|CERES No. 072 (FAO Ceres, 1979, 50 p.)|
FAO REVIEW OF AGRICULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT: Food distribution
A certain degree of healthy scepticism usually greets the work of futurists. Little wonder that economists, whose profession occasionally obliges them to assume the futurist's role, carefully underline the uncertainty of the art with terms such as "normative scenario," etc.
Writing future scenarios for world agriculture has been especially hazardous, as a comparison of production performance in the past decade with the original aspirations for that period will testify.
The FAO study Agriculture: toward 2000 on which we focus our report on page 14 is thus perhaps talking about possibilities rather than about probabilities.
Since the production increases envisaged in this scenario are
based primarily on the assumption of improved yields, it is interesting to
consider whether the projected yield increases
appear attainable at the farm level, which is, after all, where it happens.
Of five major crops we examined, we found that the study's projected end-of-century yields for developing countries were still below present world averages in two instances (barley and maize), were significantly above present world averages for wheat and rice, and only slightly higher for pulses.
Whether, in 20 years, the normative scenario of Agriculture: toward 2000 will bear some resemblance to reality, or be regarded as merely another pious projection will depend to a great extent on whether farmers can perceive such targets as attainable, given present circumstances.
... and next
The ability of planners to communicate their objectives to primary producers - and to listen to primary producers' reactions to plans - is an that is receiving, in the abstract at least, considerably more attention than previously. Our first issue of 1980 will look at the practical aspects of improved communication in the rural world.
- multilines in India
An alternative approach to providing farmers with a means of stabilized resistance against the perennial threat of rust has reached field level in major wheat-growing areas of India. A year ago, the Punjab Department of Agriculture and Punjab Agricultural University released for distribution to farmers about 4 000 small packets of the seed of a new multiline variety of wheat expected to provide durable resistance to yellow and brown rusts. From this seed-multiplication programme, large quantities of seed are available for the 1978/79 crop year.
As in many other parts of the world, wheat growers in India have adopted semidwarf varieties on an extensive scale because of their high yield potential as compared with the old, tall varieties. One result has been the tendency to monoculture of a few varieties, creating a situation in which virulent forms of plant disease pathogens may multiply to epidemic proportions. A striking example is the Kalyasona variety developed from a Mexican cross, 8156 from CIMMYT. Kalyasona was very popular in India for a few years until it became susceptible to yellow and brown rusts.
In view of this, work was initiated at the Punjab Agricultural University to develop multiline varieties within the genetic background of Kalyasona. The concept of multiline varieties is based on the diversification of component lines with respect to disease resistance. At crop level this concept is an old one. Under natural conditions different crop species were normally mixed, which helped to maintain a balance between host plants and pathogens. With the beginning of civilized cultivation, this interspecific diversification was reduced and the phase of intraspecific diversification started, during which farmers grew mixtures of different varieties of the same crop. The development of pure line varieties in the modem agricultural era considerably reduced this diversification at crop level and obliged breeders to seek disease-resistant characteristics through other breeding techniques.
The technique for the deliberate development of multiline varieties was first postulated by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug of the International Centre for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) in Mexico. Two multiline varieties, Miramar 63 and Miramar 65, were developed and released in Colombia to control yellow rust. However, as new semidwarf pure line varieties began to display their potential, not many efforts were made for the further development of multiline varieties.
The new multiline released in India, Kalyasona Multiline 3 (KSML 3), consists of six genetically different lines of wheat mixed mechanically in equal proportions. The six lines have the same agronomic characteristics, so that they are uniform in plant height, grain colour, grain type and maturity. But each line has different genetic background for resistance to yellow and brown rusts.
In tests conducted throughout the entire Northwestern Plains zone of India, which comprises the States of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, KSML 3 outyielded Kalyasona by an average margin of about 9 percent. On the basis of its good yield performance, rust resistance and uniformity in plant type, it has been recommended for minikit trials on farmers' fields throughout the zone.
- forest destruction
In the past few years, there has been a growing realization that charcoal is a much more important source of energy than generally acknowledged. Until recently, estimates of global consumption were never higher than 5 million tons a year; now FAO experts say roughly 30 million tons of charcoal are used a year in both the domestic and industrial fields. The fact that charcoal is a favoured urban domestic fuel suggests that charcoal use is rising much faster than fuelwood use, since population growth is much higher in urban areas than rural areas.
Charcoal is in many respects a highquality fuel. It has twice the heat value per unit weight as wood, and it is much more energy efficient in application. Therefore, it can be transported economically over longer distances. It produces no smoke or tar and it cannot deteriorate in storage.
In addition, charcoal has a wide range of use as an industrial fuel. Colossal amounts are utilized in Brazil and Argentina for steel making, while in northeast Uganda charcoal is used in lime and cement manufacture. Other uses occur in drying, water purification and sewage works. Large numbers of rural families depend on commercial production and marketing of charcoal as a source of income.
But because between 50 and 70 per cent of the heat value is lost during conversion from wood to charcoal, it may be more efficient to use fuelwood where transport distances are short and costs are low. The balance between fuelwood and charcoal, and the limits of economic supply for the latter, depend on production costs, transport costs and market prices of charcoal and alternative fuels. In a recent study in East Africa, it was found that fuelwood was more attractive up to a road distance of 82 km, and charcoal beyond that distance.
Since up to 8 kg of wood are needed to produce 1 kg of charcoal, often the effect of charcoal production is to extend greatly the area of forest destruction. The damage has been worst around large towns in Africa and Asia.
Yet charcoal manufacture remains a logical way of using wood that otherwise would be too costly to transport. "There's no escape," says Mike Arnold, an FAO senior forestry planning officer. "There's no other economical alternative. Countries simply have to control the situation and produce charcoal in a less destructive way."
The bulk of the charcoal produced in the world is made in ovens
called kilns, which are inefficient in their use of wood. Kilns have evolved
from the earliest means of making charcoal known to man, i.e., by covering
burning wood with turf or by firing the wood in a hole in the ground. Although
earth or pit kilns require very little investment, yield and quality of the
A variety of designs for brick and steel kilns have been developed, which not only have the advantages of simplicity, small scale, low costs and even portability, but also improve the conversion rate. An even higher conversion rate can be obtained using retorts, containers in which wood is heated externally until carbonization occurs. Since the capital cost of retorts is relatively high, they are generally used only in large-scale industry. However, retorts permit the capture of gas and distillable by-products, which can offset the costs of transporting the wood over long distances, thus providing employment for rural populations living near plants.
A small portable retort developed in Western Australia with a
production capacity of 1 ton/day offers a technology both intermediate and
appropriate for developing countries. At first sight, the capital required for
retort operations, large or small, appears to be
a barrier to their use in the developing world. A closer look shows that the initial high capital sum is usually compensated for by considerable savings in other directions. This becomes more important as labour costs increase.
There is a trend toward using eucalyptus plantations to provide wood for large-scale charcoal production, particularly in Brazil. Slower growing species of proportionately higher basic density can produce as much weight of charcoal per hectare/year as the faster, lighter species now used, while the resulting denser charcoal has distinct advantages in industry.
But since virtually all species of wood can be converted to charcoal, production can be based on the large volumes of wood other than commercial timber species, which are otherwise destroyed in land clearing or left unused in forests. Such a programme is under way in Uganda, where 20 000 tons of charcoal are made each year using only waste wood. Similar projects exist in Zambia and Ghana.
Such programmes and other efficiency measures must be implemented elsewhere, since there is often preference for charcoal even when wood or other fuels are cheaper. Burning wood for cooking purposes can make an already warm house intolerable, whereas efficient charcoal stoves, which can be made for as little as $1, generate very little heat. In addition, the smokeless fuel provides a solution to the pollution problems of some of the larger cities of the tropics. The benefits of using charcoal over smoky fuels in cities are not yet fully appreciated in developing countries but this factor could be important at a later stage, e.g., if clean air legislation were introduced.
In developing countries, it is often a lack of entrepreneurial skills that inhibits the development of more efficient means of charcoal production. The help of the government or aid agency is often missing in the early stages. But according to Arnold, at least an awareness of the problem of charcoal production inefficiency has grown rapidly over the past few years.
- income a factor
Most of the increase in tobacco production projected for the next five years will take place in the developing countries. According to FAO projections to 1985, world tobacco output is expected to increase more rapidly than in the previous decade when reduced growth rates reflected producer adjustments to low prices. The overall expansion in supplies is likely to meet global demand requirements which are expected to continue to rise at about the long-term rate. However, a marked change is indicated in developed countries, where demand is expected to increase at about half the rate of the past decade. In developing countries, however, the growth of demand is expected to accelerate and consumption levels to rise accordingly.
The situation in the world tobacco economy was reversed in the early 1970s. Following several years of surpluses and depressed prices, gradually increasing demand and stagnant production resulted in tight supplies, especially of light cigarette leaf. Stocks in both producing and consuming countries were drawn down and prices increased sharply. The full impact of this situation became evident in the mid-1970s when world tobacco production expanded to more than 5.5 million tons compared with an average level of about 4.5 million tons at the beginning of the decade. Although prices subsequently weakened temporarily the long-term upward trend in demand for tobacco resumed in 1977, indicating favourable earnings prospects to growers, particularly in developing countries.
World tobacco output is now projected to rise to 6.3 million tons (farm sales weight) by 1985, representing an annual growth rate of 2.0 percent, or nearly double the actual yearly increase between 1962-64 and 1972-74. In the developing countries, production growth is projected to increase by 2.8 percent annually compared with 2.1 percent in the previous decade, whereas in developed countries moderate growth, about 1.0 percent annually, would reverse the slight downward trend since the early 1960s.
On this basis, developing countries will be producing by 1985 nearly 4.0 million tons of tobacco annually, or 63 percent of the total world output compared with 52 percent in 1962-64. Rising labour costs in high-income countries and the policies of such countries to maintain leaf prices at remunerative levels will continue to encourage expansion of production in developing countries. Especially rapid growth, exceeding 4 percent annually, is expected in Latin America and Africa, but increases would also be large in the Near East and the Far East. Production is also projected to rise in China, though somewhat less rapidly than during the previous decade, during which the country surpassed the United States as the largest tobacco producer in the world.
Demand is also projected to rise more rapidly in the developing countries than in the industrialized world, at 2.8 percent annually compared with 1.8 percent for the latter. The increase is attributed to rising income levels, and increased availability of tobacco products in countries where production expansion programmes have been launched. Even so, per caput consumption in the developing world at the projected figure of 0.84 kg annually would still be well below the 1.17 kg per caput average of the rich world.
- attractive but bulky
Down-to-earth experiments in child nutrition in Peru have
brought to light, once
again, the potentialities of the potato.
A team of doctors at the Nutrition Research Institute in Lima (a private, non-profit organization) has been testing and evaluating the use of potatoes in feeding malnourished children. Led by Dr. George Graham, Head of the Human Nutrition Division of Johns Hopkins University, and by Dr. William MacLean, the Lima researchers have evolved potato formulas that achieve their revitalizing purpose at a cost considerably lower than milk. The researchers hope that their efforts will interest other nutrition specialists and be of use in a wider field.
Nearly 50 percent of Peruvian children suffer from some form of malnutrition, an illustratively large group among the world's approximately 100 million children who are underfed.
Recovery of a malnourished child takes at least one to three months. Undernutrition or malnutrition may result from inadequate total intake of food, from lack of appropriate food or from infection, which may make the child unable to use the food consumed. In the latter cases, the result may be deficiencies of protein and essential amino acids.
According to MacLean, the most common cause of malnutrition in young children is early weaning from the breast to the use of inadequate substitutes. The two basic types of malnutrition are marasmus and kwashiorkor. Children with marasmus have received a reasonably balanced diet but in too small quantities. With kwashiorkor (which is frequently preceded by measles), the child may have had almost adequate calories, but protein is deficient.
Institute patients are the subjects of three types of nutritional studies. There is the initial evaluation to determine damage and necessary action. Next, a comparative study is conducted and the researchers measure the amount of nitrogen absorbed and how the patient is using the nitrogen. Finally, in a longterm study, blood tests are made, and measurements of changes in the skin, growth of the patient, the quality of protein in the diet and abnormal digestion.
Malnourished children often do not have adequately developed digestive systems, so they must be fed easily digestible foods when they enter the Institute, says Dr. Guillermo Lopez de Romana in his survey of the role of the potato in child nutrition, presented to scientists of the International Potato Centre (CIP), with whom the Institute researchers work closely.
The small patients, usually between three months and one year old, are fed diets in which 25, 50 and 75 percent of the calorie intake and up to 100 percent of the protein come from potatoes. Blenderizing reduces the bulk of the potatoes. Additional fat, carbohydrates and a vitamin-and-mineral mixture are awed.
The potato formula has been tested for the amount a child can consume, fat absorption, maintenance of adequate serum proteins, acceptability and tolerance. "The potato is favourable in all these factors and the nitrogen retention from the potato is better than for rice or wheat," says MacLean. The quality of the protein of the potato is very high, he noted.
According to Dr. Sidki Sadik, Head of the Physiology Department at CIP, scientists are attempting to overcome the bulk problem by processing potatoes with simple machinery that could be constructed at village level. This has been made possible through a grant from the International Development Research Centre in Canada. Considering the use of such processed food in a wider field, he said, "If you feed more potatoes to poor people, you have to make potatoes more available."
To experts of the Food Policy and Nutrition Division at FAO, the availability of an additional tool for rehabilitation of undernourished children is always welcome. There are a number of these already in existence, but in some places potato may be a better base material. However, the experts said, it is another matter to try to extend the use of the product to villages. According to them, the key to getting enough protein out of a starchy food is reduction of bulkiness. Ordinarily, too much water is needed to prepare an acceptable pap and the baby cannot eat enough to get the needed amount of protein in his daily feedings. In the hospital, the problem can be solved with blenders and perhaps even enzymes, but in the village this will not be possible. A prepared food, manufactured even with simple equipment, would cost more money than potatoes and might therefore not reach the most vulnerable groups, unless heavily subsidized by the government.
However, the FAO nutrition specialists agreed that, if organizations like the International Potato Centre and the Nutrition Research Institute of Lima were behind it, some workable solution might well be found.
This would not appear impossible. Since the potato first travelled from the high Andes around 1585, it has blossomed into over a thousand varieties with amazing adaptability to climates, altitudes and seasons.
Finding it contained essentials they lacked in their diet and was simple to grow, scurvy-plagued seafarers promoted its cultivation at their ports of call. A continuous spectacular spread carried it to New Zealand in 1773, Sweden in 1775, Africa in 1776, Tibet in 1800, Persia in 1844,the East Indies in 1882.
In Europe, the potato took hold shortly after its arrival, resisting the damp cold that frequently destroyed staple crops of rye, wheat, oats and barley. Also, potatoes remained ready to harvest from She earth when standing crops were devastated by political unrest and local warfare. Frederick the Great of Prussia enforced potato growing on a large scale in 1744, as did Catherine the Great of Russia shortly afterwards.
It was found that potatoes yielded more per hectare than cereals and, despite the high water content, the food value was greater. The Irish economy, based on small farms, became dependent on the potato crop. A typical Irish peasant family consumed 3.5 kg of potatoes per person per day. This diet, according to a nutrition expert of the 1800s, more than equalled in nourishment the customary bread and cheese of English and continental workers "and filled the Irishman's belly." When disaster struck with a blight in the 1840s, 1 million Irish died of hunger, and 2 million emigrated.
The annual world production of potatoes is about 290 million tons. About 30 percent of this is grown in the USSR, 15 percent in Poland, 10 percent in Germany (FR), 5 percent in Germany (DR), France and the United States. Production per caput is greatest in Poland at about 1 200 kg.
Now again, when crops in many small needy countries are devastated and multitudes are hungry, the success of the low-priced formula for undernourished children evolved in Lima may well draw attention and result in further research into the potentialities of the common potato.
- a brilliant future
Names like graviola, araticum-ape, pitanga, mangostao and maracuja sound just as unintelligible to a great number of Brazilians as they do to foreigners. If we substitute these picturesque Indian names with their corresponding scientific terms of Anona muricata, Anona reticulata, Eugenia uniflora, Garcinia mangostana and Passiglora edulis, understanding becomes the privilege of botanists and Latinists. However, they are simply tropical fruits - soursop, custard apple, Surinam cherry, mangosteen and passion fruit - delicate and delicious, rich in nutrients and easy to cultivate. But, little is known beyond traditional techniques, which do not always lead to steady, abundant and economical production.
One of the objectives of the project being developed by FAO at the Research Centre for the Development of Bahia (CEPED) is the inclusion of these fruits in every Brazilian's daily diet as well as in foreign diets.
This is the results of studies by UNCTAD/GATT, the Tropical
Products Institute of London, and export promotional offices of several
countries which revealed a growing demand in Europe and the United States for
tropical fruits, both fresh and processed, due to their therapeutic and dietary
values, and excellent taste and aroma. This applies not only to the
above-mentioned more exotic and little-known fruits, but also to the popular and
familiar species being exported by
African and Near East countries.
In northeastern Brazil, the climate is hot and humid during the major part of the year, with a mean temperature favourable to the cultivation of practically all tropical fruits. In this region, encompassing one fifth of Brazil's territory and one fourth of its population, grows an infinite variety of native fruits. By far the most important is pineapple; also significant are bananas, cashews and passion fruit, as well as papaws, persimmons, mangoes and many other varieties.
A few kilometres from the littoral is the Sertao, a large semiarid area which, with irrigation, will become more suitable for fruit growing than the humid coastal zone where many plant diseases prevail. Research has shown, for example, that the mangoes from Juazeiro are relatively free from anthracnose, which severely attacks those from San Salvador. FAO experts believe that the newly irrigated areas along the Sao Francisco river will become an important production area for high-quality fruits in the next decade.
There is no doubt that a very important role is reserved for these fruits; however, there are some contradictions in this region. For example, during 1976, in only nine northeastern States, banana production was of the order of 180000 clusters, but per caput consumption was equivalent to two bananas per week. Although up-to-date statistics regarding papaws only cover the southern region, it appears that Brazil is the largest producer in the world (more because of excellent ecological conditions than skilled production techniques). Despite this fact, the quantity of papaws consumed in the northeastern region of the country would be equivalent to one slice per person... per month! Brazil is also the second largest producer in the world of pineapples, after the United States. In 1975, Brazilian pineapple production was of the order of 584 000 tons, the major part from the State of Paraiba, in the heart of the northeastern region. Even so, inhabitants of that area are not eating more than one single, medium-sized pineapple per year.
The project is nearing its sixth year, with a respectable compilation of achievements. In just a few years, the CEPED Food Section has grown from picturesque headquarters in the tourist district of Montserrat to modern installations in Camacari, with well-equipped laboratories, a library, pilot plants and, more importantly, a highly competent staff. Although a state institution, CEPED has the efficient collaboration - both technical and economic - of several Brazilian credit, research and rural extension institutes, in addition to the support of private companies.
The CEPED team, with FAO's technical collaboration, has produced numerous studies and technical publications during these years, resulting from completed experiments and tests. Among such results can be mentioned the adaptation of sun-drying techniques for the production of raisins in the Sao Francisco valley; the perfecting of storage of pineapples, mangoes, onions, and other tropical fruits; the compilation of data, covering the entire cycle of marketing of fresh as well as processed fruits.
All this laboratory and desk labour begins with lengthy, careful and patient field work on the Centre's own land, at private properties and, principally, in the Experimental Station for Tropical Fruit Culture, located 180 km from El Salvador, which pertains to the agricultural research services of the local Secretariat of Agriculture, and has become a sort of United Nations orchard, with fruit from all over the world. The research programme of the station is carried out by the Federal Agricultural Research Services and the National Research Centre for Cassava and Fruits.
There are no exact and updated statistics on the number of people working in fruit growing in this part of the country. It is known that a great part of the fruit is produced or picked in the forest by small farmers, but there is also a big pineapple plantation in Bahia which produces about 20000 tons and employs about 500 workers (and more during harvest).
The fruit-processing industry in the area employed 6600 workers in 1975; 55 percent of these were permanently employed. This figure is growing steadily thanks to the production of processed fruit, mainly doces (marmalade, jam, jelly, etc.) and juices. The average processing units are small and can hardly be called industries, but total production was 20.2 thousand tons in 1969, increasing to 51.2 thousand tons in 1975. It is estimated that production was 62 000 tons in 1977.
In a 1976 report to the United Nations, FAO technician Saeed A. Chaudri stated: "In view of observed facts, it can very safely be said that the future of the production and processing of tropical fruits in northeastern Brazil is brilliant." To help to transform that future into the present is CEPED's task.
- incomes above average
Among the many resolutions adopted by UNCTAD V at Manila was one calling for special assistance to islands, because of their special problems. It asks that exports, particularly, be prompted, to counterbalance limited national outlets.
We must face facts when it comes to foreign trade: rich countries, in relation to their population, corner a large share of the world's trade, while the poorer countries participate to a very limited degree. But how do non-island countries compare here? For example, if Cape Verde, with 0.75 per 10000 of the world's population, has only 0.36% of imports and 0.02 of exports, Guinea-Bissau, its continental neighbour, has 2.24 for its population figure, 0.37 for imports and 0.05 for exports. Here, all we can deduce is that since both countries attained independence only very recently, they are not, as yet, greatly interested in world trade. For development takes time, in these sectors as well as in others. The fact that one country consists of a group of islands, while the other forms part of a continent, does not seem to have made a great deal of difference.
Taking a look at the right-hand column, however, we can see immediately that the biggest balances belong to two major oil-producing countries (Bahrain and Indonesia), while all the rest are, to varying degrees, importers. Island countries are obviously not the only countries to fall into the latter category. Commodity balances, we find, are all very similar to those listed here.
Finally, if we compare column totals with world averages, we see that an islander earns $2430 per annum, compared to the average world figure of $1 696.5 per caput per annum, and that with 10.3 percent of the world's population, island countries account for 16.1 percent of world imports and 15.7 percent of exports. The total balance, which shows a slight deficit, only reflects a geographical fact; none of the major oil-exporting countries, with these two exceptions, is an island.
What we are trying to point out, of course, is not that island countries should be refused aid, but simply that continental countries do not seem to have been more favoured by nature, in terms of income and foreign trade.
- health safeguards lacking
Irrigated agriculture represents only 13 percent of global arable land surface but the value of crop production from irrigated lands is 34 percent of the world total. The proportion of development investment that has been channelled into irrigation schemes is therefore understandable.
Yet, against the undeniable benefits that have accrued from these investments, there must be counted the health problems that have resulted from inadequate planning of the irrigation works. In most developing countries safe water is still to be provided, and waterborne or water-related diseases are endemic over wide areas. Increased human contact with water increases the hazard of infection.
Yet it is only recently, urged by national and international authorities, that the technical planners of irrigation schemes have begun to take these factors into consideration. (Many villagers near the Aswan dam still walk a mile for potable water.) The recommendations of health authorities for the actual zoning of the new agricultural workers' villages have frequently been disregarded at the planning stage. For example, health authorities advise leaving 300 metres between irrigation water courses and inhabited areas, but these spaces are often filled with schools, public buildings and even housing. Schoolchildren,- most prone to infection, use the canals for swimming and relief from the heat.
The borderline between water-borne and food-borne infections is often indeterminable, food being contaminated by water containing pathogens and in its turn serving as a vehicle for infection. Lack of sufficient safe water to dean cooking and eating utensils can obviously play its part in spreading diseases.
The responsibility for bringing elementary health education to this level has generally been left to local health and agricultural authorities. As yet, there appears to have been no development of a general health education system that would inform workers on new irrigation development schemes, and their families living nearby, of the dangers that come with water. In developing countries where increased output of crops has been considered of primary importance, health considerations are too often secondary and water-borne diseases are apt to be considered as part of a local way of life, or death.
The most prevalent water-related afflictions are malaria, spread by 60 varieties of the anopheles mosquito; schistosomiasis, carried by snails; filariasis, propagated by mosquitoes and horseflies; and onchocerciasis, or river blindness, transmitted by small blackflies.
Among these, malaria has been the leading affliction, accounting for as many as 3 million deaths annually. There have been a number of successful malaria eradication programmes over the years, including the global campaign of the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, some of this effort has been negated by the impact of large irrigation and water resource development schemes that provide an ideal habitat for malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. One example of what can happen is to be found in the Cukur and Antakya plains of Turkey where a formerly swampy area was developed through irrigation and drainage schemes for intensive production of cereals, cotton, rice, vegetables and citrus crops. Combined with rapid industrial growth in textiles, cement and engineering, the agricultural development resulted in a large population influx into the region, comprising both seasonal farm workers and a permanent industrial labour force. Throughout the 1960s, a malaria eradication campaign had succeeded in reducing parasite incidence (API) from 10.3 to 0.002 per thousand inhabitants. The localities affected represented only 0.3 percent of the total. In 1970, however, as a result of the growing influx of workers from eastern provinces where eradication programmes were less advanced, a gradual resumption and spread of malaria transmissions became apparent. The proportion of affected localities rose to 18.4 percent in 1972 and 60.0 percent in 1976.
Second only to malaria in its widespread effect on health is schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), a wearing and frequently fatal disease caused by minute worms that are transmitted by snails. It is estimated that 200 million people in 70 countries suffer from the infection, and the World Health Organization reports that it is on the increase.
The evident upsurge of these diseases in new development areas is finally beginning to attract some attention to the need for more careful and better coordinated planning of water resource projects. In the words of a pamphlet issued jointly a few years ago by FAO and the World Health Organization: "The awareness of the potential danger of water schemes is the first step toward protecting the health of the population for whose benefit finally all economic development is undertaken..."
How much does a nuclear submarine cost? According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the famous SIPRI, a little over $1.700.000.000. The mind boggles at such an order d magnitude, and it is not easy to make comparisons with anything tangible. Hence the table given below, which measures a certain number of economic aggregates, of great importance to the Third World, to agriculture, or to both, by a new standard, the Submarine Unit (SMU).
The figures speak for themselves. We might add that the GNP given are mere examples, and that in many developing countries the total goods and services produced over a year would not be sufficient to pay for even one nuclear submarine of this kind.
To bring the message home, SIPRI states that the first nuclear submarine became operational in 1960, and that today they number 278. With :the help of the UN Statistics Yearbook, we could continue measuring in SMU many world problems demanding urgent solution: worldwide eradication of some specific disease, the mounting of a world food security system, resettlement of all the world's refugees, and so on. What is astonishing is how few SMU are needed to accomplish all this.
- thinking safety
Although in developed countries the fishing industry has entered an era of spectacular technological change, many fishermen in the developing world still put out to sea in various types of small motor or sailing vessels. In the event of accident or illness, these vessels, usually containing no provision for medical care, have no option but to return to land. This takes time, and inclement weather conditions may further delay arrival, with serious consequences for the fishermen concerned. Although it is difficult to present a definite picture of the extent of the health problems of developing world fishermen, it has been estimated that the frequency of injuries and illnesses among fishermen in general is about twice as high as among miners and some 30 times as high as for workers in industry. In addition, fishermen are badly served in comparison with land workers respecting availability of medical care.
Few countries have considered it feasible to adopt standards requiring the engagement of medical personnel on board fishing vessels, in view of the usually limited number of crew members, the short distances between fishing grounds and the coast, and the usual time spent at sea without returning to land. Where this has been done, the relevant standards are such that the majority of fishing vessels are excluded. Only a limited number of very large boats, usually equipped with factory plants for processing of the catch, qualify for the permanent presence of a doctor. Several developed countries maintain "support" vessels appropriately staffed and equipped to manage a wide range of diseases and injuries, yet their numbers are very limited elsewhere.
The usual absence of a physician or any other category of medical personnel on board fishing vessels increases the need to train crew members in basic first aid and medical assistance. Yet there is considerable diversity in the standards of medical training for fishermen, and on many vessels, members of the crew have no training whatsoever, even in emergency care.
To be effective in providing medical care, crew members need two basic tools: an adequately equipped and updated medicine chest, and a corresponding medical guide. Referring to national law and practice, there are several countries, mainly but not exclusively developing ones, which have not as yet regulated in a statutory manner the question of the availability of such tools. Some other countries such as Argentina, Ghana and Nigeria have enacted rules requiring fishing vessels to carry medicine chests, but to date they continue to maintain an element of flexibility as regards the mandatory requirement of a medical guide. If required, the nature of the medical guide as a rule is coordinated with the contents of the medicine chest.
Conventions, codes, recommendations and guidelines produced over the years by international organizations have done much to promote the safety and medical care of fishermen. The International medical guide for ships, published jointly in 1967 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), assembles basic information on the immediate and follow-up care of a wide variety of diseases, injuries and other biological contingencies; it also reproduces the medical section of the International code of signals. Perhaps most notable is the Code of safety for fishermen and fishing vessels published jointly by IMCO, ILO and FAO. Part A, for skippers and crews, was published in 1970; Part B, for fishing vessel builders and owners, was published in 1975. Both a guide and an educational medium, the Code has been quite widely used. A 1977 IMCO convention on fishing boat safety has yet to be ratified by the member countries.
Yet the key to fishing safety is education, according to P. Gurtner, Chief, Fisheries Technology Service of FAO. "By enacting legislation, you don't change the situation, although all these standards certainly help," Gurtner says. "Improved boat and personal safety is really only available through a continuous process of upgrading the educational system that leads to better understanding of the operational hazards. You have to make people think in a safety-oriented way."
Fortunately, loss of life in most types of fishing is now much less frequent than a few generations ago, but primitive fishing in some areas is inherently dangerous. Furthermore, no technological advances can fully eliminate the forces of the sea and other natural dangers which the fisherman must face, nor is it possible to make the tools of his trade completely accident-proof. But Gurtner says most casualties are due to human failure - both accidental and intentional.
"Human greed is a big factor. A fisherman may be inclined to say to himself. 'If I can only hold out for another two hours might get the bumper crop and more money.' He risks his life simply to make some additional income."
- off the danger list
The obeche tree, the stricken green giant of West Africa, is to rise again across six countries of the region. In the long term, it may also be introduced to Asia and Latin America to help in the reversal of the relentless current degradation of tropical forests.
The success story of UK and Nigerian scientists whose collaboration has rescued the obeche tree (Triplochiton scleroxylon), a source of highly marketable timber, represents merely one small advance in a vast sphere beset by monumental disasters. Rapid population growth, land hunger and ill-conceived industrialization are blamed for the destruction of an estimated 6.5 million ha of forestland a year in the developing regions alone, leading to irreversible ecological damage. If the current trends are allowed to continue, many fear that the mighty tropical forests as we know them may disappear within three decades.
The West African research programme running counter to these trends, operated by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology near Edinburgh and the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria in Ibadan, began 20 years ago. It has led to a whole new range of propagation techniques applicable not just to the obeche but to most other tropical trees also. New plantations of obeche are now taking root in Nigeria. "Now that these techniques are tried," comments Dr. Roger Leakey, a senior scientific officer engaged in the project, "ifs just a matter of expanding the work to equally endangered species in other parts of the world."
Until recently, the obeche tree was one of the most prized species on the danger list. It takes up to 40 years to form a worthwhile tree that may ultimately reach 61 m. Its timber is suitable for furniture, for joinery as well as veneers. It can also be pulped. Over the years, the best trees were selectively cut down. The survivors available for natural regeneration consequently included the least desirable specimens. The decline of the obeche was dramatically illustrated by its drop within a short space of time from 60 percent of Nigeria's total timber exports to nil. The tree's erratic seed production made proper planting programmes impossible. Its seed-bearing fruits are formed unpredictably and few of them ever reach maturity because of pests and diseases.
So the scientists have had to learn to climb 72 selected trees to collect as well as dry and store what seeds they did find. The rescued seeds were used in a programme of multifaceted research exploring the differences between the trees in different locations. Unlike the progeny of wheat, those of many trees are highly variable, lending themselves to rapid programmes of improvement.
The scientists also developed methods of obtaining large numbers of plantlets by vegetative propagation from cuttings or through the grafting of shoots to rootstocks. Already, some of them have yielded viable seeds within four years - compared to the usual 40 years in the field.
Thus the project has made the versatile obeche a likely choice for upgrading threatened tropical forests. At present, it occurs in a narrow belt of humid tropical forest extending about 4 000 km and traversing six or more West African countries. It is also found in small groups in some of the drier savannas, possibly the remnants of larger stands that were cleared by semimigrant cultivators.
The UK Overseas Development Administration has announced a fresh research grant for the project. The next task, explains a spokesman there, is the development of methods to predict the form of mature trees from the characteristics of seedlings.
"In the course of time," he goes on, "we hope that the obeche can be introduced into parts of tropical Asia and America. A forthcoming screening trial of 20 other hardwood species may also indicate alternative sources of timber."
Even Adam Smith recognized the social forces involved in the grain trade
by Pierre Spitz
The role of the state in building up and controlling grain reserves is nowhere better illustrated than in ancient Morocco, where the same word - makhzen - was used for both granary and government. This word, taken from the Arabic khazana, meaning "to store," is the root of the French magasin and the Spanish almacen. On the one hand was the bled el makhzen, the country of the plains under strictly hierarchical government, and on the other, the independent country of the mountain communities - bled es siba or, literally, the country of insolence. These communities were organized around the djema'a, the democratic assembly of the village, district or tribe, often idealized nowadays as a model of equal participation in political and economic affairs, and a model of self-reliance. The centralized state was organized around the granaries, accumulating the taxes paid in grain, symbol and instrument of its strength.
Why has the state, throughout the ages, thought it appropriate to intervene in the control of grain wherever it holds sway? Why has it not left the feeding of its armies and its towns to the grain merchants? The reply varies according to the society or historical period under consideration, but one point remains unchanged: grain is not a commodity like all the others. It can be bought and sold, object of speculation, a means of making profit, like any other commodity. With this difference: people have to eat every day, and the harvest is only once, or twice, or at the absolute maximum, three times a year. The volume of the harvest is variable: good and bad years follow each other without any foreseeable order. If the town, the seat of government, cannot find all its grain resources in its own hinterland and his to rely heavily on supplies from far away, other causes of uncertainty arise. Thus, the need to eat every day involves definite needs, which are met by unstable resources.
The fear of going without the commodities necessary for living is proportionate to the income level of each family, the nature of such income, the family's stability and its economic reserves. For the poor, whose resources are uncertain and whose reserves are nil, this fear tends to become a daily anguish. This anguish benefits those who appear to be the nearest and most easily identifiable controllers of the shortages: the grain traders.
What was pardonable
Indeed, the grain trade held the power of life and death. In Greece in the fourth century B.C., it was, unlike other trades, governed by special laws and supervised by special magistrates. The latter, unlike the officials who controlled the sale of all other commodities in Athens, were subject to the death sentence for serious faults in the exercise of their office. What was pardonable for metals, textiles and even oil was not so for wheat. In 386 B.C., some wheat traders who had bought from importers more than their authorized quota were brought before the Council of Athens. Lysias demanded that they be condemned to death, and his speech is a classic accusation of the wheat traders by the people:
"When do they make the biggest profits? When the news of a
disaster enables them to sell at high prices. Your misfortunes are so welcome to
them that sometimes they hear of them before
anyone else, sometimes they invent them (...) And their hostility goes to the extent that, in critical periods, they conspire against you, exactly like your enemies. When wheat is most in demand, they buy it up and refuse to sell it, so that there will be no discussion on the price - we shall be only too happy to buy it, however high the rate, rather than return home empty-handed; sometimes, even in peacetime, it is as though we were besieged by them."
All grain-consuming civilizations have left written evidence of intervention by the state (if there was one) in the grain trade, at least during a serious shortage which, in the towns, threatened the power of the state itself. The individual anguish of urban consumers quickly fans the flames of revolt. From the fifth century B.C., the Roman republic distributed wheat in times of famine to avoid popular uprisings. But the population of Rome continued to grow more quickly than the job opportunities. Tiberius Gracchus, elected tribune in 133 B.C., exclaimed, "Wild beasts have their den, while those who are willing to die for the defence of Italy have no other heritage than the air they breathe. They wander with their women and children without a roof above their heads; they are supposed to be the masters of the world, and they have not even a patch of earth to call their own." In April 133 B.C., he promulgated an agrarian reform law that fixed a ceiling on landholdings, annulled illegal occupation and redistributed the surplus of land thus made available. The reaction of the big landowners was not slow in coming: Tiberius was assassinated two months later.
Confronted with this determination, the popular party decided that if the people could not have land, they should at least cease to live in anxiety for the next day. The State should therefore build up grain stocks and guarantee its citizens a fixed quantity of wheat per month at a fixed price. Ten years after the agrarian reform of his brother Tiberius, Caius Gracchus carried through the Sempronia law of July 123 B.C. for wheat reform. Thenceforth, the State organized the monthly distribution of a fixed quantity of wheat at a fixed price to those citizens holding freedom of the city; that is, all Romans who were not senators, patricians, slaves or foreigners. The poorest were not necessarily beneficiaries of these distributions. The big landowners rose up against this measure, denouncing it as demagogic. Two years later, Caius Gracchus, like his brother, met his death for having defied the rich. However, the latter began to understand that this law helped to guarantee their own security. Also, there were many who freed their slaves so that they could be fed at the State's expense.
In 58 B.C. wheat was distributed free of charge. Twelve years
later, Caesar introduced a radical reform arbitrarily fixing the number of those
entitled at 150 000 (whereas the population of Rome
already certainly exceeded one million). They were a privileged group: retired soldiers, militiamen, small-time officials, grateful for their political patronage, they became the pillar of the Republic and later of the Empire. The poor people in the country, and most of the poor in the towns, were excluded from this distribution. Thus, in Rome, the State controlled the granaries for more than six centuries (and, from the beginning of the fourth century, the bakeries, free bread having replaced free wheat) and drew freely from its treasury to buy internal security.
The first of eight responsibilities
Although these granaries were considerable, their management was simple. Monthly demand was fixed, sale price was fixed or nil. Administrative and military pressure in Egypt, North Africa and Sicily provided the bulk of wheat resources. The Italian landowners also supplied a small quota of wheat. But they found more opportunities to increase their fortunes by living in Rome near the seat of power than by taking care of their wheat production - which is somewhat reminiscent of certain situations today. The rest was supplied by private grain traders, with whom the State negotiated and who, grouped into a corporation, gradually became a real public service. Augustus reimbursed the traders for losses by shipwreck, and in periods of food crisis the Emperor fixed the price at which the merchants could sell. The power of the Emperor, the wealth of the public treasury fuelled by plundering armies, and the vastness of his private fortune exempted him from establishing a tight information system on the geographic distribution of quantities and the price of grain in his Empire.
The same idea of the state selling grains at a fixed price existed very early in ancient China. The annals of Chinese history relate that in a far distant period, fixed by some people at 2000 B.C., the first famine led the legendary Emperor Shun to nominate a minister of agriculture ranking first among other ministers. His primary task was to control the production and distribution of grain. In Confucius' Great Model of the Canon of History, subsistence foods were considered as the first of the eight responsibilities of government and were sharply separated from other commodities, which came in second place. Famines and public granaries are familiar themes in ancient Chinese history.
"When the year is disastrous or prosperous, grain is consequently expensive or cheap (...) If the ruler does not take charge of the situation, traders who have amassed considerable reserves take advantage of the people's need: they sell at prices which bring them one hundred times their original investment."
Such was the view of Kuang Chung, prime minister of Duke Huan in the kingdom of Ch'i, in the seventh century B.C. He therefore recommended the strengthening of the public granaries system. Li K'uei, counsellor of Duke Wen de Wei (about 400 B.C.) did the same, saying: "If grain is very expensive, consumers suffer and their families are scattered and emigrate; if grain is very cheap, the producers suffer and the state is impoverished. Whether the price is very high or very low, the prosperity of the state suffers."
This conflict between producers and consumers was no problem for the Roman Empire in view of its particular method of extracting supplies from colonies under military domination, and also the ability of the public treasury to shoulder the losses. In ancient China, however, the conflict was inescapable. It could not, according to Li K'uei, be resolved except by the establishment of public granaries, which would maintain a stable price satisfactory to both parties, and thus prevent speculation by traders.
Officials of public granaries should, according to him, classify harvests by reference to a seven-year scale: one average, three good and three bad. In considering the range from the worst to the best of these seven years, the scale of harvest varied from 1 to 20. For every good year, Li K'uei indicated what should be stored, consumed and sold. In a bad year, the government should release stocks to the extent necessary to bring prices and consumer levels back to their average figures.
In an even older document, relating to the western Chou dynasty, prior to the eighth century B.C., groups of good years are studied and given names. A nine-year period when it was possible to store enough grain for three years' consumption was called a "period of maturity" (teng). A period of eighteen years (two ten") providing for six years of reserve was called a "period of peace" (p'ing). Three successive teng periods, accumulating enough grain for nine years, constituted a "period of great peace" (t'ai-p'ing).
This was the principle behind the stable-price granary. A student of Confucius at the University of Columbia in New York gave the outlines in a work published in 1911 and dedicated to the economic principles of Confucius and his school. Henry A. Wallace, who became Secretary of Agriculture of the United States in 1933, was very much struck by it. During 1926-27, he wrote several articles in the periodical Wallace's Farmer about the Chinese granary, calling it the Ever Normal Granary (ENG).
"There is more government science in this principle than in the vast majority of plans suggested to put American agriculture on the right track. (...) This plan would involve a certain dose of government interference, which our citizens are perhaps not yet ready to accept. However, it should be remembered that the government intervenes continuously in agriculture and that its interventions are largely responsible for the present surplus of agricultural products, because of the experiments it has conducted, of which the results have been made widely known by its extension services."
The first Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1933 tried to reduce the surplus without foreseeing downward fluctuations. After the severe drought of 1934, Wallace again took up his favourite theme of ENG, coupled with the classical biblical example and a reference to the storage practices of the Mormons of Utah. From 1938 and for several years afterwards, the ENG idea appeared in official documents of the Department of Agriculture. In January 1942, Wallace again had recourse to ENG but on a worldwide basis this time. The proposal by Lord Boyd Orr, first Director-General of FAO, to establish a World Food Board was described to the American public - notably in a series of articles in the New York Times in August 1946 - as an international extension of the ENG preached by Wallace. However, in the varied fortunes of this suggestion, up to the World Food Conference of 1974, no further reference was made to the ancient Chinese policy of price stabilization.
Modern economists interested in grain prices in the less
industrialized countries and refusing to acknowledge that these prices have
anything to do with power relationships, preach private enterprise and
laissez-faire. They persist in trying to prove that the grain traders are not
making excessive profits, and are preferable to incompetent, nonmotivated and
probably corrupt officials. Supposing that the operations of all the middlemen
in the grain trade, of the credit and usury systems and the landowner
relationships were absolutely clear to an investigator gifted with persuasion
and second sight; supposing that traditional economic reasoning showed, with the
aid of these facts, that, on the whole, everybody's profits were normal and
that, as Adam Smith wrote, "freedom of the grain trade is the best protection
against famine"; it would still be difficult to convince those suffering from
hunger and famine of the "normal" character of the grain-trading operations of
the businessmen, big or small. This "normality" is perceived in the abstract, on
assumption that grain is a commodity like any other, whereas in fact the life or death of the weak depend upon it.
To placate the people
In his book Legislation et le commerce des grains published in 1775, Necker, future minister of Louis XVI of France, wrote:
"The Landowner sees wheat merely as the fruit of his labours and the product of the land belonging to him; he wants to treat it like any other income. (...) The Trader sees nothing more in this commodity than an item that is bought and sold; he wants to be able to acquire it and resell it as he pleases. The People (...) think of wheat as an element necessary for their survival. They are in the world and they want to live there. They want to be able to ensure their subsistence by their own work. (...) The Landlord invokes the rights of property; the Merchant, those of freedom; the People, those of humanity. (...) Within this continual clash of interests, principles and opinions, the Legislator must seek out the truth."
The state represented by Necker's "legislator" is the emanation of the most powerful interests in the nation. But this state, which functions mainly for the benefit of the ruling classes, must not only ensure its security vis-a-vis the classes that could be rendered dangerous by extreme poverty, but must also permanently ensure its legitimacy - that is to say, its pretension to represent the whole of society. When a speech calculated to placate the people is not enough, it must take concrete measures in the area most important to the underprivileged classes. In the examples selected from ancient history, and in most of the less industrialized countries today, that area is food.
However, the measures taken by the state must not disturb its social basis. According to the nature of that basis, the state has, theoretically, the choice of different types and degrees of agrarian reform and intervention in the food distribution system. The political situation considerably reduces the field of possibilities. It may however be observed that it is often less costly politically for the state to denounce the excesses of the grain traders, who are, together with the moneylenders, the protagonists of private enterprise in the poor countries, and possibly to take a series of measures limiting their power, than to allow a fundamental agrarian reform to be organized. Particularly since trade can be more easily condemned on the basis of moral or religious principles than on the basis of ownership.
The price of grain
Economists who refuse to see any social or political factors in the price of grain forget, or pretend to forget, that Adam Smith wrote that any new set of rules proposed by traders should be examined "with extremely suspicious interest," since it emanates from "a type of men (...) who usually intend to cheat and even oppress the people and who have, consequently, on many occasions both cheated and oppressed them. To condemn state intervention in the control of trade in subsistence commodities is to ignore the contradictory character of the social forces on which the state relies for support, and is, despite declaration of intent, to join the side of the powerful."
Food price policies in developing countries often have to deal with conflicting objectives of ensuring adequate food for their populations, especially in urban areas, at "reasonable" prices and ensuring producer prices that would be a sufficient incentive for increased food production." Due to political pressures and economic reasons for maintaining urban wages, most governments find it imperative to lower consumer prices in urban areas, when free market prices exceed "reasonable" consumer prices. Whether support prices are provided to producers, and the extent of that support, has depended partly on the extent to which the importance of economic incentives in raising food crop production is realized by policy makers, and partly on the extent of organized political pressure from farmers. When either or both of these factors prevail, the conflict between producer and consumer interests in the case of food crops has often been direct, particularly where the incentive producer price has needed to be higher, after allowing for marketing costs, than the reasonable consumer price. In the case of non-food crops, such as cotton or tobacco, the conflict has either been less direct, when these are exported, or less intense, when their production is used domestically, due to their lesser importance in the consumption basket. The diversity of objectives a government might have (various combinations of producer and consumer benefits and levels of export earnings) and the different circumstances in which the government might operate may lead to the utilization of a vast array of policy instruments, including rationing, support prices for producers, subsidized inputs and subsidized consumer prices. Because of government intervention, a number of different prices may prevail in a country, including the producer support price, the official consumer price and the market price; and generally the market price resulting after some government intervention would tend to be different from that which would prevail if there was a free market. The impact on producers and consumers depends on the relationship among these prices.
Analysing the benefits
Government intervention in food grain marketing either to support producer prices or to provide consumers with subsidized foods has two implications: financial costs are involved when the difference in prices at which governments purchase and sell food is less than the costs of marketing; administrative resources are required in the public sector to procure food for public distribution or to dispose of excess supplies arising out of support prices.
In this article the policies to intervene in marketing systems are examined conceptually, and the conditions that determine the impact of such interventions on consumer and producer benefits are analysed. These results are illustrated through examination of government policies in some Asian and African countries regarding marketing and pricing. The second part of the article discusses price policy in a situation where no imports are available, as in times of overall world food shortages or a balance-of-payments crisis such as those that occurred in 1973-74. A third section examines price policy for non-food crops and its implications for food grain availability. The last section analyses price policy for food grains when imports are available. This is the most important and interesting case in which analysis shows that in a situation of linear expenditure demand pattern, i.e., when the marginal propensity to consume is constant, imports, especially concessional, may not simply increase consumer welfare, but also, contrary to the general assumption, may be used to improve producer incentives.
Where imports are not available domestic supply and demand have to match, except for inventory variations. In the short run, total consumption is relatively fixed. Government price policy can, however, make food available to the poorer sections of the population at a price lower than the market price. In this case, government intervention on the consumption side is restricted only to redistribution between income classes. Since food for a part of the population is provided at less than the market price, a dual market system has to evolve, e.g., the target group could receive food stamps or rationed supplies while the rest paid the market price. The lower the subsidized consumer price and the larger the population covered by such a programme, the greater the imbalance between supply and demand, and the more extensive the non-price distribution mechanism would have to be. Therefore, the government would have to decide on the extent of the redistribution both in terms of the amount of the price subsidy to consumers as well as the size of the target population having access to the subsidized food.
The burden of the consumer subsidy is partly borne by consumers who now purchase some or all of their needs on the free market at a higher price or whose demand is greater than the amount provided under the government scheme. Whether farmers bear a cost depends on the manner in which the government gains control of supplies. If the official price is so low that the average price (which is a weighted average on sales to government and in the free market) received by farmers is less than what the overall free market price could be in the absence of government intervention, then the cost is borne by producers. But since one aspect of the redistribution could well be increased overall demand, as people with low incomes will now exert their demand on publicly distributed supplies, the weighted average price received by farmers could well be higher, even if the official purchase price is lower than the market price that would prevail without government intervention. To the extent that the difference between the official purchase price and the official consumer price is smaller than the cost of marketing, the cost is borne by the treasury and the burden falls on those paying the additional taxes.
While, in the short run, consumers with access to the subsidized food benefit, the longer run gains of such a programme are more difficult to identify. The average price received by the farmer affects the long-run food supply depending on the price responsiveness of domestic food production. Where alternative production possibilities are available, the supply responsiveness to price is likely to be high. Too great a burden borne by the farmer in the short run thus only reduces supplies in the longer run. This can also adversely affect fulfilment of the nutrition standards. Higher consumption standards in the long run require greater production and therefore appropriate prices. But the subsidy due to the differential between the high producer price necessary to evoke a larger supply and the low consumer price necessary to make food accessible to the poor places a burden on the government budget. If this is at the expense of higher investment, which would increase employment opportunities for the poor, and which in turn would raise their incomes and improve their effective demand for food, the tradeoff is between direct subsidization of current consumption versus the potential for greater consumption in the future because of more rapid growth. If, on the other hand, the resources in the hands of the government are likely to be squandered on non-productive uses, the investment in government distribution would achieve a more useful welfare objective in the short and possibly also in the long run.
Opting for self-sufficiency
In summary, the main questions where no imports are available are:
· determination of a producer and consumer price profile to ensure matching of demand and supply;
· the sufficiency of the market mechanism or the need to set up a complementary distribution mechanism, and the cost of such a mechanism;
· the trade-off in improved consumption through a consumer subsidy as against that from investment or non-productive use of these funds by governments.
The possibility for cultivating alter native crops has important implications for pricing of food crops. The availability of non-food crops increases the elasticity of supply of food grains and too low a price for them frequently leads to diversion of land into production of non-food crops.
Fragmented markets may, however, reduce the supply responsiveness of non-food crops. If regional markets are fragmented and do not ensure timely food supplies at reasonable prices, farmers are likely to opt for self-sufficiency in food-grain production.
Cropping patterns often reflect this phenomenon and thus, beyond a point, do not respond to more favourable export crop prices. This also implies, however, that when highly profitable opportunities exist in export crop production, higher food-grain prices, unless the increase is very substantial, might not lead to diversion of land from export crops to food crops beyond that needed for domestic consumption.
The experience of some East African countries illustrates the dilemma that policy makers face in achieving objectives of export earnings and domestic food self-sufficiency simultaneously at early stages of development. As much as 80 percent of the export earnings in some East African countries are derived from agricultural exports. Healthy balances of payments therefore require incentive prices for export crop production. On the other hand, substitution possibilities exist for food crop production, and maize, sorghum, millet and cassava prices have been raised two to three times subsequent to the food crisis of 1973-74 to ensure food self-sufficiency. This has resulted in diversion of resources away from export crops leading to decline in export volumes and earnings. The required price increase to achieve a supply response has been substantial, placing an immense burden on budgetary resources. Raising productivity of land and labour through technological research on food crops would increase responsiveness to price and increase effectiveness of price as a policy instrument. Prices of some food grains have been raised in East Africa to the point of generating surpluses, substantial budgetary commitments and the need for highly subsidized exports. On the other hand, prices of crops consumed predominantly in urban areas such as rice and wheat have been maintained at extremely low levels to the point that there is little incentive to grow them domestically, leading to substantial dependence on imports.
At the cost of stagnation
The situation of subsidized exports of some food crops and the growing import dependence in the case of others illustrate the need for attention to relative crop pricing, production and trade policy if the objective of domestic food self-sufficiency is to be achieved without sacrificing overall agricultural growth. This is especially the case if the food surpluses of some crops requiring subsidized exports are not to be generated at the cost of stagnation (or decline) in traditional export crops which are contributors to fiscal revenues.
The East African case also illustrates however that the promotion of rural self-sufficiency in food, rather than increasing market dependence to ensure more responsive supply of non-food crops, is not simply a measure to ensure welfare of rural consumers but also a way of economizing on scarce national resources. Poor infrastructure, sparse populations, long distances and high cost of fuel have substantially raised costs of transport to the point that it adds as much as 100 percent to the value of grain to be distributed in many rural areas of Africa. Promoting rural self-sufficiency minimizes the massive costs of public distribution of food in rural areas such as that undertaken during the drought of the early 1970s. However, such policies can only be effective if their likely influence on levels and composition of production and marketed surpluses can be judged correctly.
The availability of imports increases the options open to governments. Under a completely open system, the domestic market price would be the same as the international price and imports would fill the gap between domestic demand and supply. However, governments have viewed the availability of imports as providing them with an additional instrument for intervention. This opportunity arises when the import price is different from the open market price with no imports. In particular, if the import price is lower as in the case of concessionary imports under PL 480, or when domestic supply is far short of demand, thus raising prices, then free movement of imports would lower the price to domestic producers. Imports can be controlled or channelled, so that producer incentives are not adversely affected, provided either that domestic demand increases or that the level of imports varies to maintain a supply level sufficient to support the particular domestic price, considered necessary for producers.
While the benefit of imports to producers depends on how imports are handled, consumers always benefit in periods of imports through increased supplies, lower prices or both. How much consumers benefit would depend on the extent of freedom or restriction on movement of imports. Similarly, while some consumers may benefit from imports channelled directly to them even in a case of restricted imports, consumers as a group may lose in comparison with a situation of free imports. Whether consumers benefit or are adversely affected in the long run depends on the producer response to consequences of imports.
Malaysian pricing and import policies during 1955-56 to 1970-71 demonstrate the situation in which varying levels of imports have been used to maintain a given producer price of rice. The domestic consumer price has usually been higher than the import price of rice, although lower than the official producer price plus the cost of distribution. Import availability has been controlled so that the total amount supplied can be sold at a price which ensures adequate return to traders without excessive accumulation of stock held by the government. Obviously, this cannot be achieved on a year-to-year basis and the adjustment is made through variations of some inventories held by the government. The amounts bought by the government are channelled into the market at the appropriate time through private traders who have to sell imported and domestically procured rice in fixed proportions. The loss on selling the rice bought from government stores has been compensated by the gains made on imported rice. Thus, to maintain a producer price in the short run, the interests of consumers have been sacrificed through restricted imports and implicit duties. The production of rice has, however, increased in Malaysia partly due to an incentive producer price. The long-term effect of a support price for consumers may thus not be so harmful.
Factors of taste
In most countries, however, food imports have been channelled to
low-income consumers who would otherwise have a relatively small demand on the
open market. Imports raise supplies and reduce prices, thus affecting producers
adversely. However, when such imports are channelled toward low-income consumers
with subsidies, it would raise overall demand and thus reduce the adverse effect
on producers. The extent of overall market price decline caused by imports
depends on the amount channelled to low-income consumers, the subsidized
consumer price and the degree of substitutability between the food supplied
through the ration and that purchased on the open market. Substitutability, in
turn, depends on factors of taste and the marginal expenditure on food grains.
Larger rations lead to higher expenditure on rationed food, reducing cash
available for other expenditures. Assuming perfect substitutability, the higher
the marginal propensity to consume food, the greater the impact of reduced cash
expenditures on market demand for food. Thus, compared to the no-import
situation, producers lose and all consumers gain, with those consumers having
access to the subsidized food gaining the most.
Whether the government gains or loses depends on the relation of the price at which it purchases the imports to the subsidized consumer price.
In India, until the mid-1960s, the Government made a profit from sales of food it received under PL 480, and used the gains to augment budgetary funds for general expenditure. In recent years, the revenues from sales of imported food to consumers in India have been used to procure food from farmers at a price higher than would be possible at the subsidized consumer price if marketing costs are taken into account. Whether this benefits producers on the whole or not depends on the weighted average price they derive by selling to the government and in the market. The market price will be higher in this case than it would be if there were no domestic procurement and if the official producer prices were higher than the import price. Secondly, the greater the share of imports in total amounts distributed by the government and the greater the price charged to consumers, the greater can be the official producer price. Therefore, producers gain most when imports are a larger proportion of amounts distributed by governments and when the consumer price is relatively high compared to the import price.
Bangladesh illustrates the case of producers benefiting from the high price of imports and the low level of domestic procurement as well as consumers benefiting from the increased supply and lower price of food. Until 1974 - 75 internal procurement had been on an average less than 10 percent of the amount given through the public distribution. For every ton of rice imported on grant in 1975-76, the surplus generated by the Government was an estimated amount take 1 350 (US$33.33) compared to the loss of take 2 565 ($63.33) made on commercial imports, and loss of take 1 630 ($40.25) per ton on rice procured internally. Concessional imports thus facilitated a substantial subsidy on the small proportion of the grain procured domestically.
In Sri Lanka, the amount procured was much higher and generally accounted for about 40 percent in the period 1966-76, though there were variations around this level.
Although profits from imports of wheat and sugar helped to subsidize domestic rice producers, their eventual disappearance combined with the high proportion of domestic procurement placed a substantial burden on the government development expenditure, which was 50 percent during 1973-76 in Sri Lanka compared to about 20 percent in Bangladesh.
The case of Sri Lanka also illustrates the difficulties a country faces when it uses revenues from imported food and partially subsidizes domestic consumers and producers. When prices of imported food increase, this places a heavy burden on the budget if subsidies are maintained. Due to the rise in import food prices in the 1970s, the cost of the subsidies quadrupled in Sri Lanka between 1970/71 and 1975. There were frequent changes during the 1960s and 1970s in the consumer price and furthermore, in Sri Lanka, the amount distributed per consumer varied to keep total costs of the system constant. During the period 1950-70 when support prices were favourable to farmers, rice output increased at about 6 percent per annum. Because of the favourable procurement price compared to market price, domestic procurement had been administratively easier in Sri Lanka. In Bangladesh and India by contrast, the procurement price has been lower than the market price and procurement has been more difficult.
To sum up, this analysis suggests that when Engel's law applies to patterns of expenditures on food, availability of imports, especially concessional imports, can provide the government with an important instrument not only to increase consumer welfare, but also to improve producer incentives, particularly if the imports are directed to low-income consumers and such income is used to support producer prices through official procurement. The larger such imports and/or the larger the difference between the consumer price and the import price, the greater the scope for supporting producer prices, thereby raising food crop production in the long run.
The pace of population increase in the Third World is a phenomenon familiar to most of us, but the rate at which its city populations are growing surpasses imagination. Mexico City already has 11 million people, all dependent for their daily food upon a complex marketing system. If the present growth rate persists, the population of Mexico City will exceed 28 million by 1990.
Keeping such enormous population groups contented becomes a primary concern of governments in the developing world. Often, however, the measures adopted have conflicted directly with the promotion of domestic food production and marketing systems to meet these people's needs. This article is concerned with the facts behind this problem and with the policies that can contribute to its solution.
For the period 1950 to 1970, the rate of urban population growth in developing countries has been estimated as double that of developed countries (4.6 percent per annum against 2.3 percent). In 1960, 20 percent of the total population of developing countries lived-in urban areas. By 1970, this proportion had increased to 30 percent and it will probably reach 40 percent by the year 2000. In Latin America, where more than half the population already lives in cities, it is estimated that about 75 percent of the people will be urban by the end of the century. By that time, urban population in all developing countries will be 1500 million or 250 percent greater than in 1970. The comparative figures in developed countries are 300 million or 40 percent (see Fig. 1). Comparatively high rates of urban area growth are expected in Africa and in Asia where the urban population is expected to increase by 1 120 million or by 200 percent between 1970 and 2000. These are the regions of the world where marketing infrastructure is already inadequate, so that the expected population growth is certain to create major difficulties and congestion in food distribution if drastic action is not taken to improve the situation. In many cities food demand will double in 10 years. This calls for a doubling of marketing capacity in the same period, a challenge never faced in advanced countries.
A second important feature of this dramatic urbanization process is the low-income levels of many of the people concerned. In most cities of the developing world, the numbers of impoverished people living in slum areas will grow rapidly in the coming years. In Nairobi, for example, it has been estimated that the low-income section of the population (less than US$86 per household per month), now 40 percent of the total population, will grow by more than the average annual rate of 6-8 percent in the coming years if migration from the countryside to the cities cannot be halted or at least reduced.
More often than not, these cities are also the centres of governments understandably sensitive to the welfare of the population within the capital. There is immense pressure on them to take action when their people complain that retail food prices are too high. Unfortunately, their interventions are often of a short term and misguided nature. In the face of complaints, governments have been inclined to set lower retail prices by decree. The effect is often to create a black market at the retail level and discourage further production on the farm. The determination with which governments have kept down the prices paid to farmers for basic food grains in the developing countries is now recognized as one of the main causes of the 1973-74 world food crisis. One economist has written that "if the farmers of the developing countries had received the same prices for food grains as those prevailing on world markets at the time, there would have been no world food problem.
To keep down rising retail prices for food, many governments have set up direct state marketing enterprises supported from government budgets. These buy and sell in competition with the private trade. IDEMA (Colombia), CONASUPO (Mexico), EMPROVIT (Ecuador), COBAL (Brazil) and the National Milling Corporation (Tanzania) are examples. The goal of these enterprises is to maintain food prices at low levels, particularly in conditions where inflation is rife, and to encourage innovation. Opinions vary as to the benefits derived from such enterprises. In some countries, the view is that they are the only effective means of supplying low-income consumers with staple foods at reasonable prices in times of inflation and scarcity. The additional costs involved are regarded as less significant than the benefits that accrue. Other views hold that there are other, more efficient means of helping low-income consumers, such as through a food stamp system that can be introduced along with improvements in the existing marketing systems, or ration cards, selling to needy consumers at subsidized rates. The direct state marketing programmes are subject to the usual problems of bureaucracy. Moreover, frequent changes of government, lead to corresponding shifts in managing personnel, often without due regard to skill and qualifications, and inadequate attention to marketing costs.
In many situations, there is still ample room for improving consumer access to essential foods at lower prices through normal commercial supply systems.
Among the ways of improving food supply systems in metropolitan centres are:
· construction of new wholesale markets and supply centres sited and designed to avoid traffic congestion and to facilitate better handling methods and organization;
· promotion of vertical linkages between enterprises along the marketing channel to reduce costs due to small-scale independent operations and uncertainties regarding supplies and outlets. Such linkages may be achieved by direct integration of successive enterprises or by voluntary groupings, and vertical coordination of marketing activities;
· public provision of services to support those engaged in food distribution, including short- and longer term credit on convenient terms, technical and business advisory services, price and outlook information services;
· provision of practical training programmes adapted to the requirements of managers and staff of food distribution enterprises.
In one enterprise
The main problem at wholesale level is experienced with perishables, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products. These call for fast, timely handling too often hampered by inadequate facilities. Most cities with more than half a million inhabitants have obsolete wholesale markets, often built many decades ago and quite unable to handle the larger throughput of present times. Serious traffic congestion, insufficient space for the efficient movement of produce in and out, inadequate storage and improper methods of management are major obstacles that increase marketing costs.
Bigger and better wholesale markets are not, of course, a universal panacea. Their role changes with stages of economic development. In the least developed countries, wholesaling and retailing often continue to be combined into one enterprise. In many cities of tropical Africa, per caput consumption of fruit and vegetables is comparatively low. The need for special wholesale markets arises once cities have reached a certain stage of development, say with one million inhabitants, and when the consumption of fruit and vegetables is increasing in line with incomes.
At an intermediate stage of development are many urban centres of Latin America, the Mediterranean countries and the more highly developed Near and Far Eastern cities. There, wholesale markets have an important function in the distribution of fruit, vegetables and fish to a large number of specialized retailers.
Middlemen, hawkers and pedlars
The third stage is found in cities with higher consumer incomes, e.g., parts of Latin America and Western Europe, where integrated and associated food chains have developed. An increasing proportion of fruit and vegetables traded is bought directly from packing stations and delivered to the wholesale depots of food chains for redistribution to their supermarkets without passing through the wholesale market. With such a structure, the traditional wholesale market performs only a supplementary function. It provides a source of supply for the more highly seasonal and perishable food but not the bulk of the fruit and vegetables consumed.
A second major issue for city food supply organizers is how to reduce costs and raise efficiency in distribution systems featuring large numbers of small enterprises. For a long time, these enterprises were decried as middlemen, as hawkers and pedlars. Marxists consider them unproductive; administrators find them inconvenient and authoritarian governments try to abolish them. Now, they are back in fashion as "the informal sector" of an economy and the international banks would like to channel development capital to them. In developed countries, grouping of retailers for joint purchasing and sales promotion arrangements has achieved major improvements in food supply performance. This practice is now being followed in Latin American countries and tried out in some places in Africa. Group purchasing of cooking oils by small-scale retailers in Kenya has been demonstrated as advantageous. Other systems of vertical coordination are organized by wholesalers ranging from large-scale distributors to women wholesalers, the "market queens" of coastal West Africa. The linking of a retail chain in Recife with a rice mill in the Sao Francisco valley area of Brazil led to a 15 percent reduction in the price of rice in Recife.
A sideline activity
Despite support received from bilateral aid agencies, consumer cooperatives of the Western European type have made little progress in developing countries. The difficulties are mainly in the field of management. Furthermore, the economies of large-scale retailing in low-income countries are often less than is expected. There? food retailing is often undertaken as a sideline activity for returns determined by alternative earning possibilities, usually considerably lower than the government-fixed minimum salaries that a consumer cooperative would have to pay for sales assistants.
The almost complete takeover of retail food distribution in North America and northern Europe by self service chains has led both private enterprise and governments to promote similar systems in the developing countries. But it is not the lower income consumers that they serve. The tendency, whether in Latin America, the Near East or Africa, is for the first of the new integrated food marketing enterprises to direct their sales toward medium- and higher income consumers.
The services offered by the supermarket or self-service grocery chain are those of convenience in buying a large number of items at one place ready prepared for consumption, with prices clearly marked. Because of the range of products handled under one management, the supermarket can offer basic foods at low prices and cover the costs through larger margins on products for higher income consumers and non-food items. In principle, the loss leader technique is well suited to helping low-income consumers. However, the supermarkets still serve best those consumers who are able to buy a considerable amount of food at one time and are able to travel some distance to do it. The lower income consumer has much less appreciation of this kind of service: he has neither the cash nor storage facilities to buy large quantities at one time nor the mobility to travel to an advantageous source. On the contrary, he may have to buy small quantities frequently from a place near his home and probably on credit - a facility generally only available from the smaller retailer who knows him personally, and whose services involve higher total distribution margins.
The essential lesson to be learned from supermarket-type
operations for low-income consumers, however, is not so much the type of sales,
which are mainly self-service, but the systematic organization of procurement of
stocks at wholesale and retail level, the optimum formulation of the assortment,
the pricing and transport organization and their systematic vertical
coordination with the objective of minimizing marketing costs. These principles
can be systematically applied in traditional food systems, in the form of
voluntary chains, namely as cooperatives between wholesalers and selected
retailers and in the form of retailer cooperatives. A higher level of
coordinated performance of the whole food chain requires effective training
advisory services. Efforts in this direction are being undertaken at present in Mexico and Kenya.
Much can be done to reduce costs in marketing and improve services to low-income consumers. Nevertheless, price levels required by farmers to supply the food needed to maintain rapidly growing populations may still be too high for many urban consumers after marketing costs are added. Rich countries can apply subsidies. In the United States, this is done through food stamps obtainable at a discount which, when presented to certain retailers, count as part of the payment and so reduce the actual cash required. A project designed along such lines is currently envisaged for Colombia with World Bank financing. Here the method of allocation of stamps to lower income consumers will enable them to purchase at subsidized prices while commercial prices are paid by the rest of the population, thus reducing the cost to the Government.
Poor countries will not have the resources to go far in this direction. For them, ways of charging the market price including marketing costs differentially according to the income of the consumers served may be relevant. This approach to the problem of paying enough to producers to keep supplies coming yet ensuring that lower income consumers can purchase their requirements lies theoretically in establishing two sets of consumer prices. If, for example, an average retail price of $100 per ton of some food product is needed to maintain an adequate level of output at the farm and this is too high for some population groups, then a socially oriented marketing system would sell, say, 60 percent of the total supply at $120 per ton and 40 percent to lower income consumers at $80 per ton. The total amount of money obtained to pay for production, processing and marketing is about the same. By social welfare criteria, a more efficient distribution would be secured. The lower income group can buy what it needs. Consumers with higher incomes are asked to pay more, but since they have more money available and a more varied dietary intake, generally they attach less importance to purchases of basic foods.
To implement such systems, a large part of the supplies of the basic food concerned must be delivered to a single government-controlled assembly and wholesaling agency committed to operating the programme. There must also be some means of distinguishing clearly lower from higher income consumers at the retail level. The starting point is usually the agency that operates a national supply and price stabilization programme for basic grains. At the retail level, it must either maintain its own outlets or sell through shops contracted to apply its prices. Incomes of purchasers can be distinguished explicitly by allocating ration cards to residents of poor neighbourhoods or by locating retail outlets only in such neighbourhoods or by various other devices, including restriction of sales to early hours in the morning.
A gradual corruption
A two-price system has operated in India for rice and wheat through "fair price shops" for many years. In 1974, the shops received wheat from the government procurement system for 1.25 rupees per kg. They sold 2 kg to each consumer at about Rp 1.28 to 1.30 per kg on presentation of a ration card. Taking into account the value of the sack, their margin was about 5 percent. About half the quantity of wheat marketed went through this channel; the balance was sold on the free market at prices ranging from the ration price to 60 percent higher according to quality, location and season. Programmes with similar objectives have been organized in other Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The operating costs of a socially oriented system of pricing is a major concern for governments of developing countries. It can be eased if the organization is assigned the marketing of an essential import available at such low prices internationally that it offers a generous margin when resold domestically, e.g., milk powder for re-constitution or wheat in Bangladesh. Alternatively, the produce may be one bought mainly by higher income groups that can be priced up without adverse nutritional effects. Examples are flour for white bread and polished rice in countries where the basic food of low-income people is maize, sorghum, or yams and cassava.
There are practical issues in implementation that must be faced. How to identify and keep separate the lower income group is one. Even the allocation of ration cards based on income status faces a gradual corruption. Institution and maintenance of the system call for major inputs of capital, organizing ability and consistent government support. The relatively large size of the group to be assisted in some developing countries and the complications of assuring that the types of grain liked are available in all locations where they are needed may be seen as a measure of the scope for international assistance. Case studies recently carried out in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka provide further information on details of the problems involved.
Uniformed and arbitrary
The extraordinary growth in many developing countries of urban populations dependent on the market for their supplies will call for increasing attention. Rarely are city authorities oriented and equipped to handle the problems that ensue. Central government concern is increasing, but the policies applied are too often uninformed, arbitrary, of an ad hoc character and, over the longer run, negative in effect.
Expansion of wholesale and retail market systems in pace with population growth is essential, and there must be incentives for those concerned to make the necessary investments. Improvements in planning, organization, management and arrangements for training, information and other support services will also be needed.
Generally, it will be more economical of resources and effective in practice to harness existing and potential independent enterprises into building up marketing systems adapted to local requirements rather than imposing blueprints from above and abroad. However, some developing countries may not be able to meet their own food needs without prices to agriculture that result in retail prices too high for the poorest urban consumers. Some kind of differential pricing system for basic food grains may then be essential.
On a global basis, the available food supplies at present should suffice the dietary needs of everyone if the food were equitably distributed. However, on a per caput basis, there is an unequal distribution of food among countries and some are chronically deficit in their food supplies. In the developed countries as a whole, the per caput food production was maintained at 1.4 percent during the past fifteen years; in the developing countries, it was less than 1 percent even though growth of total food production was 3.1 percent. But the longterm average growth rates are no consolation to consumers who suffer serious hardships during lean years when food production fails to meet the needs. There are also some countries, such as India, which have comfortable food reserves yet where millions of consumers are unable to have enough food because of their low purchasing power. Therefore, an all-out effort to increase food production in the poor and food-deficit countries is a must but making food available at within-thereach price is of greater importance if two thirds of the world's food consumers dependent on cereals and cereals alone are to be protected effectively.
Two square meals
In the continuing struggle by governments to feed the ever-growing populations and free them from hunger and malnutrition, the interests of individual consumers can often be forgotten. Dependence on many persons in different locations to produce, store, and process food places the consumer far from the origin of his food. Consumers expect agriculture and the food industry to put on the retail market an abundant supply of every kind of food. They also expect the food to be nutritious, of appetizing appearance, flavour, colour and texture. They expect it to be clean, safe, unadulterated and handled under sanitary conditions. They expect the food to be appropriately packed in the farm or factory. Every day a greater stress is being laid on the rights of the consumers - the right to safety, to quality, to information and to choice.
Besides these universal factors, there are equally important - and in certain developing countries even more basic - aspects that call for attention. These relate mainly to adequacy of food supplies, in terms of quantity, variety and weight; and reasonableness of food prices so that enough food can be procured within the purchasing power of the bulk of the population.
The first group of factors relating to quality, safety, wholesomeness, presentation, etc. has been the concern of national food control systems. FAO and, in some cases, WHO have been providing assistance to developing countries to update their food laws and strengthen their infrastructure for their implementation. With greater awareness of the problems of developing countries, it is hoped that such food control systems and monitoring programmes will be able to meet the needs of both the urban and rural consumers. The joint FAD/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission has been preparing international standards for food and making recommendations on food hygiene, pesticides, etc. While the Codex has been instrumental in increasing awareness of the need for protecting the interests of the consumers with safe and wholesome food, the greater need is for the implementation of their standards at national level through effective food control systems. Unfortunately, Codex standards do not touch the bulk of the world population who live mostly in rural areas and still hanker for two square meals based mainly on primary foods.
The need for a national food policy is well recognized everywhere. The policy should ensure that the population gets adequate food to meet the nutritional requirements of each individual.
Various components of such a policy would be:
· fair prices of basic food commodities such as food grains to ensure that the food can be procured within the purchasing power of the bulk of the population;
· an effective system of rationing to promote fair distribution and protect weaker sections of society;
· ensuring quality, safety, and wholesomeness of food, preventing commercial fraud and providing adequate and correct consumer information;
· ensuring weights and measures.
In terms of implementation this would call for a system of procurement of foods and maintaining food supplies - procurement, storage, buffer stocks, save wastage of food; an adequate food distribution system to cover the weaker sections of the society - rationing, quality control; price control; and food control.
In India, food policy was evolved mainly in the context of a deteriorating food situation due to shortages in supply and excessive demand during and after the Second World War. In such a situation, there was a strong need to protect the interests of consumers by regulating food-grain prices. The instrument of food-grain pricing policy in India consists of supplementing or augmenting the grains available in the open market with supplies at fixed and reasonable prices from the public distribution system operating through a chain of fair price shops spread throughout the country. The total number of fair price shops functioning in the country until the end of 1977 was about 243 000. Consistent with the federal political system prevailing in India, central as well as state food reserves are maintained to meet the requirements of the public distribution system. These reserves are created and replenished by procurement through government agencies at fixed prices announced by the Government. In periods of shortage, procurement is effected through a levy system and restrictions on movement of food grains from surplus to deficit areas are imposed in order to maximize the procurement.
Mopping up all surplus
To build a food supply system, the government must first have a stock of food, either through internal procurement or imports. There are five main systems of procurement.
The intensive procurement system aims at mopping up all surplus food grains at a fixed price by assessing the surplus of each producer and under taking the feeding of all non-producers and underproducers, whether in towns or in rural areas. On the price side, it ensures that, from the village on, all grain passes through government controlled agencies at government-dictated prices. The system is ambitious and can only work well where there is a settled and efficient revenue and executive administration.
The levy-cum-monopoly system is identical with the first except that it is not aimed at taking the whole surplus of each producer. It limits itself to taking a substantial part of the surplus directly from the producer by compulsion at fixed prices. The balance of the surplus left with the producer is collected by prohibiting, except in small quantities within the village, all sales of grains to anybody other than the government. The monopoly is thus in government hands. It controls prices through the custody of stocks at all stages beyond the village; it permits no commerce in grain to the trade; it eliminates substantially the possibility of hoarding or withholding stocks by the producer. This system also requires a high standard of efficiency, particularly of the revenue staff.
In the levy system, the government takes a fixed quantity directly from the producer at a fixed price and recognizes that a balance is left with the producer. Usually, this balance is left to find its own market at its own price. The government may, however, and does when it considers necessary, interfere with it by movement restrictions and the like. On the distribution side, commitments are limited to feeding those towns and vulnerable sections of the populations that, in the government's opinion, require attention. Distribution may take the form of rationing in towns and fair price shops, with or without ration cards in villages. In fact, within the supplies thus purchased, the government may set up any system of distribution that it wishes. This is usually aimed not only at feeding people, but also at depressing the price level by distribution at a controlled price. It is in regard to prices, however, that the system meets with difficulties. It admits a free market price; when this is very much higher than the procurement price, the levy becomes extremely difficult to enforce, and larger sections of the population begin demanding supplies from the government's limited resources at a time when it is finding it most difficult to collect these.
The principle behind the trade levy is identical with that of the levy on the producer, but its application takes place at a stage where the supplies are already with the trader. Under this system there is no interference by the government with the normal marketing process; it takes, however, a fixed proportion of the supplies passing through each trader's hands at a fixed price. For the balance, the trader is allowed to do as he wishes. The trade functions freely, subject to payment of levy. On the distribution side, the government may take up such commitments as it wishes; none is necessarily and directly involved in the scheme. With regard to prices, there is a free market at all stages. The government endeavours, however, to influence the price level by distributing at fixed prices part of the supplies it has taken over. The system can function only when there is a substantial surplus.
Under a monopoly system, the producer is left alone but the government allows no transactions in grain, outside the village, except to itself at a fixed price. Anything that comes out of the village has to be sold to the government at a fixed price. Concerning distribution, the complete monopoly implies supplies by or through governments to all deficit areas, which means in effect all towns. Rationing of towns strengthens the monopoly, as it removes a temptation and inducement to the cultivator to evade its provisions. In rural areas, the system means intermittent aid to deficit villages to the extent of their deficit. Price control at all stages of distribution is automatic since all transactions, outside the village, are either through government or under government supervision. While this system works well, the secret of success is efficient distribution. The monopoly procurement system aims at getting the whole marketable surplus of food grains into government hands, without coercion of the producer. The scheme assumes that it is possible to get the marketable surplus from the producer without coercion if conditions are created to achieve this end, and the most important part of the scheme is the technique necessary to create such conditions.
The demand is cut off
On the negative or prohibitionary side, the principle to achieve this end is isolation, which means in effect isolating each village; the surplus of individual producers, or as much of it as is not sold in the village, has no option but to fall into government hands. The method of isolation is by a ban on movement from village to village and on sales and purchases between village and outsiders. On the positive side, the necessary conditions are created by guaranteeing a fixed controlled price to the cultivator, offering marketing facilities by setting up procurement centres near his village and immediate payment for the grain delivered. The second positive measure to create the necessary conditions is effective distribution by the government at fixed controlled prices. If this is put through, the producer finds that the demand for his grain is cut off, not only by legal prohibition but by effective supply to the persons demanding grain. Isolation becomes not merely a matter of law but almost a matter of fact.
In periods of plenty, procurement is only by way of price support. Farmers are assured of minimum reasonable prices for their entire produce offered for sale in order to provide a guarantee that the prices will not be allowed to fall below remunerative levels. While in the short range this may appear to subserve the interest of the farmers only, in the ultimate analysis minimum price support policy protects the interests of the consumers as it maximizes agricultural production and ensures better availability of food in the country. However, situations did arise in the past decades when prices of some important agricultural commodities tended to decline to uneconomic levels, which necessitated the government's intervention to lend support through the market to accord some protection to the cultivators. Such policy measures were undertaken more for meeting the situations that arose at particular times rather than as an instrument of a long-term policy oriented toward definite purposes and goals.
To maintain a public distribution system, it is imperative that sizeable buffer stocks be maintained continuously by the government. This is the classic method of price support for agricultural products. It operates by building up stocks and supplies and running them down when supplies are scarce, thus raising prices in times of plenty and lowering them in times of scarcity. In the developing countries, the buffer stock system has been used mainly as a short-term mechanism for price stabilization or for providing a flow to price rather than for raising them over a long period of time. In India, for example, government purchases are made at assembly points when prices tend to fall below the support level. In most Latin American and African countries, purchases are made intermittently through marketing boards or other autonomous bodies. The system in Sri Lanka is somewhat different from that of other developing countries. The guaranteed minimum price for paddy is well above the free market level, and is maintained by regular government purchases through cooperatives.
Buffer stocks can be of two uses. One is short term where the buffer stock is employed for dealing with sharp intra-seasonal fluctuations in prices. The other is for the long term where the buffer stock is drawn upon to even out inter-seasonal fluctuations in prices and particularly to meet situations of shortfall in production caused by adverse weather and other natural calamities. It is relevant to point out that, at the initial stages, the size of buffer stocks may not be large. It might, therefore, be appropriate to confine its use to reducing abnormal inter-seasonal fluctuations in prices. The task of levelling intra-seasonal fluctuations would be left to the usual operational stocks. The optimum size of buffer stocks for a vast country like India can be very large. One realizes that the buffer stock is meant to offset the shortfall in supplies during the bad years which are bound to occur every now and then.
A single pool
In deciding about the ultimate size of the buffer stock, consideration has to be given to a number of factors such as the expected level of production and fluctuations wherein finance is involved, the storage capacity, etc. Inoperative buffer stocks pose difficult problems of operation unless they can be limited in size and used primarily in smoothing out short-term variations in supply. When there is a deficit, large imports have to be made along with releases from buffer stocks. On the other hand, when there is a surplus, excess supplies have to be lifted for the market and exported if they are greater than that absorbed in the buffer stock. Regulation of the foreign trade, therefore, is almost always necessary.
Another problem is that of deterioration and wastage in storage. The problem of turnover assumes great importance in this context. The grain can be saved from deterioration if buffer stocks and operational stocks (used for current consumption) are treated as a single pool. It is important in this context to build up storage in which grain could be kept for two to three years so that actual turnover of the buffer stock is reduced. Scientific storage and preservation methods, including sound storage structures, would go a long way to solving this problem. Thus, at all costs proper storage facilities must be provided to maintain the quality of food grains. There is also the problem of finances incurred both for undertaking buffer stock operations and construction of additional storage capacity.
Another problem relates to the pricing policy for the releases from the buffer stock. If the objective is to meet only the emergent situations developing from shortfalls in production, obviously the releases will have to be made only in these years when prices would rise to an abnormally high level. This level or the tolerance limit will be determined in the light of the general economic conditions in the country and the trend of food grains in the free market. The next question is that of the price at which and the manner in which such releases should be made. There are two alternatives in this regard. One is that grain from the public stock may be sold through the fair price shops at the same price at which grain from the operational stocks is sold. This price will obviously be lower than the tolerance limit indicated above. The implication of this proposal is that the demand of the public at this price will be substantial and perhaps much more than can be met with the help of the buffer stock. The second alternative is that the stocks from the buffer may be sold on the open market at the prevailing prices. The former method will invariably involve losses to the government since the grain will generally have to be kept for more than one year and the handling charges will keep on increasing.
The absence of the free market
The main objective of buffer stock operations is to keep prices at a reasonable level. In these operations, some loss in quality and quantity is inevitable. This should be treated as a necessary price for the stabilization that is so essential for development. Attempts should be made to keep storage losses to the minimum and the quality of the food grains needs to be properly maintained.
In normal circumstances, the distribution of food grains like other commodities takes place through the mechanism of the free market. The essence of the market mechanism is the market price and its function is to equate the consumer demand to the supplies forthcoming. For given supplies, market prices are determined so that all supplies are taken and no more are demanded. Therefore, to clear larger supplies, the market price has to be lower, while to restrict demand for more supplies, the market price must be higher. The food-grain market governed by this law functions satisfactorily up to a point but not invariably. In particular, when total supplies are barely adequate or are in fact short of the minimum needs of the people, the free market in food grains is known to lead to extreme force of maldistribution and eventually to a breakdown. Then recourse to alternative systems of distribution, especially rationing, becomes unavoidable.
It is customary to classify systems of distribution other than through the free market into several categories such as statutory rationing, non-statutory rationing, informal rationing, modified rationing, controlled distribution, release through the quota shops, fair price shops and the like. However, the crucial difference is the one between statutory rationing on the one hand and all other forms on the other. Statutory rationing is distinguished by the complete absence of the free market and consequent statutory obligations on the part of the government to supply each person at a given price, giving a more or less adequate quantum of food grains. All other forms of distribution are characterized by the existence of a free market and hence do not imply any statutory obligation on the part of the government as under statutory rationing.
Broadly, there are three types of systems of distribution, i.e., free market, rationing (statutory rationing), and fair price distribution, covering all sorts of distribution on public account alongside the free market. Government distribution of food grains has often been resorted to in the past to relieve acute distress during drought, famine, floods and other natural calamities, and also to prevent prices from rising exorbitantly because of the speculative activities of the trade. In India, distribution of food grains on government account is undertaken by the State governments out of the quantities received by them from the central reserve and the quantities procured by them within the state. Such distribution is undertaken mainly through rationing shops in statutorily rationed areas and fair price shops in informally rationed areas. Apart from such distribution, food grains are also issued from the central godowns to meet certain fixed commitments such as those of roller flour mills, defence services and also directly to the fair price shops in certain states on the basis of permits issued by the State government. The system of public distribution in the country has been flexible and it has been contracted or expanded according to the needs of the situation.
A plea for linguists to take their place in the development process
by D. Jon Grossman
While enthusiasm for technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC) continues to run high, little thought seems to have been given to the problem of how, from the communications point of view, it can be made to work in regions of high linguistic diversity such as Southeast Asia and the Pacific. That region suffers from a serious scarcity of qualified translators and interpreters into, out of, and even more seriously between local languages, frequently compounded by an absolute lack of technical terminologies, generally agreed or not. As a result, TCDC runs the risk of being confined to the elites that can use English or another lingua franca, instead of reaching the low-to-intermediate levels where its workings otherwise promise to be most beneficial.
It is clear that linguistic nationalism, a trend among newly
independent countries to reject the language of their former colonizers in
favour of their earlier local language, even if a dead one, is here to stay.
Linguistic nationalism is not new: in 1777, the legislature of the newly
South Carolina rejected by only one vote a motion that German, rather than English, should be the official language of the state. Linguistic nationalism among Irish intellectuals may be said to have been the axis about which the Irish independence movement, which led to the 1916 Easter rebellion, revolved, and Gaelic is today the official language of the Irish Republic. One of the first official acts of the newly created state of Israel was to adopt Hebrew (later described as neo-Hebrew) as its sole official language, despite the contrary view of the early, more pragmatic, Zionist leaders. In Africa south of the Sahara, tribal linguistic diversity and the absence of a written literature among the tribal languages and dialects have enabled English and French to maintain their position as linguae francae, but in developing Asia, nationalism, linguistic unity and, often, a long written tradition in individual countries are combining to lead to the linguistic Balkanization of the region.
Symbolic of oppression
The trend is comprehensible. The first act of almost all
colonizing powers, from ancient Greece to the present time, has been to impose
their languages, which became symbolic of, or synonymous with, oppression when
recolonization or decolonization takes place. As a result, the first symbol of
the ex-occupants' power to be rejected, once a few statues have been overthrown,
is the occupants' language. Spanish was able to maintain itself when the Latin
American countries achieved independence in the nineteenth century because it
had no strong competitor, considering the relatively small indigenous population
in the heavily colonized areas, the great tribal linguistic diversity of the
region and the lack of a native written tradition. Similarly,
English is likely to survive in India until that country has solved, one way or another, the problem of its linguistic unity: it appears to have abandoned, in the face of strong resistance from other language minorities, efforts to impose Hindi as the sole national language.
But elsewhere in southern and southeastern Asia, English is rapidly declining as the lingua franca, and whether it will be replaced by Japanese, Chinese, Bahasa or a combination of these - or whether it will be replaced at all - it is not yet possible to say. As will be seen below, nearly 80 percent of Thai replies to an ESCAP survey were to the effect that technical material was desired in the Thai language. In Bangladesh, an annual national holiday marks the anniversary of the 1952 linguistic riots, and a newspaper editorial (in English) stated recently that "language and our national identity are inseparable and indivisible." In the Philippines, where there is a variety of local languages and dialects none of which is spoken by as much as 25 percent of the population, the Government is supporting education in Pilipino, an artificial, Tagalog-based language, the intent apparently being for Pilipino to replace English as soon as it is spoken by a large enough segment of the population (the 50-percent level has already been reached).
From the practical point of view, the effects of this trend - no matter how natural and comprehensible it may be - are little short of appalling. The multiplication of languages has been a major barrier to understanding among men ever since the tower of Babel, and it is hard at times to escape the impression that by refusing a lingua franca, the countries of developing Asia are deliberately creating for themselves an obstacle as insuperable as it is needless. On the other hand, however, it is useless to formulate value judgements when such emotion charged concepts as national independence are involved. The trend toward linguistic Balkanization being irreversible, at least within the foreseeable future, workers in development must accept the fact and address themselves to the task of minimizing its negative effects.
The problem itself can be reduced to very simple terms. How, for example, is an Indonesian to gain access to a new technique for protecting harvested crops, evolved in Thailand and written in a paper in Thai? How is a Korean adviser on animal breeding to talk to a Sinhalese farmer? Few, if any, of the people working at these levels have any common language. Thus far, they have worked through English, but language training in the region is on the decline, except at university levels - where it is now much less satisfactory than formerly.
Translation into local languages from the so-called "international" languages (especially English) is the least serious aspect of the problem, but it is still not a negligible one. While the number of technicians with some training in English, often received abroad, is still considerable, their training has, by the nature of things, been largely confined to their specialties. No training in translation techniques, as such, has been received - or, most likely, even envisaged. Leaving aside commercial and semi-literary hack work, therefore, the pool available for translating consists mainly of people trained abroad and now on the staff of the various universities. To the extent that these are engaged in passing on, in their local languages, the training that they themselves received abroad, basing themselves largely on their own lecture notes, they are in fact engaged in a very special type of "consecutive interpretation," and local-language lecture notes derived from their courses can, if published, serve in some degree as raw material for subsequent local-language work, assuming that the terminological difficulties can be overcome.
Collections of gems
Translation out of local languages into "international" languages presents problems of another order. It is axiomatic that translators must translate into their mother tongue only, and while some exceptions to this rule do in fact exist, results are usually only marginal. But the number of native speakers of international languages who know a local language well enough to translate out of it is very limited, and such people are not usually prepared to do so as a career: they can as a general rule embrace a more highly and rapidly remunerative and visible profession, and are thus unmotivated to move into the translation arena, except perhaps on an occasional basis.
It is thus inevitable that translation out of local languages into "international" languages will, for the foreseeable future, have to lie with native speakers of the former working into the latter. The cost of this approach in terms of accuracy - and even of comprehensibility - is high indeed: every translator has his own collection of "gems" created in the international languages alone by people who "translate" from German into "French" or from French into "English" without really knowing the latter of the languages. (It must be added that these collections are often rivalled by collections of "gems" created by the professional translators themselves, who are by no means exempt from error.)
When however it becomes necessary to translate into one local language a text already translated out of another into an "international" language, the possibility of error and incomprehensibility rises to the level of probability, if not certainty. It is in fact highly doubtful whether (for example) a text translated, under the above conditions, from Tamil through English into Thai, or from Thai through English into Tamil, would on arrival in the final language be sufficiently valid as to be usable. Many experiments with successive translations by professional translators, working in "international" languages only, have illustrated the serious likelihood of error and loss, despite a wealth of experience and the availability of translators' tools unheard of as regards local languages.
Yet the concept of TCDC appears, for Asia, to assume just such linguistic transfers. In Latin America, where most developing countries share varieties of Spanish that are close enough to permit generally satisfactory communication, the problem is not urgent. Nor, for the time being at least, is it urgent in Africa and the Near East, where Arabic, English and French among them still carry the burden reasonably well, although growing trends toward linguistic nationalism may well, within the next 20 years or so, render the problem more acute in this part of the world as well. In Asia, however, the problem has almost incalculable dimensions, which appear to have escaped the attention of all the theorists of TCDC.
The carrier language
Indeed, little attention seems to have been paid to how, from the communications point of view, TCDC can be made to work in Asia at all. If English (or another international language) is to be the unique "carrier" language, then all communications among the countries involved will have to take place at the level of foreign-trained specialists, who are not only an extreme minority of the population, but who also constitute an elite whose availability for the TCDC exercise will be limited, to say the least. A multilateral, high-level TCDC is by no means to be excluded, but the value of TCDC, like that of technical cooperation in general, will obviously be greatest at the low-to-intermediate operating levels, where linguistic versatility will be most uncommon.
One first tentative - and substantively limited - attempt has been made to envisage the linguistic problems of the transfer of written information among the countries of Asia and the Pacific: an Expert Group Meeting on the Translation of Population Material (Bangkok, 8-12 December 1975), organized by ESCAP. As its title indicates, the meeting was concerned exclusively with the translation of population material, but there is every reason to believe that most of the information it received, and most of the conclusions it reached, are of far more general applicability. The meeting was attended by population experts from nine ESCAP member countries, seven UN bodies and specialized agencies (including FAO), and several NGOS. Typically, only one language expert - a translator on the ESCAP staff - attended.
The meeting had before it an "overview," prepared by the ESCAP Secretariat, of language barriers and translation needs in the ESCAP region, based on a 1974 ESCAP survey of the needs of 165 government agencies, 430 research and teaching institutions, and 57 NGOS "active or interested in population" in 34 countries.
A strong demand for the local language translation of population materials (and, by extrapolation, training material in other fields) was thus clearly shown to exist.
The countries from which most population materials were desired are those which were believed, rightly or wrongly, to be most active and/or successful in the population field. In general, too, countries appeared to be most desirous of having information from countries of similar geographic or sociocultural backgrounds. It is reasonable to assume (pending the needed in-depth studies) that what applies to population activities is equally - or even more - applicable to agriculture. Obviously, geographical situations will assume greater, and sociocultural situations less, weight, but the demand for information is high, and it may be expected to grow.
The question then becomes: what can the UN system, and FAO in particular, do to meet this urgent and growing need? The answer, it appears to me, is that every UN agency should do what it can to foster, in its particular field, the professional training of translators equipped to work from their own local languages directly into other local languages, eliminating to the greatest extent possible the need to pass through an "international" language. It is recognized that the necessary bilingual dictionaries in local languages do not yet exist (although the literature for some combinations, such as Urdu/Hindi, is far from negligible), and that technical terminologies in these languages are bound to present a permanent problem that can be solved only through the use and abuse of Anglicisms until the body of technical literature in the local languages has grown considerably. Yet direct communication among countries is a basic requisite for meaningful TCDC, and since the technicians cannot, for obvious reasons, be expected to have the needed linguistic skills, their need for linguistic support from trained professional translators can only become increasingly acute.
The problem of quality control
The forms that such action would have to take may be varied. No
major school for translators exists in the region, except in Japan (where work
is concentrated on "international" languages and those of Japan's neighbours)
and China (where training in little-known languages and dialects is known to
exist, but apparently for Chinese-speaking students only). A regional training
school for translators and interpreters would appear at first view to be the
most desirable solution, but the variety of languages into and from which
translation is required would appear to make this approach unrealistic, except
with regard to training in translation techniques, given - for practical reasons
only - in an "international" language. Specialization in particular languages
and in particular fields would still, however, have to be obtained at the local
level, perhaps on an
"exchange fellowship" basis.
A thought-provoking paper, submitted to the 1975 Bangkok meeting, proposes a solution to the problem of translation quality control which may indicate one way of fostering the needed training. Under this system, in use by the National Translation Institute of Science and Technology (NATIST) of Japan, a text in the source language (SL) is given to a professional translator who puts it into the target language (TL); the translation is then revised by a technician whose mother tongue is the TL but who has a fair command of SL (or vice versa); it then goes to a rewriter or reviser whose mother tongue is the TL and who revises for style and readability. As a further check, the revised draft may be reviewed once more by a speaker of the SL, any problems then being ironed out in consultation with the rewriter. Theoretically, the original translator should be a native speaker of the TL, but where none is available, and he is a native speaker of the SL, then the second-stage technician should be a speaker of the TL. Thus, if a translation is desired from Hindi to Tagalog, the translator is a Filipino who knows Hindi, the technical reviser an Indian who knows Tagalog, and the rewriter/reviser is a Filipino. Alternatively, the translator may be an Indian who knows Tagalog, but then the technical reviser should be a Filipino who knows Hindi.
To tailor each course
The difficulty with this theoretical construct is, of course, that the number of professional Tagalog translators who know Hindi may be taken as equal to the number of Indian technicians who know Tagalog, i.e., approximately zero. The NATIST approach, if valid at all, can be valid only for such a country as Japan. On the other hand, however, it is designed in particular to deal with translations of a highly sophisticated nature, involving technologies of such a complex kind that it is doubtful whether users of them, in general, cannot be satisfied with texts in "international" languages. Such a technology is demography, for which terminologies have been evolving rapidly over the past few years, but in an anarchic manner, so that it is rare for two demographers to agree on any but the most basic terminology. The same need not however be true of most agricultural sciences, particularly at operating levels. Here, terminologies are well developed and reasonably stable. Field applications need not create major difficulties, provided that reasonable levels of linguistic skill and translinguistic technique have been attained.
Under these circumstances, it should not be difficult for a selected university in each language area to establish and run a training course for translators, the students to be carefully selected from among those who have demonstrated language skills and good motivations. Trainees should then be sent, under exchange arrangements, to equivalent courses given in their selected target-language areas, where they would obtain thorough on-the-job training by collaborating in a team setup analogous to that adopted by NATIST. It goes without saying that all work - except at the most theoretic levels - should be carried on in the target language itself, to enable the trainee to acquire a thorough working knowledge of that language. Such programmes could be included as components of national agricultural development projects executed by FAO
As a parallel activity, the universities should also organize, perhaps with international financing, crash courses for the training in local languages of national experts assisting other countries of the region under TCDC. It may be found necessary to tailor each such course according to the vocabulary needs of individual experts, but it should be possible to establish a general syllabus, which can be adapted as required to each special case. By and large, experts can be expected to pick up fairly rapidly, in the field, the technical vocabularies they need, provided that they have a broad general base in the local language itself.
Their own terminology
Maintaining motivations would of course be essential. It has been repeatedly, and justifiably, pointed out that training is not useful if the trainee is not thereafter put to work and kept at work in the field in which he has been trained. He would therefore have to have a reasonable assurance of continued, remunerative employment when his training has been completed. This is, quite obviously, a problem for individual governments interested in TCDC. They should be in a position to establish, perhaps within their national research institutions, translators' and experts' pools, endowed with suitable language libraries, and to keep their translators and experts fully occupied with TCDC work alone. A number of them can be expected eventually to move into the private sector, or into free-lancing, but these too will be needed as direct exchanges among developing countries continue to expand.
Just as already occurs with translation among the "international" languages, and within the translation services of the international organizations, translators will eventually come to specialize in particular aspects of their trade. Such specializations will often be a reflection of the translator's background, or of his major fields of interest. At other times, they will result from the fact that a given translator, having made a good translation on a given topic, will be given more work to do on the same topic. In time, such specialized translators will accumulate as all professionals do their own card catalogues of terminology. The international organizations should then be prepared to assist in publishing these terminologies, no matter how fragmentary they may be, as useful guides to future work.
In my view, such translation training and promotion programmes should be planned and executed by language personnel, preferably among those whose formation also includes a planning or training component. Until the present, language staff, in the international organizations in particular, have played only a passive role in development, as intermediaries between those for whom they are a communications tool of the same nature as a telephone. As language becomes a development priority of TCDC, linguists must be prepared to come out of their libraries and into the open air and to take their place in the line of operations.
Based on distorted facts
The article "The counter-reform bloc" by Ernest Feder (ceres No. 68) is full of judgements based on incorrect or distorted facts. The most striking example is his presentation of McNamara's statement on land reform. Feder writes that McNamara in his Nairobi address (1973) gives to land reform only "an ephemeral role" devoting to this problem not more than "10 lines, plus a few ornamental comments, to this delicate subject..." In saying this, Feder suppresses the core of the aforementioned Nairobi address, which in fact reads as follows:
"But there are other structural changes necessary as well. And the most urgent among these is land and tenancy reform. Legislation dealing with such reform has been passed - or at least been promised - in virtually every developing country. But the rhetoric of these laws has far outdistanced their results. They have produced little redistribution of land, little improvement in the security of the tenant, and little consolidation of small holdings.
"That is extremely regrettable. No one can pretend that genuine land and tenancy reform is easy. It is hardly surprising that members of the political power structure, who own large holdings, should resist reform. But the real issue is not whether land reform is politically easy. The real issue is whether indefinite procrastination is politically prudent. An increasingly inequitable situation will pose a growing threat to political stability.
"But land and tenancy reform programs - involving reasonable land ceilings, just compensation, sensible tenancy security, and adequate incentives for land consolidation - are possible. What they require are sound policies, translated into strong laws which are neither enervated by exceptions nor riddled by loopholes. And most important of all, the laws have to incorporate effective sanctions, and be vigorously and impartially enforced.
"What we must recognize is that land reform is not exclusively about land. It is about the uses - and abuses - of power, and the social structure through which it is exercised."
Otto K. Matzke
Reflects broad ideas
My compliments to you on a very well-organized and widely presented March-April issue. Your choice of opinions reflects broad ideas of the world today.
More information needed
The article "Conventional crops imperil good protein" (ceres No. 68, p. 4) makes a very important point: we tend increasingly to restrict the number of species on which we depend for food. There are, however, some defects in the article that should be corrected, and some points that deserve fuller discussion.
The figures for the percentage of protein are said to be on the dry matter. That is as it should be: many misapprehensions are caused when crops that are normally weighed wet are compared with dry seed crops. The values given for cassava and yam are reasonable, but no one ever grew a potato or a sweet potato with only 2 percent protein on the dry matter. Wet weight figures must have intruded here.
Many legume tubers are probably excellent sources of protein and they should be more widely used. Nevertheless, we need more information about the nature of the nitrogen in them. "Crude protein" figures may be misleading because part of the nitrogen on which the "crude protein" figure is based is non-protein nitrogen which may be useless, or even harmful. Until more is known about the true protein content, it would be unwise to eat these tubers regularly on as large a scale as is usual with potatoes.
Nearly four years ago, I had given up reading ceres because I did not think the articles were informative, objective or useful. However, recently I had an opportunity to read the last few issues, and I must say that the magazine has improved tremendously.
l would like to congratulate you for the quality of the recent issues. Keep up the good work!
Asit K. Biswas
Distribution: the fragile link
The life support systems of the human race, like those of all other species on this planet, are fragile structures. Ten millennia of conscious effort to strengthen them have not eliminated, for the maprity of humanity, uncertainty about food supplies. Moreover, those processes we call civilization and modernization have made even more tenuous the links between growing multitudes of urbanized people and the basic elements of food production: land, water, crops and livestock
To its credit, the civilization of this century can claim to have launched the greatest organized efforts in human history to alleviate hunger and famine when regular food supply systems collapsed for climatic, political or other reasons. That millions still exist on the edge of famine, and many still die of it, should not obscure the growth of a sense of collective responsibility for eliminating such conditions. Both private and public institutions that embody this concept are vulnerable to certain criticisms. They seem to elicit more support for curative approaches to hunger, rather than for preventive ones. They are clumsy vehicles, at best, for international sharing of food.
Their experience illuminates one vital consideration: when a food supply system breaks down in a province, or state or region, even the alleviation of the ensuing conditions is not simply a matter of plugging in some external source of supply, like a collective intravenous tube. The history of food aid programmes is speckled with cases of donations mismatched to dietary habits, of shipments snagged and spoiled in transportation bottlenecks, of supplies siphoned into illicit channels that bypassed the truly needy.
Now, finally, much more serious consideration is being accorded to the evidence that human societies nourish themselves, when they can, through a myriad of different systems, some closely attuned to the primary production of food and nominally near self-sufficiency, while others, at the metropolitan end of the spectrum, are obliged to rely on a complex and often devious range of processes and services to bring daily fare to the table. One end of the spectrum may be more vulnerable to the vagaries of climate, the other to the fluctuations of currency, prices and income, but what should be noted, above all, is the potential for interaction between the systems, however diverse. The demand for cheaper livestock feedstuffs to furnish beefsteaks afforded by higher incomes in industrialized countries can divert investment and resources from growing yams or beans for village markets to producing soybeans or cassava for export.
By the end of this century, perhaps as much as half of the human race will be removed from direct access to the simplest types of self-sufficient food systems. Inevitably, growing millions will need to find their sustenance at the retail end of massive metropolitan marketing systems. Whether they can afford to feed themselves adequately will depend partly, of course, on employment opportunities. But it will also depend on what sort of incentives and support are required for those who remain on the land to produce in abundant excess of their own needs, and how efficiently that surplus can be moved to those no longer able to grow any significant portion of their food supply.
Umike world production of wheat, which has been gradually
increasing, the global output of gold, or at least from those countries for
which the International Monetary Fund has figures, has been tending to contract.
Prices, of course, are another matter. Last autumn we reached the stage where an
ounce of gold could buy 2.5 tons of wheat; that is, approximately enough to
provide for 10 to 12 Asian- level diets for one year. Or even very needy three
more affluent diets rich with steak, bacon, eggs and milk