THE ECONOMICS OF MARKETING REFORM: MEASURES AND PROPOSALS (II)
For some years past the establishment of systems of produce grading and the imposition of minimum standards have been widely regarded as being essential for the improvement of marketing methods for colonial produce. In recent years these ideas have gained acceptance in West Africa.
In West Africa there is an extensive system of compulsory inspection, and in certain cases compulsory grading, of export produce. The system is prominent in Nigeria, where it covers almost the whole range of export produce, and where those administering the system have wide powers of licensing, search and inspection. The discussion here will be confined to Nigeria, although the analysis would apply to similar but less advanced systems elsewhere. In Nigeria all exports except minerals, hides and skins, timber and bananas are subject to compulsory official inspection; exports of cocoa and palm oil are also subject to compulsory grading. In essence the system amounts to the prescription of minimum export standards; only produce inspected and rated above the minimum may be exported or bought for export. Compulsory grading is superimposed on the minimum standards and establishes grade differentials according to certain standards officially laid down; payments to producers are linked with these grades.
The Nigerian produce inspection arrangements were started in the 1920's; they were extended in scope during the wartime control of the West African Produce Control Board, and have since then been further strengthened by the operations of the marketing boards. In the purchase of all commodities controlled by the boards, members of the produce inspection staff check the quality of the produce and the standard weight at the point of purchase by the licensed buying agents or those acting on their behalf. The weight is checked again by check-weighing a substantial sample at the port of shipment. There is in addition compulsory inspection to check the exportable quality of some produce not controlled by the marketing boards, notably rubber, chillies and ginger.
Until 1948 produce inspection was the task of the Department of Agriculture. It was then taken over by the Department of Marketing