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

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
THE GENESIS OF THE MARKETING BOARDS

1. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MARKETING BOARDS AND THE SCOPE OF THIS PART OF THE STUDY

The most striking and important instance of monopoly in West Africa is to be found in the export trade. By their comprehensive nature and their statutory powers the organizations controlling West African exports present instances of monopoly power not approached in any other sector of West African trade; and their operations have far-reaching influence on the well-being of these territories.

The West African marketing boards arey far the largest statutory export monopolies in the British Colonial Empire and possibly in the Commonwealth; they are indeed among the most important in the world. Already their financial resources exceed those of the West African governments, and the disposal of their large reserves will be a major influence in the political and economic situation in these territories.

But quantitative information alone does not convey adequately the significance of these organizations Their decisions in fixing the prices paid to producers are a major factor in determining the level of incomes, the standard of living and the ability to save of the people, and through their influence on the flow of incomes these decisions largely affect the balance of payments of the colonies. By prescribing producer prices they exercise a potent influence on the production of different crops. The policies of the boards and the use of their accumulated reserves raise difficult and delicate issues of relationship between the United Kingdom and the colonies. The results (some unintended) and repercussions of these policies can be expected to extend well into the future, particularly since they also affect the future scale of output.

The description and analysis of the boards' activities necessarily differ from the treatment appropriate to an examination of the degree of concentration and of monopolistic tendencies in the private sector of West African trade. In the latter, the factors influencing entry and those underlying the extent of concentration, together with the resulting market situation, are the principal topics of inquiry. These matters are irrelevant to the activities of statutory monopolies, since entry is barred by statute and there is 100% concentration in their field of operations. On the other hand, detailed analysis of the policies pursued in such conditions, and of the results of these policies, becomes the appropriate subject for inquiry.

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