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close this bookCERES No. 114 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)
close this folderCerescope
View the documentCereal marketing in Mali benefits from mixed system
View the documentSaudi Arabia seeks to reduce costs of cereal subsidies
View the documentVersatile palm adds diesel fuel to product range
View the documentConflicting claims increase pressure on Egypt's land
View the documentGroundnut shells provide base for organic fertilizer
View the documentPromising results as Cuba reshapes fishing industry

Cereal marketing in Mali benefits from mixed system

The Cereal Market Restructuration Programme (PRMC) launched in Mali five years ago is about to enter its second phase.

The Programme aroused great interest when inaugurated in 1981-82. One of the reasons for this is that Mali was one of the first African countries to attempt to change its entirely government-controlled cereal marketing system (in competition, however, with a flourishing black market) to a mixed system in which the private sector plays an increasingly important role. Another reason is that it was the first time that a number of bilateral and multilateral donors (including Belgium, Canada, USA, EEC, France, Federal Republic of Germany, WFP) had decided to coordinate their measures on an informal basis.

Under PRMC, the Malian agricultural production agency (OPAM), which until 1980 had the monopoly of the cereal market, has maintained its task of supplying the cereal deficient areas and communities (the armed forces, schools, hospitals, prisons). Moreover, in controlling the market, OPAM is called upon to maintain farm-gate prices - an official ceiling price is established after sowing - and to intervene on the market to protect consumers from excessive price increases connected with seasonal or artificially created shortages. The Agency is assisted in its task by donors who, with the creation of PRMC, agreed jointly to provide the equivalent of 50 000 tons of maize per year. Deposited in a common fund, the proceeds from the sale of these cereals give OPAM a margin of financial flexibility, thus making it possible to accomplish its double task.

The numerous analyses and studies of PRMC stress the fact that notable progress has been made in certain areas. For instance, there has been great improvement in political relations between Malian government representatives and the donors who now have consulting functions; also, certain donors joined the group once the programme got under way. OPAM management has evolved: the 1 000 employees of 1979 have dropped to fewer than 700 only five years later, and the operational deficit has been reduced by more than 85 per cent, from more than 4 billion CFA francs in 1984-85. The more efficient management of the vehicle fleet and the cereal storage system has also made it possible to reduce post-harvest losses (12 per cent in 1980) by half, and OPAM measures have been implemented much more rapidly than before. One of the consequences of this more functional management is the gradual homogenization of consumer prices throughout the various regions of the country.

In accordance with the programme's objectives, the marketing of maize, millet and sorghum was liberalized in the first year, but it was only in 1984-85 that the Malian authorities decided partially to liberalize the marketing of rice produced in the irrigation districts of the Mopti rice project. Next year, liberalization should be extended to all domestic agricultural products. Also, farmgate prices and consumer prices have increased more slowly than expected. Studies show that despite the rapid increase in the prices of maize, millet, and sorghum in early 1984 (from CFAF 125 to 165 in six months), consumer prices, in real terms, dropped between 1981 and 1985. This government decision to limit the increase in official cereal prices must, however, be interpreted in the broader context of an IMF financial policy aimed at reducing me Government's budget deficit. Except for a slight increase in 1982, the salaries of government employees have been frozen since the early 1980s: this measure affects some 60 000 families and is equivalent to a salary reduction of 5 per cent a year, which, of course, has made it politically difficult to impose a further increase in cereal prices.

During the three-year drought that has affected the country, OPAM has revealed itself to be an efficient structure capable of coping not only with the increasing volume of cereals offered within me framework of the PRMC, but also with most of the considerable flow of food aid to Mali. The record harvest of 1985-86 took both OPAM and its donors by surprise: after having tried to maintain farmgate prices within the limits of its financial resources, OPAM was suddenly faced with an enormous quantity of cereals, the market price of which was higher than that asked by private traders who had bought them more cheaply.

On the eve of the second phase of the PRMC, this has led several experts to be more flexible in fixing prices so they can be revised during the season in accordance with the available wholesale and retail stocks, or which may differ from one region to another. Such measures would perhaps lead to a reduction in the margin between official consumer prices and private retail prices which has remained virtually the same throughout the five years programme. To eliminate the gap created by sending enormous amounts of food aid, some experts suggest that it would be preferable for donors to provide inputs, in order to enable OPAM to give more direct support to producers.

Finally, in addition to the real success obtained in the past five years by this ambitious programme, numerous experts consider that by applying its present policy the PRMC can neither obtain a real balance between farmgate and consumer prices, nor guarantee on its own a real step ahead in agricultural production. To give it a real boost in a country that at one time was considered the region's cereal storehouse implies making progress in other sectors of the economy, and particularly in the expansion of small and middle-sized enterprises, there must also be a real effort to develop infrastructures, especially roads, which would facilitate trade between the towns and rural areas. Part of the common counterpart funds of the PRMC could be used to finance such projects. In this way the programme, which since the beginning of the decade has gradually taken on a central role in reorienting agricultural policy, could pave the way for other changes in the country's economy.

Dani Blain

Saudi Arabia seeks to reduce costs of cereal subsidies

Current low oil prices are forcing Arab governments to look again at ways of cutting their food import bills - one of the most serious drains on their shrinking foreign exchange resources.

Economic realities dictate some sort of action, and quick. Oil revenues in the Near East and North Africa jumped from $10.5 billion in 1972 to $225 billion in 1981. With this rate of increase they were well able to afford a sevenfold rise in the cost of their food imports from $1.7 billion to $12.7 billion over the years 1970-72 to 1978-80.

But while oil revenues have dropped over the last five years, food imports have not. This year, if the price of oil averages $15 a barrel, Arab countries will net $71 billion. If, as is more likely, it stays at around $10 a barrel, revenues will be a mere $48 billion, or less than twice the most recently computed total for food imports to the Arab world-$27 billion in 1984.

Agriculture accounts for only 1 per cent of Saudi GDP, according to FAO figures. In 1984, the last year for which full figures are available, 2.3 per cent of resources went an agriculture and related water resources.

There are various remedies available to this region with its problem of a declining food self-sufficiency ratio. Near Eastern countries can simply resolve to cut down their purchases abroad. But that is not as easy as it might seem. In the last decade Arabs, moving to cities and then further afield to work and travel overseas, have gained a taste for non-traditional foodstuffs. At the same time, Arab importers have found themselves the target of stiff competition from the heavily subsidized farmers of Europe and the United States.

Through regional research centres like ICARDA and ACSAD, and their national equivalents, Arabs have had some success in improving the quality of their seeds and the efficiency of their farming practices. But the practical effects of any new measures have yet to filter through to the field, let alone be noted in increased output.

Therefore many Arab governments are looking to see what lessons they can draw from the most ambitious solution of all to the food deficit - the attempt by the richest country in the region, Saudi Arabia essentially to pay its farmers to produce a surplus.

In 1984 Saudi Arabia, was the largest importer of agricultural products in the region. It paid $5.7 billion (up from $1 billion eight years previously) to buy in food for a population of just 10.4 million. In the same year food imports in Egypt amounted to only $4.1 billion, in Iraq $3 billion, in Algeria $2.7 billion, and in Morocco, Kuwait and Libya around $1.5 billion each.

However, such a high food import bill amounted to only 4.75 per cent of Saudi Arabia's GDP (Egypt's by comparison amounted to 12.2 per cent). Saudi Arabia was in a unique position to juggle its budget and use its oil wealth to provide subsidies to boost domestic agricultural production.

Initially Saudi Arabia's planners decided to use wheat as a test case to show it was possible to revert the tide of growing imports. Just a few years earlier US Agriculture Secretary John Block had infuriated the Saudis by telling them it was not worth growing wheat in such an inhospitable environment as theirs. They should buy it all abroad. In some respects Block was right. Even in their most expensive year, 1981, Saudi wheat imports were valued at just $117 million - negligible compared with Saudi Arabia's total food imports in 1984 of $5.7 billion.

Aware, however, of their vulnerability to the "food weapon" should the US ever decide as some threatened - to use it against the Near East if oil prices rose too high and the newly emerging Arab economies became too powerful, the Saudis were determined to reduce their dependency on the outside world and to become self-sufficient at least in one crucial commodity, wheat.

During 1984 the incentives offered to farmers made Saudi wheat, at around $1 000 a metric ton at the farmgate, nearly ten times more expensive than the world's average price. A Saudi farmer receives free seed and pesticides, free irrigation water, half the cost of feed and fertilizer and 45 per cent of the cost of imported agricultural machinery. If he imports over 50 cows at one time, the state pays him a 100 per cent subsidy. In addition, loans to farmers from state institutions exceeded $1 billion in 1984.

Nevertheless, this policy brought immediate results. Wheat production in 1984 doubled to 1.3 million tons - up from 130 000 tons in 1970 and 875 000 tons in 1983. During the year domestic demand of 900 000 tons a year was exceeded for the first time. In 1985 output increased to 1.5 million tons and the harvest completed this July may top 2 million tons.

This extraordinary advance has not been made without some criticism. From the start it was clear the Saudis' subsidy policy encouraged too many weekend farmers, just in the business for the capital appreciation. Experts began to say it was contributing to the depletion of the Kingdom's scarce water resources. What is more, Saudi Arabia simply did not have the storage space for the crop. Taking all these factors into consideration, the state-run Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO), which has a capacity of 900 000 tons, unilaterally reduced its wheat procurement price in 1985 from $999 per ton to $570 per ton for farmers selling over 500 tons.

The farmers themselves were outraged at this unheralded change of policy, which played havoc with their planting schedules. They appealed to King Fahd to overrule the order, which he did. To deal with what now amounts to overproduction, Saudi Arabia has begun exporting wheat, first to Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, and, by way of food aid, to the Sudan and Bangladesh. Having achieved self-sufficiency in wheat, and bearing in mind currently reduced oil revenues, the Saudi Government is now trying to rationalize its subsidy policy. It needs to trim expenditure on subsidies while at the same time continuing to boost agricultural production.

It seems likely this year it will once again try to cut back the prices it pays for wheat purchases from the larger farms, but for this policy to be successful and well received, it will need to be implemented well in advance of the planting season starting in November. Lately the Saudi Government has turned its attention to its most costly food import, barley. In 1984, Saudi Arabia imported around 6 million tons of barley, mainly for animal feed. For this it paid its importers a subsidy of $82 a ton, again almost three times the world price. Now there is talk that the Kingdom will abolish this import subsidy and pay its farmers to grow more barley at home. However, thoughts of attaining self-sufficiency and producing anything like 6 million tons in Saudi Arabia are currently unrealistic. Saudi Arabia's planners will also still be able to call upon, and, if need be, tinker with the existing panoply of financial incentives designed to boost agricultural production.

What does all this mean for interested Arab countries? In bald terms, not very much at the moment. In their present reduced circumstances, other oil producers do not have Saudi Arabia's resources to throw at agriculture. A fair number of them are struggling with budget deficits and even talking to the IMF about stand-by loans. What would the IMF say if Egypt, for example, took Saudi Arabia's lead and spent about $1.3 billion (in 1984) buying in home-grown wheat that could have been acquired on the world market for just $225 million? Such policies fly in the face of the solemn arguments for freer trade, both internally and externally, put forward by the World Bank in its latest World Development Report.

On the other hand, and probably more significantly in the long run, Saudi Arabia has at least shown it is possible to reverse the trend of the Arab world's food deficit. Over the past decade, while they enjoyed budget surpluses, other Arab countries, such as Iraq and Libya, have also managed to boost their agricultural production, though the momentum has now rather fallen away. There is no reason to doubt that, when the oil market picks up again in perhaps four or five years, the Near East will not be able to turn the necessary resources to agriculture once more.

Andrew Lycett

Versatile palm adds diesel fuel to product range

The truck driver of the Centre for Research and Development (CEPED) of Bahia, stationed his vehicle at noon near a restaurant near the highway to have lunch. When the waiter took his order for a traditional Bahian fish dish, he realized that the oil that propelled his enormous diesel truck was the same (although, evidently, in a different form) as the oil on his plate: it was oil of denda kind of Brazilian palm. His perplexity would have been even greater if he had known that the same oil was also used to temper steel, like that used in his truck, and had been used in the manufacture of the soap with which he had just washed his hands.

Rudolph Diesel, however, would not have been surprised like our Bahian truck driver, since as long ago as 1900 an engine that ran on groundnut oil was exhibited at the Paris Exposition. Nevertheless, the enormous possibilities of vegetable oils were ignored during the years of cheap energy from fossil fuels - until the recent petroleum crisis revived interest in alternative sources of energy. The CEPED truck was an experimental part of a pilot
development project in progress in Bahia to study and evaluate the potential uses of palm oil as diesel fuel.

From the fruit of the dendt is possible to extract two types of oil: from the pulp and from the kernel. And those oils have enormous application in the food industry (at table and for cooking, or in the manufacture of sails, glycerine, detergents, and, finally, fuels. In Brazil there are four types of dendalm: one native (Melanoccaca), two introduced into Bahia from Africa (Dura and Deli dura), and one imported from Malaysia (Tenera) and widely diffused throughout many Brazilian states. It is estimated that more than 77 million hectares in the country could be planted to dend74 million in the Amazon basin alone.

The rural entrepreneurs of the south of Bahia, Para, Amapa and Amazonas, where the total demand predicted for 1987/88 is 6 million hybrid seeds of good quality to extend the area planted to palm, have for some time been showing interest in this crop. Motivated by their interest, as much as by the government's, in the real possibilities of this oil, FAO sponsored in 1984 in Brazil a regional roundtable on the processing of palm oil in small and medium industries. It was the third meeting in a series begun in Peru in 1980, when 12 countries (including Brazil) established a network for Technical Cooperation in Dendil, sponsored by the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. The technical cooperation networks are flexible mechanisms aimed at exchange of experiences and practical knowledge between the institutions of member countries.

In July 1985 an FAO specialist in palm processing, Michael Hadcock, arrived at Castanhal, a hundred kilometres from Bel(Para) to carry out a project consisting essentially in the adaptation of small machinery and in the training of personnel, in a programme of support for development of the processing of palm oil on a small and medium scale.

The project joined another 15 already operating in the area, also with international help. Such is the case of the work carried out in the Amazon area by EMBRAPA, with the collaboration of the French Institut de Recherche pour les Huiles et les Olineux, which gives guidance to local business and large cooperatives for optimizing the cultivation and industrialization of dendHadcock's work, in collaboration with a cooperative, Cooperativa Agrla Mixta Amaza (COOPAMA), is aimed, specifically, at the small producers to permit them to work with equipment that is suitable, small, adequate for their economic possibilities, thus producing, themselves, the oil from their plantations. Brazil has, for more than ten years, been manufacturing equipment capable of extracting up to 30 000 kg of fruit per hour. The objective of the project mentioned was to stimulate the industry so that it would produce small equipment, from 0.25 to 1.5 tons per hour, efficient, cheap, and easy to handle, thus freeing the producers of limited income from becoming merely collectors of fruit.

Michael Hadcock's mission to Brazil had two phases. The second phase, which lasted half a year, was completed at the end of 1985. In that period he worked with Brazilian technicians from the Ministry of Agriculture, emphasizing the technical and educational aspects of the problem. With the cooperation of COOPAMA (in space, facilities, manpower, and raw materials), he built a pilot micro-plant, with machines and tools manufactured, modified or simplified in two metallurgical factories at Castanhal, under the guidance of the FAO expert and his Brazilian colleagues, notably the mechanical engineer Paulo Tolini. Besides designing new machines and adapting other traditional equipment to local conditions, the project trained technicians, professionals and local producers for the construction, operation and maintenance of the new machines, including guillotines, pitters, digesters, clarifiers, and presses.

The problem of small and medium producers of dendas important social and economic aspects, since they cultivate (or at least harvest) a very large part of the fruits that reach the industry. In the Amazon region alone, it is estimated that the next harvest will yield $12 million but the share received by small and medium producers is very small. When they are technically and financially able to process their own harvests, they will be able to contribute to increasing production of oil, as well as improve their standard of living.

Claudio Fornari

Conflicting claims increase pressure on Egypt's land

Although many regions of the world can offer dramatic evidence that interference with the ecosystem frequently brings disastrous consequences, some Third World nations seem addicted to such practices. Egypt is a case in point: a country with a limited area of habitable and arable land, hemmed in on east and west by the desert.

As the habitable area does not exceed 3 per cent of Egypt's territory, large chunks of arable land are being sacrificed to urban development. On the other hand, land reclamation, which provides the only means of compensating for the loss, is costly and sometimes uneconomic. The conflicting pressures created by the food and housing requirements of a fast-growing population (2.8 per cent per annum) have tended, therefore, in conjunction with deterioration of the soil in recent years caused by salinity, water logging, and alkalinity, to bring about a sharp drop from the self-sufficiency of over a decade ago to a $4 billion food import bill in 1983.

The bill is rising and in all probability will continue to rise. Egypt is the second most populous nation in Africa, and its population, now in excess of 48 million with a density of about 1800 people per km2, is expected to reach a peak of 70-75 million by the year 2000. It follows that if the country is to have any hope of successful food management, it should not delay in heading for the optimum utilization and development of its resources, namely agriculture and fisheries.

But that does not seem to be the case. An important example is provided by Lake Nasser, the freshwater artificial reservoir of some 5 000 km2 crested by the construction of the High Dam, the largest structure of its kind in the world. Even though it was meant to provide a huge alternative fish resource, the damming of the Nile at Asswan had the effect of disrupting the important fishery of the Delta, without developing the infrastructure necessary for using it. Moreover, the benefits of the new resource came to be seen, in the total picture of food production, against the fact that a great part of the decline in agricultural production has been attributed to the loss of the traditional process of land fertilization, the Nile inundation of the Delta, and, even worse, the loss of all the arable land north of the High Dam.... Inundation had been a regular feature of Egypt's agricultural cycle since time immemorial - until the High Dam was built.

But what compounds the problems of a country deprived of its only fertilizing effort has been the seemingly uncontrollable encroachment on food production by urbanization, under the increasing demographic pressures experienced by a country where 44 per cent of its people live in urban concentrations.

Now a new threat is looming on the horizon. The chain effect has manifested itself in a further encroachment on the natural fishery resources for the purpose of land reclamation. It has been estimated that this reclamation process for crops will, by the end of the century, deplete nearly 140 000 hectares of the littoral lake region, a prime food resource in the northern Delta comprising a number of brackish lakes (Manzala, Burullus, Edko and Maryut, with a total area of 2 300 km2), and lagoons (Bardawil, Port Fouad, and Qarun, with a total area of 940 km2). With yields varying from a high of 1 400 kg/ha per annum, from Maryut, to 250 kg/ ha, from Manzala, to a low of 37-45 kg/ha from the lagoons, the whole littoral resource adds up to a potential of 143 000 tons a year of fish.

Such potential should be viewed against the fact that if the present level of fish consumption of 5.4 kg per caput annually is to be maintained, a population projected to reach the 70-75 million mark will require at least 350 000 tons a year. If we add the potential yields of other fishery resources (i.e., the marine fisheries of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, not to mention the Nile and the aquaculture ponds), it will emerge that Egypt is on its way to facing an annual deficit of approximately 100 000 tons. But if nutrition is to be improved in a country where malnutrition is rampant among the poorer classes, then annual demand may be as high as 450 000 tons, raising the supply deficit to 200 000 tons annually. It is indicative of things to come that in 1983, fish imports made up 37.4 per cent of the total consumption. Imports, therefore, represent an unacceptably high national expense, and it is unlikely, given the enormous size of the food import bill, that the country will ever find itself in a position to meet the cost of fish imports.

In the light of such a situation, high priority should be given to easing the burden of the projected increase in demand using local resources. Yet there are now clear indications that the continued existence of at least two of the largest Egyptian lakes (Manzala and Burullus) is threatened by a creeping process of desiccation. The mouths of the Manzala lake have, for some unfathomable reason, been dammed while effluent of city wastes is being poured into the now stagnating waters. The lake faces a slow biological death. Its fish yields have already dropped significantly. Meanwhile, fisherfolk who have made their living from the lakes for centuries are being eased out by wealthy investors who are carving the whole 1 400 km2 lake into veritable fiefdoms, varying in size from one to twenty feddans. They are converting their newly acquired holdings into fish farms and, in some cases, agricultural land to compensate for land converted elsewhere into building sites. In the process, land prices have soared: a feddan of lake land now sells for LE 7 000 to 8 000. (One feddan = approximately 4 200 m².)

A close look at the cost-effectiveness of fish farms suggests that they are not necessarily economically viable substitutes for naturally productive lakes. The Egyptian Government itself has embarked on an ambitious 100 000-hectare fishfarming programme, of which the 2000-hectare Port Said farm was the start. In Khashaa and Zawia, two more farms of 1 000 hectares each now exist. From past experience, the cost of fish farms may be estimated at LE 5 to 6 million per 1 000 hectares, with an expected maximum yield, upon completion of the projected 100 000 hectare project, of 50 000 tons under exemplary conditions and careful management of the resources.

In comparison, the 1 400 km2 feddans of Manzala yield, in their present condition, at least 60 000 and 75 000 tons a year, which could be doubled to 150 000 tons at a fraction of the cost of LE 5-6 million per 1 000 hectares being spent on state fish farms. The situation in Burullus, with about 560 km2, the second largest lake of the northern Delta, is even worse: 7700 feddans have already been desiccated and sold as agricultural land. In Balteem, 8 400 feddans have been desiccated and sold as agricultural land. In other lakes, the process of desiccation is gaining momentum and putting the existence of that vital resource in jeopardy.

It is highly doubtful that the loss of lake land means a gain of farm land. For one thing, the fertility of the areas under attack is questionable. For another, land by itself is not all that is needed for successful agriculture; irrigation and drainage are also essential. The absence of drainage on other agricultural land along the Nile has resulted in salinization, or the threat of salinization, of up to a third of Egypt's arable land. In 1982, almost all irrigated areas in the country were found to be potentially salt affected, and at least half the irrigated land (12 000^2) is already affected.... When all this is taken into account the economic feasibility of the whole process would look improbable.

More seriously still, there remains the vexed question of ecological balance. FAO and other international agencies have repeatedly pointed out that tampering with the environment is likely to entail dangerous imbalances in the ecosystem of the areas concerned. This is certainly a danger meriting investigation in Egypt, where only 25 000 km2 are cultivable out of a total of one million.

Medhat Makar

Groundnut shells provide base for organic fertilizer

Senegal's annual production of groundnuts in the shell amounts to 1 million tons. That means that about 200 000 tons of shells are either incinerated in the furnaces of groundnut-oil factories or left to rot in the desert. Groundnut shells are an abundant raw material and a largely unexploited one.

Senegalese peasants have used groundnut powder gathered after shelling as a low-yielding fertilizer for their gardens, but anything more than that seemed impossible. Agronomists, in fact, maintained that the shells would not ferment and thus could not be used more extensively as an organic fertilizer.

But the problem of disposing of groundnut shells remained, and the Senegalese authorities often, especially beginning in the 1970s, tried to solve it. Years of research and experimentation were needed, but in the end there were results. An environment suitable for fermentation was found. It is a tub in which the shells, ground to a powder, are immersed in an aqueous environment where chemical additives are mixed (e.g., urea, potassium sulphate). The process of fermentation is set off by a "base" of bovine fertilizer and bacterial proliferation is extremely quick: in general four or five days, a week at most.

The mechanism was developed in the 1970s in France in the laboratories of IRCHA (National institute for research on applied chemistry) beginning with wheat straw, and was patented in 1971 by CIDR (International centre for research and development), a non-governmental organization. But it was the 1973 rise in the price of petroleum, with its inevitable repercussions on that of chemical fertilizers-already prohibitive for most African peasants - that led to the practical application of the process. Thus the Senegalese authorities sought the help of CIDR, which had dusted off its own patent.

The first pilot experiment was conducted in 1975, at Bambey, on land belonging to the National Centre for Agronomic Research (CNRA), with credits granted by France and the EEC. All the byproducts of Senegalese agriculture were tested: from sugar-cane bagasse to rice straw to groundnut shells. These last gave the best results: under the control of CNRA agronomists, the fertilizer derived from them, tested on tomatoes, brought record yields of 70-72 tons per hectare.
Of course, that was virtually a laboratory experiment. The land on which the test was conducted had been kept fertile for decades by technicians and researchers and certainly did not represent average Senegalese soil conditions. Nevertheless, the results were sufficiently encouraging that it was decided to build a first factory to produce this new type of fertilizer.

It is going up at Tivaouane, a large suburb on the outskirts of Thi and will use raw material supplied by the shelling plant owned by Aloune Palla Mbaye, a local notable, member of the Senegal national federation of veterans and victims of war, who has assumed the role of patron of the initiative. This plant, which employs a dozen persons, handles, from September to May, varying tonnages of groundnuts: 58 000 in the best years. From 2 000 to 10 000 tons of shells are extracted, depending on how the season went. Now at least part of them will be converted into fertilizers.

The setting up of the plant has been entrusted to the French engineer Pierre Garrigues of CIDR and carried out by CORDIA (the Paris based Company for the Organization of Industrial and Agricultural Development), of which Garrigues is president. "It was believed," he said, "that chemical fertilizers had the definite advantage over vegetable fertilizers. But, at the end of the 1970s, the international scientific community recognized that chemical fertilizers could fulfil their function only on lands with a sufficient content of organic matter." That is, of humus, the colloidal matter of the soil which derives from the decomposition of organic residues and which makes a breeding ground for bacteria. The bacteria in turn metabolize the soil's mineral salts, making them thereby assailable by the plants, and expel carbonic gas, which allows the plants themselves to manufacture their cellulose structure. No chemical fertilizer produces the essential carbon. This is a problem particularly in the tropics, where the soil rapidly becomes exhausted under the combined effects of wind and torrential rains.

"The new groundnut-based fertilizer," says Garrigues, "offers another fundamental advantage: it will cost 20 times less than chemical fertilizers and that will largely compensate for the fact of having to use a larger (triple) dose of it per hectare." In Senegal, as elsewhere in Africa, one of the most urgent problems is, in fact, to reduce to the extent possible the use of chemical fertilizers, which are extremely costly for the peasant economy.

A basic element for the best application of the new technique is the size of the fermentation trench. Research shows that the larger it is, the better the results. Consequently, the trench for the Tivaouane plant should have a capacity of 35 m3 (as against the 7 m3 of the experimental trench at Bambey); and, with two trenches, the unit could set off a production of 500-1 000 tons of fertilizers. That would be offered to horticulturists of the area around Niayes, on the seacoast, Senegal's most important region for fruit and vegetable production.

It is a first step. But it looks like this small industrial unit - which the Senegalese Government is watching with particular attention - established in the right place and in the right way, can, if well managed, demonstrate the usefulness of the new technique and be a point of departure for the creation of similar plants, serving the rural communities of many African countries, beginning with those of the Sahel.

Gabriella Lapasini

Promising results as Cuba reshapes fishing industry

In 1985 the Cuban fishing fleet extracted a total of 219 000 tons of fish from national waters (marine and fresh) and international waters (the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) combined.

That figure, contained in the Anuario Estadico de la Repa de Cuba, or Cuban statistical yearbook, published by the Government of Cuba (cf. FAO, Cuba Basic Data 1984-85), is very significant. It demonstrates that the fishing industry of the Caribbean island has returned to and surpassed the high levels attained at the end of the 1970s, which is to say before the international 200-mile limit went into effect.

The limitations on coastal fishing introduced by the Law of the Sea had brought about a real collapse in the Cuban fishing industry: the total quantity of fish captured within and out side Cuban territorial waters fell back to only 153 900 tons, a little more than the level of six years before, in 1973. Then there was a comeback: 186 400 tons in 1982; 199 800 in 1984. In 1985 the figure shot more than 5 000 tons past the record of 213 200 tons reached in now-distant 1978.

The 1985 yearbook contains some other data on the Cuban fishing industry which, carefully examined, give a good picture of the state of apparent robust health which this important branch of the island's economy seems to be enjoying. The success of the considerable work of modernization, reorganization and expansion promoted in the last five year period by MIP in the various branches of the sector also emerges from a reading of the data.

Next to the quantity of fish captured in 1985, the yearbook gives the total production of the relatively young aquaculture industry - 15 400 tons. That figure represents a rise from 12 500 tons in 1983 and 14 500 tons in 1984. Therefore the 1985 total is important not only in absolute terms, but also be cause it confirms a phase of constant and marked growth in a sector of the fishing industry that was almost nonexistent until the middle of the 1970s. Faced with reduced prospects in fishing along the coasts of Latin American or African countries, the Cuban industry, to its credit, knew how to employ fresh energies in aquaculture, obtaining brilliant results and opening new perspectives for the entire sector.

The yearbook, with the meagreness of the figures registered (in-shore fleet, 1 526 vessels; high seas and internal waters fleets, 187 vessels), does not convey the profound changes that have occurred regarding the make-up and subdivision of the fishing fleet in this sector of primary importance in the fishing industry.

Although in the last decade the total number of vessels, large and small, for fishing in Cuban and international waters has remained around 2 000 units, the dimensions of the individual fleets have undergone heavy variations. The typology of the vessels belonging to each of the fleets has also changed.

The old division into In-shore Fleet, Gulf Fleet, and High Seas Fleet has been replaced by a new one. There are still three different types of fleet but the old Gulf Fleet has been eliminated. Since 1980 the more than 100 fishing boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico and which dedicate themselves to the catching of shrimp (the highly valued camarones) have been converted to other fishing operations. The dismantling of the Gulf Fleet was the first serious and irreversible consequence of the introduction of the 200-mile limit by the new Law of the Sea.

The large High Seas Fleet has been doubled: the Atunera de Cuba, specializing in the capture of the large tunas in the open seas of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Cubana de Pesca, for other species of fish, such as hake, using trawl-nets. This fleet in 1974 had only 18 large boats but has increased, in the middle of the 1970s, to 36 units in 1978; but from then the number of boats has remained practically frozen at 35. The old vessels, however, have gradually been replaced by real gems of fishing technology with the most modern equipment for the processing and freezing of the captured fish.

The number of vessels assigned to tuna-fishing has remained almost unchanged in the last decade. The tuna fleet consisted of 24 large units in 1974 and maintained that number until 1978. Since then it has lost three units. Today it has 21, of which one is a tanker for refuelling the others on the high seas.

In January 1985, the director of the Cubana de Pesca, Roberto Ferrer, announced at a press conference that for the first time in its 22 years of activity the fleet had registered, for 1984, a profit of 2.7 million Cuban pesos, equivalent to about US $3 million. The announcement caught everyone by surprise, especially since the Cubana de Pesca had estimated a balance in the red of about 8.6 million pesos, or about $9 million, for 1984. To the Cuban journalists who seemed a bit sceptical, Ferrer explained that the exceptional result was made possible by a triple effort on the part of the boats' crews: the choice of fishing grounds nearer to Cuba; better selection of fish to go after and repairs to the boats made in record time in Cuban dockyards instead of in the much more costly ones of Europe and South America.

The last important statistic for the 1985 fishing industry contained in the Cuban yearbook is the average quantity of fish consumed per caput by Cuban citizens: 11 kilograms a year. This figure is extremely important for two reasons. It shows that the Cuban population must now be counted among the largest consumers of fish products, and it demonstrates irrefutably that the Cuban revolutionary government has in 20 years succeeded in modifying - for the better - the eating habits of the island's people. In 1959 fish consumption was far below one kilo a year. Altogether in 1984 to the population was distributed a quantity of fish equal to 116 000 tons. A part of this fish (33 000 tons was imported in order not to cut into the percentage of high quality fish caught by the Cuban fleets for export.

Overall the data reported in the Cuban yearbook provide more than enough information to make a positive analysis of the state of the Cuban fishing industry at the end of a real five-year period of fire, begun in 1980 with the introduction of the 200-mile limit and concluded in 1985 with the international economic crisis (the problem of heavy debts owed by the developing countries of the South, including Cuba, to the industrialized countries of the North).

Confirmation comes from the fact that the fishing industry is now counted among the five items of the Cuban economy that are earning a profit: sugar, tobacco, nickel, and tourism.

Whether the fishing industry is really in the black is difficult to say (the same is true for other sectors of the Cuban economy). It probably is not, or is not yet. Furthermore, it employs 42 000 workers and disposes of an army of 13 400 fishermen. The sale and distribution of fish to all the sectors of the population, furthermore, achieved in the face of difficulties of every sort, especially logistic, fills social requirements and surely affects negatively the profitability of the industry as a whole.

But bear in mind that the announcement made proudly by the director of the Cubana de Pesca was followed by similar announcements. The promising aquaculture sector could very soon show a profit: according to the magazine Mary Pesca... there have been real production explosions in aquaculture (from 165 to 330 kg per hectare of water surface) at Lom de Tierra, Cotorro, near Havana, and Las Tunas Bezaza in the Gulf of Guacayanabo, in the south-central part of the country.

In his report to the third Communist Party Congress Fidel Castro was able to present the fishing industry as one of the most promising sectors of the entire economy of the country - one of the sectors which, in the 25 years since the beginning of the Revolution, have been able to construct solid bases for the immediate and long-term future.

Castro cited both the imposing and articulated complex of infrastructures which today MIP has (the large fishing port with its modern naval installations, the plants for processing and freezing the fish, canneries) the important research centres of the CIP (Centre for Fisheries Research) and CITIP (Centre for Technological Fisheries Research), both at Havana, the Oceanological Institute of the Academy of Sciences, the three schools for the training of new generations of fishing technicians (Instituto de Pesca, Escuela tica, Escuela de cualificaciica) attended as well by hundreds of youths from the Third World.

The Cuban leader could cite with pride the giant steps made by the Cuban dockyards toward full autonomy in construction and repair of fishing boats of all sizes. Cuba has constructed thousands of boats longer than ten metres, in both ferrocement and plastic, and is able to equip them with sophisticated instruments suitable for many kinds of fishing, whether coastal or on the high seas.

Among the chief objectives of the Cuban fishing industry, Castro indicated the following: 1) maximum exploitation of the fish resources of Cuban waters; 2) development of aquaculture in the inland waters of the island and starting up of projects for marine fish farming; 3) maintenance of the levels of fish of the seagoing fleets at, however, lower costs; 4) maximum utilization of the national capacities for better industrial processing of fish products, for better exploitation of exports and for the construction and repairs of the vessels.

Pino Cimo