Cape Verde welcomes single African market but says no to parasites
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Ortet, Eva. 1991. Cape Verde welcomes single African market but says no to parasites. Spore 35. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45592
Eva Ortet is Director General of Agricultural Production in the Cape Verde Ministry of Rural Development The ACP islands states are generally in the Caribbean, the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. However there are a few islands or archipelagos off the...
Eva Ortet is Director General of Agricultural Production in the Cape Verde Ministry of Rural Development The ACP islands states are generally in the Caribbean, the Pacific or the Indian Ocean. However there are a few islands or archipelagos off the coast of West Africa with agricultural conditions which are peculiar to themselves. Cape Verde is a Portuguese-speaking archipelago off the coast of Senegal. It falls in the Sahel region and Is thus dry and prone to erosion. But because this small state has added difficulties of its own, especially in the area of plant protection, it cannot afford to forego its strict phytosanitary controls for the sake of African agricultural integration. Recently, Western and Central African Ministers of Agriculture met in conference in Dakar, Senegal, to lay the foundations of what has now become known as African integration in the field of agriculture and food production. The problem they add reseed was an important one: how can the Africa of tomorrow reach a point where each country can flourish within a continental framework where economic growth is stimulated; and where it has some chance of survival in the international agricultural produce markets? As a result, African countries have felt compelled to give up their protectionist practices and to open up their produce to the rest of the world. Cape Verde is neither able nor wishes to be self-sufficient, and relies heavily on foreign trade in order to provide all that is necessary to the functioning of a modern state. IMPORTED PARASITES But this leads to problems, especially in the field of plant protection. Our isolated geographical position once protected us from the pests that ravaged mainland Africa, and we do our utmost to keep them out. For this reason, in 1970, we imposed a quarantine for all imported fruit and vegetables. Any imported product coming into Cape Verde which has not been through this control, and this includes foodstuffs carried by travellers, is destroyed as soon as it reaches the country. Our phytosanitary inspectors board every flight coming in from Bissau, Dakar or Banjul and confiscate any vegetative material carried by passengers. Measures such as these can control the spread of pests, but none the less they were inadequate to prevent a huge invasion by millipedes in Sto Antao. A few years ago a traveller brought in some wooden objects from a country south of the Equator; the parasite was inadvertently introduced into the country, and so one small slip brought in what has become public enemy number one for Cape Verde farmers. From then on, not a single vegetable could be exported out of Sto Antao which had been one of our principal food-producing islands. In 1990 the African cassava mosaic virus, a problem of extreme gravity for African cassava producing countries, was introduced into Sao Tiago. We are therefore on permanent alert. Our controls do not apply solely to travellers; all foodstuffs, including food aid, are subject to them as well. At one time, maize from Togo, donated by Germany, was refused entry, and the cargo had to be taken to the Netherlands for fumigation. This was repeated last year, and even more exceptional precautions were taken: the country of origin was chosen according to where there was the least risk of contamination; spraying was carried out pre-harvest; then a fumigation specialist accompanied the harvested grain between Lome port and Praia. Maize is the most important cereal crop for us, and it is imperative that it should not be put at risk by imports. Drought does quite enough damage without that. LITTLE TRADE WITH AFRICA Although restrictions are less severe for animal products, the hygiene control documents are scrutinized with extreme care. ' Imported' pests do not come solely from the continent of Africa: citrusdiseases come from Europe, and animal products coming in from Brazil are also a threat. Our country could offer a lucrative market for many neighbouring states, but they have to ensure that they have the means to guarantee that what is sold is healthy. This still has not happened. We have even taken precautions between our own islands. For example, cassava from Sao Tiago is submitted to quarantine regulations before it can be sold elsewhere in Cape Verde. The result of this vital prophylactic policy is that the only imports from mainland West Africa are for research purposes. Virus-free cassava seedlings were imported in vitro from IITA in Ibadan, Nigeria, with the help of FAO, for distribution to Cape Verde farmers whose crops have been devastated by mosaic. In 1988 Cape Verde imported only 5% of its total from the African continent, against 10% only five years earlier. ECOWAS now provides only 1.5% of our imports. The creation of a single African market is a fine initiative in principle, but the countries involved must be mindful of the practical constraints. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA.