for example, are incitements to producers to reduce numbers of their herds or to improve the yield of their dairy cows; but such decisions sometimes involve contradictory choices: use and production of cow dung, an important source of fuel in countries where shortage of fuelwood is becoming a more and more worrying problem, can be affected; the specialization of resources which recently had many uses can deprive people of valuable inputs.

Before even posing the problem of the very costly selection of a higher yielding breed of dairy cows (Holstein, Simmenthal, Normandy), the improvement of the animals' fodder and water - the first and necessary stage of a programme for increasing milk production - can equally create new difficulties for producers or initiators of these projects The use of a part of the available water or cereal resources for feeding livestock risks a corresponding diminution of resources allocated for human consumption. The importation of animal feed stuffs further burdens the budget for cereal imports. Certainly, experts affirm, certain problems can be solved - and the solution is not new - by managing national forage resources differently; but a country that exports groundnut oil cakes or molasses, used for feeding livestock in countries of the North, will perhaps hesitate - which is not new either - to re-route these products toward the domestic market and thus lose foreign exchange, which is sometimes needed even to assure the country of its supply of cereal.

While the quantity of food resources aimed at humans needs to be increased, is increasing milk production necessarily the best solution? Besides the basic crop transformations that would often be presupposed, the creation of dairy farms requires an equally important investment, at the level of installations themselves and, all along the chain of production, up to distribution to the consumer; in the absence of an efficient system, the losses, which could be considerable in the case of a product as perishable as milk, risk canceling any accomplishments up to that point in the production process.

Since milk production requires large investments, it is important to make as much use as possible of local resources, whether it is a question of choosing between cattle and its fodder. In order to resolve the problems and to reduce the expenses inherent in the disposal of production, some today suggest other procedures. One of the most interesting of these, especially in rural areas, is the in-place conversion of milk into cheese and butter, products already used by the population and for which transport and preservation pose fewer problems than for milk.

Despite the undeniable need for food production to increase, and the equally undeniable usefulness of statistics, the case of milk production invites prudence in the examination of statistics. As merely indicators of tendencies, they do not always reveal that certain countries, like Israel, have chosen self-sufficiency over profitability. The figures are necessary, but they are sometimes difficult to interpret.

World beef markets hang on interpretation of product quality

The world beef market is often said to be "more balanced" on the basis of supply and demand than most other markets. At any rate, within the livestock sector, the beef market has one of the highest degrees of protectionism today, especially in the market economies of the northern hemisphere. Furthermore, there are many who, under the aegis of such organizations as FAO and GATT, recommend that such barriers be lowered: the few real actions taken up till now have not been sufficient to normalize a market whose distortions are particularly injurious to countries with low production costs, whether developed or developing.

It is quite clear, thanks to the technical restrictions imposed by certain importing countries - in other words, quotas or animal health regulations - the complexity of a market constituted (as GATT emphasizes) of two distinct international markets. All the import-export movement in this area is tied to the quality of the production. Exporters of high quality beef, such as the US and Canada, prohibit imports of livestock or meat from countries where rinderpest or foot-and-mouth disease are endemic, but import huge quantities of canned or cooked/frozen beef from countries like Argentina and Uruguay, a practice also followed by Japan. The European countries, essentially those of the EEC (it too an exporter of beef), authorize imports of uncooked beef from countries affected by these diseases, but only from disease-free regions. Thus it is that the North American and Japanese markets are supplied largely by producers from Australia and New Zealand, while their African counterparts (new arrivals to the market and grappling with serious animal health problems) and Latin America must find their outlets for uncooked meat in Europe and on the new markets of North Africa and the Arab world, where health regulations are less stringent.

"The greatest obstacles to trade for developing countries are health regulations," declares one GATT official, "but such measures are completely legitimate." It is a necessity recognized by the exporters themselves, and conforms to the need (GATT Article XX) to protect the health of both consumers and livestock. But some countries maintain that these regulations are, in certain cases, too severe This concern was also expressed at the Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Group on Meat, held at FAO in December 1980, which agreed that "the problems arising from the application of animal health regulations could be mitigated if the application of these regulations... was within an internationally agreed framework.... preferably in a binding multilateral arrangement."

Of the many tariff barriers used, the simplest and most common remains customs duties. In Japan, for example, the importer pays 25 per cent of declared value in duty. On the other hand, Egypt, in some years the world's fourth largest beef importer (depending on cyclical variations in supply and demand) after the United States, the European Community, and the Soviet Union, applies no duty.

The variable levies system, devised by the Scandinavian countries, was conceived to protect internal markets. Today it is used largely in Europe. Variable levies represent the difference, to be paid by the importer, between the purchase price on the international market and the (higher) price on the domestic market. Contested by low-cost producers, it is not, however, applied to the import quotas defined by the Lome Convention and GATT.

The type of intervention which arouses the most protest on the part of exporters with low production costs, among them some Latin American producers, remains that of export subsidies.

For developing countries, and all low-cost producing countries in general, such practices undermine their ability to compete on third markets. Most at stake in recent years have been the seizable North African and Near Eastern markets, whose imports have risen impressively; Latin American producers, but also - in the name of geography - African, never miss a chance to criticize "unfair competition" from the North

Without export subsidies, it is argued at the GATT meetings, the EEC would never be able to sell a single kilo of beef on the markets in developing countries. Subsidies sometimes go up to 50 or 70 per cent and are highest for the Near East. But the problem is complex, and several other factors, such as exchange rates, climatic variations, and transport expenses, need to be considered. Moreover, the European countries can invoke the "traditional exporter" clauses, provided by GATT, for markets with which they have long-standing ties.

"The ideal market, without subsidies to imports or exports, without transport expense, and with equal production costs, does not exist," a GATT official points out. "Certainly, if Europe did not subsidize its beef exports, there would be 500 000 to 600 000 metric tons less of European beef on the world market at least until the trend of domestic markets fused with those of the world market. For the producers, at present, that is not desirable; and in any case, the problems of animal health remain. For countries who have traditionally exported to other developing countries, the problem can be real. But if the Latin American producers claim that export subsidies deprive them of new markets, they must prove it."

''Live-and-let-live'' strategy counselled on African bees

The African bee (Apis mellifera adansonii) is on its way north and has reached Costa Rica. Within a few years it will have invaded all of Mexico and the southern United States, wreaking havoc on the important apicultural industry.

These bees were introduced into Brazil in 1956 in the belief that they were the solution to increasing the low productivity of the black, or German, bee, the most widespread species in the country at that time. Widely published praises of the adansonii encouraged their importation. They were reputed to be highly productive and to have different levels of aggressiveness, which would permit selection.

The reality was quite another thing. The African bees proved very aggressive and spread rapidly throughout South America, invading tropical and subtropical zones through natural swarming at the rate of 150 kilometers a year. Because the bees do not tolerate the cold, the temperate and cold zones above latitude 30 degrees south are safe. On the other hand, the bees can adapt to regions with less than 200 mm annual precipitation and to rain forests with more than 5 000, such is their capacity to adapt (nevertheless, they cannot survive above 1 800 m in altitude).

Noel Kempff Mercado, a Bolivian former professor of apiculture, former president of the Bolivian Apicultural Association, and member of the Permanent Commission on "Apibotanica" of the International Federation of Apicultural Associations, discussed some of the characteristics of and problems with the African bees, their aggressiveness for example. While European bees were selected for docility over the course of the centuries, in Africa, the natives burned the colonies and ate the brood, so that it was the most aggressive bees that survived. What external factors this aggression responds to still needs further investigation, since there are times, even days, when the adansonii are inexplicably tractable, only to madden without warning. Even if small families are docile and easy to manage, when the population increases, irritability does too, and unlike European bees, these are more aggressive the more nectar is available, and increasing the ambient temperature makes them worse.

At the International Symposium of Apimondia on apiculture in hot climates, held in Floraniopolis, Brazil, investigators L.E. Kerr and Lionel Goncalves showed that African bees are four times more aggressive in the hot Brazilian northeast than in the temperate south; to reach this conclusion they transferred queens from Sao Paulo to the north and vice versa and began work three months later

The natural habitat of these bees is the regions where plants flower all year round. They are therefore harder workers and more prolific, but in periods of shortage they do not stop reproducing. In fact, they continue breeding incessantly until they exhaust their reserves, and then they move on.

Even if opinions vary on the productivity of the African bees, because their behavior varies with their environment, most experts agree that productivity has diminished in countries where they have become established. Some apiculturists from temperate regions, like Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, maintain that the high consumption of honey by the adansonii during the winter prejudices their annual production in temperate regions and means that the total production of honey is equal to or less than that obtained by the docile European bees. In the subtropical plains of Bolivia, they produce only 50 per cent of what used to be obtained from Italian bees. This is due to the year-round prolific breeding of the adansonii and to the continued emigration of the swarms, which escape the bee-keeper and weaken his colonies.

Dr Pedro A. Boggino, president of the Paraguayan Apiculture Association, has written that "the African bees reached Paraguay in 1964/65. In general, the swarms invaded the broods as violently in the hollows of trees as in the common frames. In this way all the broods in the country disappeared and were replaced by the Africanized bees. Sometimes the substitution was peaceful, when the. African swarm would settle near the colony and slip in at night through a crack, kill the queen, and become masters of the house."

Agricultural engineer Moises Katznelson, one of the most experienced apiculture extensionists of the Argentine National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), Jacinto Naviero, president of the 25-year-old Colonel Suarez Society of Apiculturists, also Argentinians, in an article published in June 1969 in the Buenos Aires Gaceta del Colmenar, titled "African bees in northern Argentina", said that they had crossed 7 000 kilometres of territory in the north of their country and had verified that apiculture had been completely destroyed by the African bees. Ernesto B. Kurtz, an INTA technician (from Obera, Misiones}was of the opinion that it was necessary to rebuild the area's apiculture from scratch, perhaps this time with a different mentality and from new bases.

At the Florianopolis symposium, the executive president of the symposium and president of the Brazilian Association of Apiculturists, Helmuth Wiese, recognized in his opening address that 21 years after the introduction into Brazil of Apis mellifera adansonii, the country had returned to 1956 levels of honey production. He concluded by saying that "when you can't kill the enemy, the most sensible thing is to learn to live with him." The figures do as much as his words do to demonstrate the gravity of what has taken place in the zones invaded by the African bees.

Perhaps the only thing to do is face reality. In fact, even if Professor Charles D. Michener, who headed the study group on African bees of the US Division of Biology and Agriculture, said in 1972, when he visited Brazil, that "control through genetic barriers can offer the best means of stopping the northward migration of the undesirable African bees.... Essentially, it is necessary to form a barrier of bees of a desirable genetic type by means of which the undesirable genetic types can be eliminated." The barrier he had in mind to create in Panama did not get past the good intention stage and a simple announcement. In all these years very little progress has been made toward improving the aggressive temperament of these bees and their marked tendency to swarm. The only success has been the awareness that it is necessary to adapt to work with these "killer" bees.

In cocoa accord, producer participation critical to success

The Council of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) has extended the present international cocoa agreement for a period of one year as of the session held in London last July.

The agreement now in effect dates from 1980 and was due to expire on 30 September 1984. It is based exclusively on the principle of buffer stocks as price-stabilization mechanism, unlike the 1972 and 1975 agreements, which were based essentially on a system of export quotas, reinforced, however, by buffer stocks.

It should be noted that purchases destined for the buffer stocks ended in March 1982, after which the ICCO Council decided to keep intact its financial reserves (at present equal to $92 million), in view of the prospective international agreement.

The extension permits member and observer countries to meet as scheduled on 8 October 1984 in Geneva in order to negotiate the terms of the agreement.

Since the preparatory phase in May 1984, both producer and consumer countries have recognized unanimously the soundness of the existence of a buffer stock, but have not agreed on what measures are needed for better management of the market.

Since the July meeting, however, the EEC has made a new proposal. First, it is the EEC wish that when the buffer stock approaches full capacity, say 80 per cent of 250 000 metric tons authorized, or when the financial resources necessary for its supply are exhausted, withdrawals should be made on the world market, unless ICCO is opposed.

The quantities withdrawn thereby from the world market would be gradually replaced as long as the state of the market permitted, that is to say, as long as prices found their way back to a satisfactory level. In May 1984, Brussels had already presented an identical project without specifying the methods of application.

Moreover, the withdrawals made would remain under the control of the ICCO and would be divided among the principal exporters according to a formula to be determined. These volumes would, however, remain the property of the producer countries.

The success of such a regulatory operation depends in large part on the participation of six principal producers: Ivory Coast, Brazil, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Malaysia. But their participation does not seem to have been obtained yet, especially since, after the EEC proposition, the costs of transportation and stocking in a temperate climate would be passed directly to the producers.

The EEC position is that this system of withdrawal would be more advantageous for producer countries than the system of export quotas, at least for those among them who are enjoying a relative expansion in production, or even a stabilization, as Brazil or Malaysia.

One might wonder, however, how a producer who sees his potential for production diminish will be able to support the additional cost of such an operation. Up to now, the EEC has not excluded the possibility of a stocking on the production sites matched with controls for verification.

FAO in action


All of the 150 families in Madoch parish in the Teso region of Uganda own cattle. Cattle arc a sign of wealth and are used for "bride price", but in reality they have been more of a banking system than a source of profit. The indigenous Zebu cows were never noted for their productivity in the best of times; during the annual dry season from December to April, when dry and unpalatable grass and foliage has little nutritional value, their already poor condition gets worse and milk production usually stops. When these families were given an opportunity to improve their lot, they responded with enthusiasm and a great deal of physical effort. Under an FAO/UNDP project launched early in 1981 with the aim of increasing milk supplies for urban areas as well as improving rural incomes and living conditions, all family heads were persuaded to form a cooperative. Working in collaboration with an FAO dairy production expert, the local district veterinary officer, and Uganda's Dairy Development Committee, the farmers undertook construction of four milking parlours, each with 20 stanchions and a holding yard for 200 head of cattle. The complex also includes a permanent cattle dip for prevention of ticks and East Coast Fever, a feed store, veterinary office, tool shed, and workers' room. The provision of water for the dairy was a major challenge, since people had for generations walked 5-10 kilometres for water, but eventually a spring was located in a nearby marshy area, which the farm families themselves converted into a 350 000 litre cement and rock-lined reservoir. With a pump and overhead tank contributed by the Dairy Development Committee and FAO, the parish was able to have running water under pressure for the first time in its history. To overcome dry-season feeding problems, farmers have been learning to make silage and prepare urea treated straw. As soon as electricity is brought in from a power line only a kilometre away, a chill tank will be installed and milk will be collected every two days. Significantly, this development project has not intruded on basic traditions. Farmers still own their own cattle and graze them on communal pasture. Their cows are still brought back to the home boma each evening. But they have access to feed supplements, forage water, and veterinary care. Not surprisingly, many nearby parishes want to imitate this success, and the Dairy Development Committee, with a view to future projects, has ordered a water drilling rig.


A growing number of developing countries are seeking assistance from FAO for the establishment or strengthening of information systems on the national food-supply situation. The inauguration of an early warning system in Bhutan last summer brought to six the number of such systems established under FAO's Food Security Assistance Scheme since the first one was begun in Tanzania in 1978 (see Ceres, Nov.-Dec.' 1978, p.4). Besides Bhutan and Tanzania, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Zambia have launched early warning systems with FAO assistance. Another project prepared for the Sudan is still awaiting funding. In the past two years more than 20 projects have been identified in response to government requests. The design of early warning systems varies from country to country according to the availability of data, infrastructure, and the level of self-sufficiency in staple foods. Generally, however, the assistance provided covers three broad areas: agrometeorology and crop production forecasting; market intelligence; and food-stock monitoring. In the Sahel, FAO has been collaborating with CILSS, UNDP, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a project to strengthen agro-meteorological and hydrological services for seven countries in that region.


A novel means for keeping farmers' ox and donkey carts in operation has been devised by engineers working with FAO's Small Farm Mechanization Programme in Kenya, where the supply of wheel and axle units has been unable to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for wheeled transport. Some preliminary research revealed that farmers would not accept metal wheels, but rubber tires were prone to punctures, except when new, and new tires were prohibitively expensive Eventually project engineers discovered that old tires filled with sawdust were not susceptible to puncture and provided almost the same ride characteristics as air-filled tires. The design was completed by the production of a rim with a flat cross section and bearings made from oil-soaked wood. The wheel and axle unit can be made in large quantities, and the bearings can easily be replaced by a village carpenter. The cart carries up to 500 kg and has been tested at speeds up to 15 km per hour. The unit costs about $100.


One of the most promising regions for horticultural production in Saudi Arabia is the Najran Valley in the southwestern part of the country. Given the Saudi Government's long-term agricultural strategy for the attainment of self-sufficiency in food production, the valley's potential, especially for citrus fruit production, has attracted considerable attention. In 1981, the Saudi Government asked FAO for technical assistance in the establishment, in the Najran Valley, of a national Centre for horticultural research and development, providing funds-in-trust of nearly 57.5 million plus more than 26 million riyal (3.56 riyal equal US$1.00) for the execution of the five-year project. Staffed by nine expatriate experts as well as national counterpart staff, the project has been propagating and distributing high-quality, disease-free stock of citrus and other fruit varieties to local farmers, establishing a demonstration orchard at the project site, conducting research into horticultural production, providing assistance to farmers in production of fruits and vegetables and training counterpart staff and local personnel.


More than 300 peasant women in Honduras have become involved in managing their own small-scale enterprises thanks to the availability of financing and technical assistance through an FAO/UNDP project undertaken in collaboration with the National Agrarian Institute. To date. 31 peasant groups have received financing equivalent to about $150 000 in order to carry out small-scale projects in horticulture, staple grain production, small livestock rearing, apiculture, and household enterprises such as baking and cheese-making. Moreover, no less than 50 other groups have been actively participating in generating ideas for projects, analysing, approving, executing, and evaluating them with the help of technical support staff. Besides involving women more directly in the productive process, the project aims at alleviating rural unemployment and under-employment, enhancing incomes and family unity, and consolidating peasant organizations involved in this country's programme of agrarian reform.


No nation's development plans are immune to cultural traditions. In Madagascar customary funeral rites call for the use of silk in shrouds and for other ceremonies. The outlay of foreign exchange required to import silk presented a problem. The solution selected was to attempt to turn the situation around, to become a net exporter rather than a net importer of silk. Through a two-year FAO/UNDP project scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, the Malagasy Government has sought to achieve a number of objectives: first, to revive sericulture in the island's high plateau region in order to satisfy national demand for silk; second, to encourage rapid improvement in sericultural practices and to establish research institutions that would lead to the adoption of production systems geared to the international market; third, to provide the training needed for medium-term staff requirements; and finally, to provide the necessary supporting infrastructures. In a year and a half a group of sericulture experts from China recruited for the project have succeeded in developing, from both local silkworm strains and imported ones, a hybrid strain that is much more productive than traditional ones and which provides a silk that meets the quality standards of the international market. Distribution of eggs from this strain to interested silk producers has begun and training and extension sessions for the benefit of private producers have been undertaken. The project has also partly restored production on a state silk farm.

A historian examines the new economic relationships in rural China and finds...


The organization of Chinese agriculture has undergone many profound changes since 1979, of which the most significant has been the restoration of the family farm as the principal unit of agricultural production. Over 90 per cent of China's farmland has now reverted to cultivation on the family scale.

This does not, however, represent a relinquishment of the collective ideal. The farmer does not choose his main crop, nor does he sell the bulk of 'his produce on the open market. He works principally on contract to the collective (usually the production team), which is in turn responsible for the fulfillment of indicative plans conveyed to it by the local government.

The collective assigns land to the peasant household for a limited period. In the first stages of this system, the " agricultural responsability system'', contracts were given for short periods of between one and three years, but the danger that such short Ieases might discourage good husbandry was soon recognized. The contract period was accordingly increased to five years, in order to harmonize with China's five-year planning period, but has since been further increased to a minimum of 15 years.

The contract is for the production of a given quantity of grain or of another staple crop (such as cotton, oil seeds, tubers, sugar beet, or sugar cane). It does not specify inputs, but it incorporates rewards and penalties to encourage good husbandry.

The peasant is free, subject to such rewards and penalties, to cultivate as he wishes, to arrange his own crop rotations around the contracted task, and, subject to fulfillment of the contract, to use the resources at his disposal for further production on his own initiative. Production surplus to his contractual obligation is his own to dispose of in the market.

The contract also includes Ievies imposed by the collective to maintain revenues, used for infrastructural investment, economic development, and welfare. In addition, the peasant Is responsible, through the collective, for the payment of his agricultural tax.

Contracts are given not only for the production of staple arable crops but for a wide variety of other products. Indeed, one of the roots of the new system was the urgent need for agricultural diversification, and the first contracts to individuals and families were actually given for non arable production, whence they spread to the arable. Hill land and other underutilized land is also contracted out to individual peasants or families, especially for animal husbandry, fruitgrowing, and forestry, usually on heritable leases of 30 years or more. The development of crafts and workshop industries is also encouraged by contracts, and the production of services as well as goods may be contracted out.

At the same time, the private plots, production on which is subject to neither contract nor taxation, have been increased from five per cent of the arable land to 15 per cent, while in some areas Up to 20 per cent of non-arable land has been assigned on similar semis. Rural fairs, discouraged during the cultural revolution, have not only been restored but have been strongly promoted; they handle much of the marketed production of the enlarged private plots, and also much of the production of the rapidly growing individual and small-scale handicraft sector. The rural fairs have been established and are administered by the local authorities.

A contracting body.

The essence of the change, however, is that the Ieaders of the production team are no longer the direct managers of farm labour on a single, consolidated collective farm, but instead act as a contracting body to ensure the fulfilment of agricultural plans by peasant producers. Thus although cultivation is now decollectivized, the collective still has the central function of planning production. It also retains the wide range of other responsibilities which were assigned to it under the former commune system. It accumulates collective capital for investment in infrastructure: irrigation and flood control, soil improvement, and other farm capital construction. The winter construction campaigns that have been a major feature of Chinese rural development since 1958 continue, and all peasants are obliged to contribute a fixed number of days of labour each year to these campaigns: 30 days for an able-bodied male and 15 days for others. The collective also continues to raise and spend funds for the costs of primary education, for local paramedical services, and for welfare payments to those in need. It has the duty of maintaining an equitable distribution of incomes among individual families, and for this purpose it raises funds for redistributive policies via the contract system? by incorporating into the contracts payments which are akin to differential rent, while at the same time seeking to avoid anything analogous to a progressive income tax, which might penalize hard work or successful enterprise.

In one sense, the tasks of the collective leadership have actually been increased under the new system, insofar as they now have to fulfill the responsibility of developing and diversifying the village economy not by direct management but by negotiation, by taking the lead as entrepreneurs, and by participating in co-operative peasant enterprises.

China's rural institutions have been re-articulated to provide a more suitable framework for the implementation of the new policies. The commune, so long the symbol of Chinese socialism, has been steadily dismantled, and the process is expected to be complete by the end of 1984. In theory, the political responsibilities of the former commune have been transferred to revived "township" governments, while its economic responsibilities have been handed over to successor institutions which operate as autonomous enterprises responsible for their own profit and loss. In practice, the distinction between politics and economics is not so clear. Economic planning and the promotion of economic development are the responsibility of the township government, which has thus inherited the major economic tasks of the old commune. The neo-commune the "agricultural-industrial-commercial combine" as it is often called is subordinate for economic purposes to the township, as are all other local enterprises. The difference is that the township can no longer run the economy, as the old commune did, by administrative fiat which often meant the requisition or re-allocation of the resources of its subordinate brigades and teams without compensation. It must work by negotiating contracts. The neo-commune does not stand in a relationship of superiority to enterprises at the lower levels as the old commune did; it is only one albeit the most important one among local enterprises, to which it can no longer give orders and from which can no longer draw resources. The commune and brigade enterprises built up under the old system remain intact and in possession of the resources they have accumulated, but they no longer monopolize economic development, which may now be undertaken subject to approval indicated by the issue of a trading licence by individuals or by groups of peasants in co-operation, or by joint ownership and management by collective and individuals.

Such individual and co-operative enterprises are now encouraged. There are three categories of approved individual entrepreneurs: 'specialized households'', which work on contract to the collective; "households engaged in specialized tasks", which normally market their own produce and have usually developed by turning a former spare-time occupation into a full-time profession; and "key households", vvhich have undertaken to apply approved new techniques to cultivation and which work closely with agricultural extension units with which they are usually in a contractual relationship.

Very great importance has been attached to the development of cooperative local enterprises, which Deng Xiaoping anti his colleagues believe can offer a new route to a voluntary and spontaneous form of the socialization of rural production in place of orthodox collectivization. These new firms have different origins: the initiative of skilled individuals; the existence of economic opportunities which, being beyond the resources of individual families, require the pooling of the resources of a number of families; anti the transforming of technical and service centres, formerly part of the bureaucracy, into independent enterprises in association with local peasants. Joint undertakings, in which collective institutions (such as commune and brigade enterprises) or state organs (such as the local office of the foreign trade administration) combine with peasant shareholders, play a major role in this development.

Enterprises which provide services to agriculture are specially favoured. To a large extent they are a substitute for the collective or bureaucratic organs which formerly provided such services. Co-operative firms contract for mechanized cultivation, for the management of irrigation, for the provision of high-quality seeds and new breeds of livestock, and for the supply of rice seedlings, etc. Others are engaged in craft or workshop production.

A parallel decentralization of the marketing of rural produce has occurred. The Government has reduced, and has stated that it intends to continue to reduce, the number and quantity of products subject to compulsory purchase, and as far as possible to replace legally enforced procurement by price incentives. Practice varies from province to province in accordance with local conditions of supply and demand, but in general the only commodities which are now bought almost wholly by the State are grain and cotton. Co-operative trading companies are permitted and encouraged. Individual trading is allowed under licence. The barriers to direct non-official trade between one province and another have been removed, although supervision is still exercised. The peasant communities are positively encouraged to set up their own co-operative retail outlets in the nearby towns.

Back to the peasants.

One of the most striking changes has been the handing back of the rural supply and marketing co-operatives to the peasants. These were set up after the revolution, bringing together existing local traders and peasant shareholders, but very soon they became in practice virtually state trading organs. In 1977 they were actually taken over by the State. They were managed from the county level, and the original village co-operative had no power. By then, the original shares of the peasants, on which no dividend had ever been declared, accounted for only eight per cent of the assets of the co-operatives. In 1983 they were reformed. The peasants were encouraged to invest in them, and over 80 per cent did so. The representative congresses of peasant members were restored. The co-operatives were made independent and responsible for their own profit and loss. Dividends are to be paid. It is emphasized that they should serve the interests of their peasant members, and as part of a still somewhat tentative move toward reform of price policy, they are being given the right to set their own market prices within wide limits. High hopes are placed on these reformed supply and marketing co-operatives, now managed at the village level, as the most important but by no means the only, basis of a new type of cooperativization. They are encouraged to offer contracts, to supply on credit, to undertake the processing of products at village level where possible, to offer services as well as supplies, and to seek new markets for rural produce.

One must not, however, exaggerate the free-market dimension of the new rural economic organization. In 1983, individual traders accounted for only 6.5 per cent of rural trade and cooperative traders for 16.6 per cent. The rest was accounted for by state trading organs. Thus, although a salutary measure of freedom and competition has been provided, the State is still by far the peasant's most important supplier and customer and will obviously remain so for a long time.

The problems of rural supply and marketing have by no means as yet been wholly solved, partly because of the very success of the new agricultural responsibility system in stimulating rural production and especially in stimulating the increase of marketed surpluses. The existing bureaucratic and monopolistic structure of trade could not, and still cannot, cope with the flow of goods. Waste and unprofitable stockpiling threaten to destroy the new incentives for increased production. On the other hand, the rapid increase in peasant demand for agricultural inputs has taken the planners by surprise. The shortage of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and diesel fuel is becoming very serious, and the costs of agricultural production are being forced up as official price controls break down in the face of acute scarcity.

Many shortcomings.

One may well ask why China, whose agricultural development under the former commune system had been very satisfactory indeed in comparison with the less developed countries generally, has felt it necessary to resort to such drastic changes. The answer given is that the satisfactory figures for overall growth concealed many shortcomings and did not truly express rural China's growth potential.

The present authorities in China have pointed to the shortcomings. First, the past concentration on grain production at the expense of other crops has left Chinese agriculture too little diversified. It has not been able to cope with the demands for a more varied diet that have grown with growing incomes. Grain monoculture also threatens the ecology of farming. Second, in spite of an overall annual growth rate of about 3.8 per cent per caput, grain was no more available in 1975 than in 1957, before communization. Third, although production had increased substantially, per caput peasant incomes had not increased proportionately; in some areas they had even decreased as production rose. The returns to investment in agriculture have been poor: Zhan Wu, Director of the Institute of Agricultural Economics of the Chinese Academy of Science, reported in 1980 that while from 1966 to 1977 capital invested in farm machinery had increased over eightfold and chemical fertilizer supplies had grown almost two and a half times, and while farm costs had risen 130 per cent, production had increased by only 80 per cent. Fifth, labour productivity in agriculture had not improved over the years, and while this was due largely to population growth, the collective system, under which virtually all peasants were obliged, to labour full-time on the farm, prevented their taking advantage of alternative opportunities [or employment; the development of commune and brigade industry after 1970 materially assisted in this respect, but could not altogether solve the problem of surplus rural labour, which in 1978 before the new policies began was still 'between 30 and 50 per rent of the rural population according to area. Sixth, and partly for this reason, the marketed surplus of agriculture remained low.

Three main negative characteristics were ascribed to the old system. First, he egalitarian nature of remuneration within the collective, a tendency which would continue to assert itself as long as rewards were not directly linked to final individual output, kept the incentive to work at a minimum Second, the "three-level system of ownership" (commune, brigade, and team), under which the higher level was free to draw resources from the lower levels while at the same time having no defined responsibility to these lower levels, increased the burdens of the peasants and also led to irresponsible and wasteful investment which further increased these burdens. And because political and economic leadership were in the same hands, political and economic criteria became confused. Third, the grass-roots cadres under the old system were faced with tasks which were beyond the capacity of many of them. Former peasants recruited during land reform, they often did not know how to keep accounts and knew little or nothing about modern farming methods. Meanwhile, they are growing older and there is little prospect of their being replaced by younger men with greater knowledge and newer ideas, because too few of the inadequate number of graduates in agricultural subjects are willing to work in the villages.

The new system was therefore designed to increase incentives, to break up the rigidities of the three level commune system, and as far as possible to hand responsibility for decision making back to the actual peasant producers and away from the cadres.

Division of labour

Perhaps the most important change which is now taking place in China as a result of the full application of the agricultural responsibility system is the growing division of labour in the village between those who prefer to farm and those who prefer other occupations. As growing numbers of peasants indicate their willingness to relinquish arable agriculture for other specializations, those who are most skilled in farming are being encouraged to contract for larger areas of land and even, if necessary, to employ hired labour under strictly controlled conditions. In the next few years a new pattern may well emerge in which only a minority of the rural population are engaged in arable farming, while the majority are engaged in animal husbandry and forestry, crafts and workshop industries, and the provision of services, or are employed in commune, brigade, team or cooperative industry. This has already happened in a few places, especially in the environs of cities which provide good markets. As a result, the average size of a farm in China may be expected to grow significantly in the next decade.

It is important to emphasize that while in many obvious ways that new policies represent an almost revolutionary degree of change, there is nevertheless a strong strain of continuity. The aim of the original Great Leap Forward of 1958 was to diversify rural production and to industrialize the countryside. The aim of the related commune system was to decentralize economic decision making to the villages. Behind both was the belief of Mao Zedong that in a peasant country the most powerful engine of development is the increase of peasant purchasing power rather than the increase of centralized state accumulation of capital. In the event, ironically, the commune became an arm of the State and an instrument of centralization rather than of decentralization; it carried authoritarian bureaucracy down into the village. Flow, and perhaps deservedly, it has been abolished as a rigid obstacle to the very aims it had been created to achieve. And now the freedom to organize autonomous local enterprise, which was first offered in the Great Leap Forward, but confined then to commune institutions, has been extended to the rural population as a whole.

In fairness, however, to the old collective system represented by the commune (and most Chinese commentators are fair in this respect), it achieved a tremendous development of China's rural infrastructure, without which the present return to family-scale cultivation might not have been viable.

Wild plant resources

Strategies for improving nutrition in developing countries have long focused on raising agricultural production and increasing economic opportunities for rural populations, assuming that the desired end would follow automatically. Little, if any, consideration has been given to traditional methods of obtaining and selecting food, yet these may provide high nutritional returns at low cost for many people.

Ignored by planners and policy makers, the gathering of wild food plants is one traditional practice that rural people have come to regard as outdated and unsophisticated - probably precisely because of the planners' neglect. Several studies report a decline in the use of wild food resources in societies where gathering was historically important.

Nevertheless, wild foods, particularly plants, still have an important role in the diets of many agro-pastoral societies. In some societies wild plants are used throughout the year in small quantities in conjunction with cultivated crops; in others they are used seasonally and help cover the period of pre-harvest shortages. In emergencies, such as droughts, they can help prevent starvation, since many wild plants are better adapted than cultivated ones to withstand adverse, climatic conditions. Finally, low-income families can earn money trading wild plants.

" I like them." I took part in a recent investigation of the dietary uses of wild plant foods in rural Swaziland, where exploitation of wild food resources has traditionally been important Swaziland, a small (17 364 sq km) landlocked country in southern, a remarkably diverse flora and four ecological zones with a large climatic variation between them. These are the Highveld, the Middleveld, the Lowveld, and Lubombo. We conducted interviews with 211 households and 140 schoolchildren in all four zones with the aim of finding how well these foods arc recognized and how much they are eaten nowadays. Nearly 40 per cent of the people we asked claimed to consume more wild vegetables and fruits than cultivated ones, and another 18 per cent said they ate both in equal amounts, 'the wild ones", as one respondent explained, 'because I like them, the planted ones because they are there". Thirty per cent said that wild greens were the only accompaniment to the staple diet at certain times of the year, and of this group some said they ate wild vegetables at least once a day.

We collected data on gathering, preparation, taste preference, trading, cultivation, and preservation together with comparable information on domesticated fruits and vegetables. Specimens were gathered for identification and analysis of their nutrient content.

The study illustrates how a stable agricultural population with some cash income but largely dependent on small-scale farming continues to exploit wild food resources - more than 220 species of them. We found that consumption levels varied greatly, but all respondents reported that they ate at least some wild food plants every year (see Table 1). Some of the green leafy vegetables, fruits, and other portions of plants are no less than central components of the diet. Of these, Amaranthus spp., Bidens spp., and Corchorus spp. were reported by at least half the adults interviewed as eaten at least twice a week while they are available (Table 2). Many respondents said that such species fill the same function as cultivated vegetables and fruits: they supply essential nutrients that are often scarce in spring and summer and add variety to the diet. Many liked certain species of wild vegetables much better than the domesticated alternatives or used these favourites together with the cultivated vegetables for variety. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed trade wild plants and another quarter try to cultivate them. Nearly three quarters preserve wild vegetables.

All four regions.

The investigation established that certain species were important in the diets of all the study areas and that all four regions contained food plants specific to them of great value to the local populations. In the Highveld, where the temperate climate delays growth and harvest of domesticated cultivars and early and heavy spring rains lead to the greatest abundance of wild greens, consumptions levels were above average. Wild plants have an important dietary function in the Low veld, too, since crop production there is difficult and yields often are low. While the low rainfall often causes a shorter than average season for wild greens, the higher temperatures make a number of wild fruits available at an earlier stage and allow for a greater variety of fruit-producing trees and shrubs.

The analysis by regions provides an interesting perspective on the effect of land exploitation and population increase on utilization of wild foods. Respondents in the Middleveld, the most densely populated area with the most intensive agriculture, recognized the lowest number of wild foods and abandoned consumption of certain species most frequently. Interestingly, they reported the highest consumption of weeds introduced in association with agriculture. In other words, it appears that when time is limited or traditional species disappear, the population does not cease the practice of gathering altogether, but rather changes to more accessible, but still non-cultivated, species. Thus, when faced with the scarcity of one species, people may incorporate new ones into their diets. The vigorous weeds are abundant and make gathering a simpler, less time consuming task, an important consideration since the work-loads of rural women are heavy. "The cultivated ones need to be worked and then waited for, but the wild ones are ready'" said one respondent.

Nutritional benefits.

The added dietary diversity provided by wild foods is in itself a nutritional advantage. Respondents at the time of the survey added more than 40 species to their diet through the practice of gathering (Table 3), which, as previously mentioned, is vitally important when food stores are low. The nutritional value of many wild food plants, especially green foliage, is high. The wild species analysed in the survey are a major source of minerals, at least during spring and summer, and of course also supply significant amounts of vitamins and protein. A periodic high intake also helps maintain adequate physiological levels of some nutrients through periods of seasonal fluctuation in intake.

In addition to nutritional benefits, and to the dietary advantages of diversification at strategic periods of the year, other benefits of continued exploitation of wild foods should be noted. The practice of gathering wild plants just before cooking ensures a fresh product, and the advantages of freshness (in taste and nutrition) may be seen in relation to how often commercial alternatives are purchased, the hygienic standards of vegetable markets, and the inadequacy of home food stores.

Within the adult population, 98 per cent over the age of 40 recognized more than 30 wild food plants, while in the under-40 age group, 95 per cent did so. This remarkably high level of recognition, unrelated to age, shows that the knowledge of traditional wild food plants is probably not being lost to the extent feared.

Our study adds other interesting perspectives to the question of age related trends in consumption patterns. Contrary to findings elsewhere in southern Africa, for example Botswana, children in Swaziland recognized a great many different wild species and reported high levels of consumption of wild foods. Indeed, children in the Middleveld region ate somewhat more of them than did adults in that area.

Childhood learning.

In the traditional setting, training in recognition and gathering of wild plants was a natural part of childhood learning. The recognition of edible plants, and the ability to distinguish edible from toxic species, were skills initially transferred from elders. Later these skills were reinforced and extended by older children during the years spent tending the cattle herds. With the recent emphasis on formal education, the traditional training period has been shortened, and although the initial transfer of information probably remains, the reinforcement of foraging skills in later childhood is lost to many. Thus, one would expect the level of knowledge to have dropped. The finding that children have still managed to retain high levels of recognition may partly be explained by the strong emphasis on tradition, which is central to Swazi culture. Another important factor is the location of the schools; since children commonly complete their school education in a different region than that of their childhood, they extend their botanical knowledge to the flora of a different ecological zone.

The recognition of palatable wild food resources is carried through generations, mostly without written documentation. The gathering, use, and storage of these foods require skills developed over long periods. To find, in a population which goes through rapid economic development, that the younger generation has retained this cultural heritage is encouraging; it should be used to illustrate the need for systematic assessment of existing dietary practices as a basis for sound nutritional strategies.

Developing countries are counting on a new international code of conduct for maritime transportation to become an important tool for restructuring North-South commercial relations

A fairer share of shipping

The Code of Conduct for Shipping Conferences took effect on 6 October 1983, more than nine years after its adoption date, 6 April 1974. The substantial delay was due to several fundamental factors, detailed further below. However, the delay was caused just as much by a provision of the convention which stipulated two conditions to be fulfilled six months before the Code would take effect. (1) Twenty-four states must sign the convention and (2) their combined gross registered tonnage must equal at least 25 per cent of world gross tonnage.

These two conditions were met on 6 April 1983, upon ratification by the Federal Republic of Germany and by the Netherlands, the fifty-seventh and fifty-eighth member states respectively. As of that date, the 58 countries represented 20 842 921 gross registered tons (GRT) or 28.67 per cent of the world total. Since then, Trinidad and Tobago also ratified the convention, increasing the tonnage of member states to 20 848 476 GRT or 28.68 per cent, exceeding the total required by article 49 of the Code.

A new international economic order

Besides its purely technical content, the Code of Conduct, concluded under the auspices of UNCTAD, may be considered an integral part of the larger process of developing a new international economic order, one more responsive to the economic aspirations of developing countries, particularly in the business of shipping.

A shipping conference is an alliance of shipping interests whose objective is to fix the conditions of service on regular shipping lanes, especially by setting uniform freight rates. Inherent in the alliance's structure is the emphasis on "arranging" the competition (examples of which occurred as early as the nineteenth century). Competition refers both to conference members and to owners outside the group. Currently, about 360 shipping conferences control portions of regular international maritime traffic.

Competition is stifled primarily by concluding tariff agreements which set minimum rates incumbent upon members. Such cooperation is liable to be complemented by traffic agreements which provide each member with prior guarantees of a specific percentage of the traffic entering and leaving each port served by the conference. The members are also assured of protection from outside competition by a tariff policy that discriminates against any shipper patronizing owners who are not conference members and favours shippers who utilize the services of member companies exclusively (loyalty rebate incentives).

Such trade practices are all the more restrictive in that the various tariffs never become a matter of public record. Furthermore, shipping conferences are based on a particularly subtle legal framework that renders their tariffs all the more difficult to circumvent. Shipping conferences do not have the status of juridical persons; they are simply agreements between private persons and constitute formally neither rights nor obligations regarding third parties. Third party effects are quite real, however, since non-member owners or shippers suffer the consequences of conference decisions. Objectively little legislation and jurisprudence applies to shipping conferences, although since 1945 several countries (including the United States of America) have imposed certain restrictions on them. The Code of Conduct is thus the first instance of international control in shipping. Moreover' it serves the pursuit of a larger objective: a better distribution of maritime traffic operating between developed and developing nations.

A proper understanding of the Code demands a preliminary inventory of the positive and negative aspects of shipping conferences. It should be remembered that they have, to their credit, ensured regular service between distant countries year after year, sometimes connecting rather unimportant low-profit ports. Such service permitted countries to develop their import and export commerce. In such cases, limiting competition is an advantage to shippers, since unbridled competition in tariff rates ultimately leads to the elimination of owners, thus creating a monopoly for the most powerful. Likewise, traffic quotas may permit only a minimum return to owners on their long-term marine investments. In short, the defenders of shipping conferences point to guarantees of stable maritime service, not only on behalf of conference member owners, but also to the advantage of shippers utilizing their services and the various countries joined by shipping lanes.


On the other hand, numerous criticisms have been levelled at such groups, especially by developing countries, and the criticisms have been vigorously upheld by UNCTAD. Restricting competition in fact leads to monopoly, with secretive policies setting inflated tariffs, which are frequently changed without advance warning. UNCTAD has similarly criticized the practice of loyalty agreements, which grant rebates and other advantages to shippers in return for their exclusive custom However, such policies often demand trial periods that may impose considerable restrictions on a shipper. Other criticisms concern the closed nature of conferences contracted by owners in the developed nations. These demonstrate little inclination to grant entry to new owners from developing countries., Finally, shipping conferences are blamed for the irregular service on some important maritime routes.

Such a balance-sheet of advantages and disadvantages, accompanied by frequently contradictory appraisals, explain why the developing countries and UNCTAD see the need for a progressively imposed code of conduct for shipping conferences. Such a demand represents an evolution in the various areas of international economic relations: countries are increasingly hesitant to allow free rein to shipping interests where these are perceived to infringe on the public interest. Consequently, the less developed countries accord high priority to the development of infrastructures and other components of transportation in order to bring about change. Besides such strictly commercial imperatives and the all-important setting of freight charges, participation by national owners in maritime transport is also a levelling factor in the balance of payments.

The developing countries thus increasingly pursue a policy of action in maritime questions which cannot fail to alter the liberal character of shipping conferences. As the Naval Minister of the Ivory Coast has expressed it, the code of conduct is aimed at the restructuring of the entire business and restoring some balance to marine markets on regular shipping routes between industrialized and developing countries, thereby ending the privileges formerly provided by shipping companies to industrial nations. In pursuing their claims, developing nations point out the ambiguity of shipping conference objectives. Although created in the name of liberalism, such conferences have often led to protectionist practices which promote Malthusian policies.

Restoring a balance.

As perceived in terms of a new international maritime order, attempts to restore a balance in shipping were highlighted by, certain contradictory and irreconcilable viewpoints from the very first attempts to draft the code. At UNCTAD's First Session in 1964, the Group of 77 raised the problem of controlling the activities of shipping conferences. From then on, numerous resolutions have called for adopting a code of conduct. During its Third Session in 1972, UNCTAD petitioned the United Nations General Assembly Ministers' Conference for this purpose. Since 1972, various drafts of the text have underscored the many divergent viewpoints. In an attempt to forestall legislative developments. European ship owners and shippers formulated their own code of conduct, called the CENSA Code (named after the Committee of National Associations of European Owners). The formula simply reiterated the procedures already in use by the conferences, omitting any reference to the declared objective of the developing countries to achieve a significant increase in the transportation role allowed them by the shipping conference system. Self regulation and purely commercial decision making without state intervention of any kind characterized the text. With no common plan, the Afro-Asian and Latin American groups presented in turn two drafts which included the formulation of a code for government action and for the functioning of shipping conferences. Political and economic development aims were added to commercial considerations.

Such fundamentally opposing viewpoints continued to prevail all during the Foreign Ministers Conference. Analysis of certain stipulations in the Code provides evidence of the ambiguous co-existence of divergent positions rather than the achievement of any real compromise.

It may be worthwhile, at this point, to indicate the principal provisions adopted by the Code and to determine how the legal text may improve the international commerce of developing nations. In so doing, four interlocking and complementary elements must be kept in mind.

As far as the Code's legal form is concerned, the style proper to convention should be noted. Such a legal form differs from the principles advanced in international developmental law which are most often expressed in resolutions that are not binding upon the member states and are completely lacking in sanctions. State intervention, however, is very evident in the Code: member states are the guarantors of the Code's application. It is only logical that states should intervene to ensure that the principles of the Code prevail and to safeguard its implementation.

Objectives and purposes are another important element of the Code. Its purpose is to ensure a double balance: between the interests of owners and those of shippers; between the interests of established owners from industrialized countries and those of new owners in developing countries. The Code is no ''neutral" legal instrument. In the conduct of shipping conferences, it seeks to provide for the needs and problems specific to developing countries. The text, nevertheless, presents objectives and fundamental principles marked both by fairness and by an economic interpretation of events.

Participation in transport.

Besides objectives and principles applicable to private groups, viz, shipping conferences, the ultimate aim of the convention text is to contribute to three objectives pertaining to the countries themselves. The objectives relate most importantly to development: participation by each country in maritime operations generated by its own commerce: participation in determining freight rates; freedom for each government to control maritime service within its territorial limits.

At a practical level, the Code resolves the confrontation between the principles of competition and cooperation. At first seeming contradictory, the two principles, nevertheless, go hand in hand to meet the requirements of the new economic relationships between countries.

Such a frequently ambiguous compromise is clearly distinct from the third point in our analysis: the basic provisions of the Code. Without entering into exhaustive details we note that the principal stipulation concerns the introduction of the so called 40-40-20 principle for dividing up traffic between two countries. The formula means that each group owners from two countries served by a conference has equal rights (40 per cent) to share the freight and divide the volume of cargo loaded in reciprocal overseas transactions and transported by conference bottoms. Should owners from any other country or countries be involved., they would share the remaining 20 per cent portion The third share is hard negligible and could, in practice contribute toward limiting shipping, conference influence and indirect enhance the Code.

Regular service.

Traffic quotas should primarily benefit owners from developing countries, in keeping with the principle of opening up the conference to every national company countries on the shipping route. Such companies need only prove that they are capable and that they intend provide long-term, regular service in an efficient manner. Such conditions might have imposed difficult) on owners beginning operations developing countries, but article paragraph 2 of the Code stipulates that the conditions may be fulfilled by utilizing chartered bottoms.

The second major stipulation of the Code aims at permitting shippers intervene in setting tariffs, establishing loyalty agreements, applying St charges, etc. The Code also regulates freight rate increases, promotion freight rates, surcharges and contingencies involving foreign currency transactions. The notion of equity recommended, since article 1 stipulates that freight rates should be fixed at the lowest possible rate commensurate with a reasonable profit for owners. The text similarly provides that monetary adjustments arising out of variations in currency exchange rates shall involve no additional la nor profit for owners. The latter provision may be difficult or even impossible to achieve in practice, sin rates are set in the currency agreed upon by several countries. Such currency is subject to fluctuations that will be complicated even further by comparison to a variety of nation currencies.

The fourth and final element characteristic of the code is the binding regulatory process applied to Disputes arising out of the code itself. Efforts by UNCTAD and some developing nations did not succeed in instituting procedure of compulsory arbitration, since this was completely rejected by the market-economy countries and by several Latin American countries, opposed in principle to such regulation. The procedure finally adopted, as detailed in the text of the convention, takes precedence over every germane lawsuit before national courts and constitutes an extension of the principle stipulating that shippers must be consulted. When shippers do not agree to planned freight rate increases, process of compulsory conciliation is engaged in order to produce a recommendation. Should the conference insist on its decision to increase beyond the level proposed by such a shippers are ipso facto released from loyalty agreements with the conference but do not lose any benefits eventually accruing From rebates.

Still up-to-date?

Because the Code deals with issues which involve the rested interests of shipping owners in industrialized countries it is not surprising that nearly 10 years have passed between its adoption and its promulgation. The long delay raises he question of whether the Code is still up-to-date. Several approaches to such a question may be distinguished. Since the Code represents compromise between totally different positions, one might well ask whether recent developments in marine transport have altered this fragile balance. It may be conceded in response that, since 1974, the influence of shipping conferences declined and the importance of outside owners correspondingly increased. In some cases, conferences control only a small proportion of traffic, thus reducing he need for the Code, particularly its stipulation concerning traffic quotas, a concept introduced by the Code. Outsiders have taken over an increasing proportion of traffic, taking advantage of arbitration which has operated in their favor. Shippers contributed to the change by choosing the lowest freight rates, sometimes, however, at the cost of quality and regularity in service. In other words, if the principles determined by the Code are still up-to-date, the problems of non-conference owners should also be confronted, lest the Code's influence be weakened.

On the other hand, changing European attitudes toward the Code also entails certain ambiguities. Faced with unilateral and protectionist measures adopted by several developing countries disappointed with the slow pace of ratification, several European shipovvners came to believe that the Code would be the lesser evil and that codification would regulate growing protectionist trends.

The principles of the Code can thus guide other conventions which are contemplated in certain sectors of maritime traffic such as bulk carriers. National legislation might also profit from the Code's guidance.

Some exceptions.

Adherence by European countries to the principles of the Code is by no means universal. The European Ruling of I 5 May 1979 concerning ratification of the Code presents some "exceptions" and specifically stipulates that some provisions, including those concerning traffic quotas do not apply among member states of the EEC and OECD but to third-party countries only. The geographic domain of the Code currently remains limited to North-South relations involving about 25 per cent of the world traffic in general merchandise. It should be noted, however, that, even before the Code took effect, its principal provisions had already been incorporated into numerous bilateral North-South treaties. The long delay (1974-83) must also be measured against such developments.

Apart from such a purely Iegal appraisal of the Code, the question still remains as to whether the developing countries actually possess the appropriate means to enable them to exercise their rights under the Code. Marine transport increasingly involves high-risk capital ventures which demand state-of-the-art technology and constantly enhanced productivity. Developing economies can hardly endure such conditions. An African leader remarked that, during the past several years, West African shipping interests were equipped with classic multipurpose cargo vessels which are quickly becoming unprofitable and generally ill-adapted to multi-modular transport. They must compete, however, with integrated container ships and other sophisticated bottoms operated on the same routes by large European owners. Such technological advances imply that owners have regrouped, reconsolidating their efforts both in terms of South-to-South configurations and in terms of Northern owners and their Southern counterparts combining in Iegal associations which respect the spirit of the Code's provisions. The latter refers particularly to those stipulations aimed at an equitable quota for each country in the maritime transport generated by its own commerce.

The Code of Conduct for Shipping Conferences accomodates such a practices because it is not an inflexible legal instrument. It must evolve in the way it accommodates technological advances and in accordance with the terms of one of its own articles, convoking a review conference five years after the effective date of the Code. Since 14 years will have passed since adoption' the ''five" years will be quite a lengthy delay.

In other words, the convention is not a Definitive resolution. It is, rather, an important step toward realizing a new and fairer maritime order to be integrated into the broader enterprise of restructuring North-South commercial relations. Finally, it remains to be seen how the Code of Conduct for Shipping Conferences complements the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, enacted 10 December 1982. These two legal instruments bear witness to the Decline in traditional freedom of the seas, a situation which favours powerful nations and provides widespread hegemony for coastal states, both in teens of their adjacent waters and in teens of maritime transport generated by their commercial activity.