West African Trade: A Study of Competition, Oligopoly and Monopoly in a Changing Economy

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
THE SHARES OF FIRMS IN THE TRADE IN EXPORT PRODUCE

1. INFORMATION ON THE SHARES OF FIRMS IN THE TRADE IN EXPORT PRODUCE

There is much information available on the shares of individual firms in the export trade of West Africa. It is derived partly from returns furnished by the buying agents to the executives of the marketing boards and circulated by the boards, and partly from analysis of customs entries. Considerable information has also been made available by private sources.

The export of agricultural products from Nigeria and the Gold Coast is in the hands of marketing boards which are statutory export monopolies. In the actual export of these products, the concentration is of course 100%. The merchant firms act as buying agents for the boards, and for these commodities the statistics of concentration shown here refer to their operations as buying agents and not as actual exporters. For hides and skins and timber the information refers to the shares of firms in actual exports.

With the exception of the buying of cocoa, confidential marketsharing syndicates are operated by most of the licensed buying agents in the purchase of produce for export on behalf of the marketing boards.1 In a review of statistics of this degree of concentration it is necessary to take cognisance of such syndicates for two reasons. First, their presence implies that in effect the members share their purchases. The shares of individual firms in total purchases do not give a full picture of the degree of concentration; in addition, the share of all the syndicate members taken together must be considered because they act largely in concert and in their purchasing activities voluntarily limit their independence of action. Secondly, the share of an individual firm in total purchases in any year may give a misleading indication of its quantitative importance if it is a member of a syndicate. A firm may intentionally reduce its purchases in one year in accordance with the provisions of the market-sharing arrangements. This tends to increase the tonnage bought by others, whether members of the syndicate or not. Conversely, a syndicate member which was buying less than its agreed

____________________
1
The syndicates in the purchase of oil-palm produce seem recently to have been suspended (cf. note to Table 14 below).

-217-

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