Rapports Commerciales du Cercle de Bamako
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The agricultural crisis from the 1913 drought didn't really affect the Cercle de Bamako. The harvest was poor in the north and around Banamba, but normal in the south. Administrateur Adjoint Lemasson made an inspection tour from March 22 to April 11 and found that the millet crop on the Niger River right bank was satisfactory. The main consequence of the drought was that people who lived away from the river had to dig deeper wells.
M. Alfonsi, a European merchant at Bala on the right bank of the Niger, bought 60 tons of millet at 140 francs/ton and sent it to Bamako by pirogue where the "sociétés de chef-lieu ... sont adjudicataires de certains lots à fournir aux troupes, à raison de 275 francs et mˆme 300 francs la tonne pour le mil" (to sell to larger firms who had to fulfill government contracts for military rations). African traders did the same thing using donkeys and pirogues, sometimes selling their stocks of millet left over from 1911 or 1912.
The rice harvest at Bala, Kalaban, Touréla and Makono was poor, so there was only rice for local consumption, but none for export. The drought also forced the Service de Navigation to suspend operations in January, so exports along the river were also down. A total of 1300 tons of peanuts were shipped, but no ivory or rubber. A large amount of hides, 555 tons, were exported, but this was due to the epidemic of epizootie that killed large numbers of animals.
Although European merchants maintained their volume of trade, increased competition continued to eat away at profits. Fees from Patentes de Dioulas were 17,000 francs, about the same as in first quarter of 1911 and the first quarter of 1912, but African trade was lower because people from the northern part of the cercle could not afford to buy luxury goods like kola or cloth. Syrian merchants appeared in the Cercle de Bamako in increasing numbers.
Raids by the Oulad Djerir interrupted the salt trade from Tichit, but Hodh salt got through all right and was sold as far south as Ivory Coast, where it competed in markets with European salt.
Due to the famine, large amounts of millet were imported via Kayes and sent on to Mopti. The Cercle de Bamako produced 350 tons of millet which it added to these shipments. There were no more rubber exports, but large exports of skin and wool. Most of the animal skins came from Mopti, where European merchants like Chichignond and the Compagnie Africaine were able to buy them and sell them in Bamako for at least 150 francs profit on each ton.
Despite everything, European merchants had only small problems due to the war. Rice imports dropped as the price dropped to 150 francs/ton. Cowskin exports remained strong thanks to the demand in France, but exports of goatskin and sheepskin dropped off.
"Il est évident qu'au déla d'un certain chiffre, le pouvoir d'achat de l'indigène est directement proportional au cours et à l'écoulement des produits du pays" (Deyond certain minimum requirements, African purchasing power is directly proportional to the value of exports.)
Two thirds of the imports and exports from the Cercle de Bamako were merely goods in transit to other cercles. Hides were purchased in Bamako for 460 francs/ton.
Commerce slowed because of poor communications, but also because the trade in animal skins dropped by two thirds. This was due to the fact that European merchants offered 70 francs/ton and Africans refused to sell for less than 100 francs/ton. Without cash from the sale of produce, Africans bought nothing from the European merchants.
The war seriously reduced the amount of trade. The value of imports into the Cercle de Bamako were roughly half of what they were in the fourth quarter of 1914. Hardly anything arrived from Europe and only Senegalese salt arrived in normal quantities. European merchants bought peanuts for 60 francs/ton.
On the other hand, African markets seemed unaffected and well-attended. The usual products were karité, kola, salt, cotton cloth in bands, other kinds of cloth, millet, rice, beads, animals, peanuts, etc. African industry consisted of iron-working, weaving, cloth-dying and rope-making.
An outbeak of epizootie reduced animal exports to the south, but the military transit camp for conscripts provided a market for beef. Peanut prices rose to 90-110 francs/ton. Salt imports remained constant, but imports of other European goods were down because the prices of those goods were high. European merchants were able to liquidate their old stocks at good profits.
The effects of the bad harvests in 1913 and 1914 had disappeared, and receipts from "cartes de circulation et marchés" (trade permits) were up.
The Maison A. Maurer had a beverage factory in Bamako that produced soda, soda water and flavorings. There was also an ice factory in Bamako There were two companies engaged in Niger River shipping, but they were having a bad time due to current events. (NOTE: One was Messageries Africaines.)
Cowries were still important in the Kolokani region where they were exchanged for 800 to the franc.
European goods were hard to obtain. English textile companies were unwilling to guarantee fixed prices and delivery dates for large orders. As a result, some European merchants refused to sell goods at "demi-gros" (wholesale) to African merchants.
Purchases of local produce were up. Peanuts sold for 170-190 francs/ton. European merchants even sent Africans with 2,000- 4,000 francs in capital to the north of Bamako to buy cattle for sale to the military camps.
Only one company, the Messageries Africaines, continued to operate on the Niger River.
This report mentions the revenue collected from two sorts of commercial permits, the " droites de place sur les marchés" and "cartes de circulation" (market licenses and travel permits).
The high prices on European goods continued to hinder trade, and also affected the cost of living for European officials. They petitioned to have basic foodstuffs like sugar and flour reclassified by the railroad so that they would pay less freight from Dakar, and therefore sell for a lower price.
Cattle were in short supply, yet one European merchant contracted to provide 25,000 cattle from the Niger Bend area to Kaolack.
The value of imports that arrived via Guinea (1,240,000 francs) slightly surpassed the value of imports that came via Dakar (1,198,750). Only 490,000 francs worth of goods reached Bamako from Ivory Coast.
Trade was up again after a bad year in 1916, although the available statistics were inadequate and untrustworthy.
Rubber was harvested for export in the Sikasso and Bougouni area.
One European import was "cardes." I'm not sure what this was, but it came in pairs and it had something to do with weaving, because when European cloth prices rose, Africans turned to locally-made cloth and the demand for cardes went up.
Many European merchants did not import large stocks of goods for sale because they were afraid their employees would be drafted and they would be forced to close up comptoirs.
214 tons of goods were imported into the Cercle de Bamako and an additional 414 tons passed through in transit. The main commercial activity in Kolokani was the grain trade, where Moors bought hundreds of tons of millet to sell in Nara and Oualata. In Koulikoro, European merchants bought produce in Gouni (across the river) and Koula (6-30 kilometers northeast of Koulikoro along the road to Banamba). Herds of sheep from Banamba, Djenné and Nara were sold in the market in Bamako.
Pirogue construction was significant at Bamako, Koulikoro, Nyamina and Kangaba. A chaland (barge) was constructed for the "chef Somono" in Bamako and another chaland and pirogue were under construction.
There was a shortage of small coins that forced Africans to buy larger quantities of goods that they wanted.
M. Lacroux sent an African to Kolokani in March 1918 to buy kapok.
Trade was nil because European merchants ran out of goods. Thus, the main activity was the sale of millet to the railroad and the government ( l'Intendance). The railroad requisitioned 30 tons but only received 15 tons from Banamba. The government wanted 125 tons and received 90 from Banamba and 20 from Koulikoro. Kolokani was supposed to supply 125 tons to the Intendance in Kati. Administrateur Rougier said that 90 tons had already been shipped, and the rest would ship shortly.
Since the military draft reduced the staff of the European administration, there were no Residents in either Kolokani or Banamba. M. l'Administrateur Froger was sent to Banamba to get the millet shipments underway.
(p1) WWI caused all prices to rise except for that of kapok. For example, the price of a pagne of cloth rose from 10 francs to 25 francs in 5 years.
(p2) Before WWI, the route to Bamako via Conakry and Kouroussa was 600 kilometers shorter than that over Dakar and Kayes, so many European goods were shipped that way. During the war, ships were reluctant to sail the extra distance past Dakar to Conakry. The author figured that if the railroad rates on the Chemin de Fer Kayes-Niger were low enough, freight traffic would stay with the Dakar route after the war.
(p3) The French textile industry was unable to compete with the British, even in the French colonies, because it refused to adapt its output to African demands. The British took African cloth and made mass-produced imitations while the French insisted on selling cloth manufactured for European tastes. A few Americans were sighted in the Soudan, traveling as tourists, but the French administrator thought that they were probably investigating the possibilities for textile marketing.
(p4) The cattle trade was still slow in 1918 due to the effects of the epizootie epidemic that had decimated the herds.
(p7-8) Syrian merchants took advantage of the absence of restrictions on gold sales to sell it in the Niger Bend and even Tripolitania where they received higher prices, rather than sell it to the French market. The Lebanese merchants did the same, except for the Maison Jabre.
(p8) Gold prices rose higher because the French issued paper money which was distrusted by Africans. They hurried to convert their paper money into precious metals like gold.
Note: There is at least one page missing at the end of this report.
As a result of too much rain too early in the year, the millet and rice harvest was ruined. Also, a Syrian firm had hired Africans to cut wood around Kati, which they then turned into construction timber for the TSF ( Télégraphe sans fil, or radio transmission station) and the Intendance. Unfortunately, this was quickly causing deforestation and needed to be forbidden.