Agricultural diversification a sense of urgency
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CTA. 1990. Agricultural diversification a sense of urgency. Spore 25. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45203
Regional conference on Agriculture Diversification and this was held in collaboration with CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute) in Bridgetown, Barbados from November 27 to December 1,1989
ACP countries with preferential terms of trade in certain agricultural products have been concerned about the potential impact of the 'single market' in the EC after 1992. In theory, products from non-ACP countries could then compete freely with ACP products such as sugar, bananas, rum and rice. The EC position, affirmed in November, is that under the new Lome Convention there will be no modification of the previously agreed terms of trade. Moreover, should Haiti and the Dominican Republic join the ACP group, there is further assurance that this would not result in any reduction in current quotas for these products. Nevertheless, CTA was requested by governments of ACP member states in the Caribbean to organize a regional conference on Agriculture Diversification and this was held in collaboration with CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute) in Bridgetown, Barbados from November 27 to December 1,1989. The need for agricultural diversification has been recognized for over a century in the Caribbean yet more than half of agricultural exports in some countries are still from sugar cane while bananas comprise a substantial part of agricultural exports in several other states. Obviously the extent of dependence on a single crop varies but even those countries with less dependence are feeling an urgent need to spread potential risks not only from market downturns but also from climatic damage and pest or disease attack. Definitions of diversification vary, ranging from one extreme of totally abandoning a crop in favour of one or more alternatives to maintaining current output of a major crop but simultaneously initiating or increasing production of alternatives, be it other crops, livestock or agro-based industries. Already there have been several successful examples of diversification and substitution. Twenty years ago St Lucia went out of sugar cane into bananas, whereas Jamaica has reduced dependence on sugar by developing the production of bananas, coffee and, more recently, horticulture and aquaculture. Dominica, once dependent on citrus and still a major producer of bananas, has been diversifying very successfully into exported fruit, vegetables and ginger. Meanwhile, several countries that already have a more diverse export base (Grenada with bananas, cocoa and nutmeg, Guyana with sugar and rice and Belize with sugar, citrus and forest products) are nevertheless looking at reducing their dependence on established crops further by initiating new enterprises even though production of existing crops may not be reduced. The Mauritius experience A paper given by Mrs P Aubeeluck of Mauritius provided a good example of how it is not necessary to reduce production of a major crop in order to diversify. Mauritius has long been known as a <<sugar island>> and government policy has been to maintain production to meet the 491,000 tonne annual export quota to the EC under the Lome Convention terms. However, stringent efforts have been made to improve the profitability of sugar production and this has been achieved by making new types of sugar for sale under Mauritius brand names; optimizing use of sugar-cane by-products; and by making double use of land under cane for growing food crops. The special sugars include a golden granulated product, light and dark Muscavado and Demerara for the EC and small consignments of special sugars sold to the United States, Sweden, New Zealand and Switzerland. Bagasse is a potential source of renewable energy and an alternative to imported coal and oil. It is considered that the optimum use of this by-product can supply some 80% of overall energy requirements in Mauritius against the current 20% with the added benefit of constituting a low pollution hazard. Annual molasses production is in the region of 170,000 tonnes, of which some 83% is exported. The remainder is used by local distillery plants for the manufacture of alcohol, rum, perfumes, vinegar and a variety of drugs. In addition, molasses is used by many livestock farmers in the form of molasses/urea blocks for their cattle. Every year the industry produces about 200,000 tonnes of filter scums which are used as bio-fertilizer. The use of cane tops for cattle feeding has been a long-standing practice and the potential for ensiling cane tops will enable further use of what remains an under-utilized resource. Inter-line cropping of cane rows with food crops is another long established practice. During the Second World War, with disruption of food supplies from abroad, a scheme was implemented to cultivate all basic food crops on 27% of land under sugar cane. The increased population and high cost of food imports have aroused national awareness, and the need for self-reliance and import substitution has become a major concern of policy makers. Government commitment in the form of fixing floor prices for priority commodities and regulation of imports has resulted in Mauritius becoming self-sufficient in potatoes and turmeric since 1985. Self-sufficiency in onions and garlic is expected within two or three years and other major products such as beans, groundnut, chillies, rice and fresh milk have also been substituted increasingly for imports since Independence. Agro-industrial production - canning of fruit, vegetables and fish, processing dairy products and pork, milling rice, dehydration of turmeric, manufacture of livestock feed, and local processing of various imported raw food products (vegetable oil and wheat) - has increased from Rs 81.8 million in 1982 to Rs 214 million in 1986. Finally, two new agricultural enterprises have provided additional diversification for the economy. Deer farming, based on deer imported in colonial fumes from Java, has developed both on culling of animals kept semi-wild on marginal lands and others raised in feedlots. Production is expected to be 70,000 head by 1992. And the yield of freshwater prawns (Macrobachium rosenbergii), now 50 tonnes per year is expected to double very soon. Caribbean options Several Caribbean countries are already considering some of the options that have proved successful in Mauritius. Jamaica has developed a successful aquaculture industry, also based on freshwater prawns, and GUYSUCO in Guyana has been experimenting with tilapia. Belize has extensive estuarine lands that could be utilized for aquaculture. The alternatives for diversifying within the sugar industry itself and thereby improving profitability are extensive and a wide range of options was provided by Keith Laurie of Barbados when he stressed the need to look for alternative uses for sugar if cane acreage is to be maintained. He instanced Grenada's interest in cane that is high in reducing sugars suited for rum production rather than high in sucrose for sugar. He also questioned the economics of extracting the last fraction of sugar from cane when alternatively it might increase profitability by extracting less at reduced cost while leaving more sugar in the bagasse, which would then become a more nutritious livestock feed. There is also potential for cane production specifically for livestock feed. Mr Laurie suggested breeders and growers look again at previously discarded varieties of cane that had high yields but were rejected for sugar product on because they were too high in dry matter, protein, fibre or minerals; these could be ideally suited for feeding to ruminants. This would, in effect, be a new crop entirely separate from sugar production. Cane is the best converter of solar energy Robert Reid of Jamaica (left), now working with CARDI in Grenada and David Demacque, Director of Agriculture, St Lucia and this characteristic of the plant could be harnessed to benefit livestock production. From St Lucia the Director of Finance, Dwight Venner, said that there was no question of St Lucia reducing production of bananas since the size of the country does not allow for a second major crop. But costs of banana production could be reduced by consolidating production on the best land, quality could be improved further and new varieties of smaller, sweeter bananas developed for new sectors of the export market. All this would make for much more competitive marketing of Windward Island fruit. Simultaneously, other crops and livestock production could be introduced or expanded to provide additional new sources of export income as well as to increase food self-sufficiency. A dollar saved is a dollar earned Hugh Saul, Deputy Executive Director of CARDI, pointed out that while the Caribbean countries represented at this conference on agricultural diversification currently exported half a billion dollars worth of food products they imported twice as much. The production of food for local consumption was, he said, the greatest opportunity on the basis that a dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned. Many speakers agreed - from St Kitts-Nevis, Antigua, Belize, Guyana, Dominica, St Vincent, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. From Trinidad, Vishnu Ramlogan outlined the options being considered by Caroni (1975) Ltd. once an all-sugar company and now one that is looking to replace a substantial part of the cane acreage with citrus, coffee, mango, cashew and rice. Additionally, beef production (from the Buffalypso, a selected strain of water buffalo), sheep raising for meat, and culture of Malaysian prawns were set to increase. Industrial production of alcohol, charcoal and packaging board from bagasse, and even single-cell protein production from cane by-products were all being considered. No easy solution While the options are many, past experience has demonstrated that successful diversification programmes are developed only after research into all aspects of the husbandry of alternative crop or livestock enterprises and thorough investigation of potential markets. Angus Hone, plant commodities economist with Britain's ODNRI (Overseas Development Natural Resources Institute) suggested that Caribbean exports for newer crops such as fruit, vegetables and cut flowers would find more profitable markets more readily in North America than in Europe. Europe is both further in terms of transport and is already importing substantially from Israel, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Thailand. Ghana's recent entry into pineapple exports demonstrates that skill more African producers are anxious to seek outlets in Europe. Meanwhile within the EC, Spain has planted very considerable acreages of avocado and is in a strong positron to supply sweet pepper and certain other exotic vegetables. Brazil is currently dominating world exports of citrus and papaya. Mr Hone's analysis is that there would be niche markets in Europe and off-season periods when Israel, Africa and Asia cannot supply and that Caribbean producers should seek these and develop them. There are also expatriate Caribbean communities in Europe, particularly Britain, which demand Caribbean foods such as tannia and eddo. There is also potential for cut flowers but only if aircraft space could be utilized more effectively. At present there is a surplus of space on European flights from Barbados but no effective freight feeder service from neighbouring countries to Barbados. The overall conclusion was that in most countries where sugar or bananas are the major crop, they will remain so because of their important role in the economy. The continuing commitment by the EC under the Lome Convention to import previously agreed quantities of these products from ACP countries will help secure those economies built on these products. Nevertheless, it is sound economics to develop additional sources of revenue. This can be achieved by improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of sugar and banana production, by making more cost-effective use of cane by-products and by developing appropriate new crops for additional income and for import substitution. Finally, the seminar stressed that the commitment of policy makers is essential if agricultural diversification is to be successful. The example of Mauritius is clear evidence of such support that has been maintained consistently over a long period of years. The Minister of Agriculture for Barbados, the Hon. Warwick Franklin, gave a clear lead to the future when he opened the conference saying, <<We have to look to the future realizing that the world does not owe us a living. It is a highly aggressive, competitive world.>> And, comparing the relatively small nations of the region with the giant economies of North America, Latin America and Europe, he called for much greater cooperation among Caribbean countries. The new Agricultural Diversification Unit of OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) is an example of what could develop. As several participants remarked, agricultural diversification in the Caribbean may have been talked about for more than a century but never before has there been such urgency to select, implement and support the right policies in agriculture in the region. To a greater or lesser extent, many of the same comments could apply also to Africa and the Pacific.