"Rapports Commerciales du Cercle de Mopti"
|© 1999 by Jim Jones, Ph.D.|
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According to this quarterly commercial report, there are four main markets in the Mopti area. Dioula traders from Kayes brought cloth at the end of the hivernage (rainy season) to trade for grain. They trade the grain for salt in Timbuktu and sell the salt in the markets of the Niger Delta. They repeat this exchange several (3 or 4) times before the end of the dry season, then buy cattle and return to Kati, Kita and Kayes before the rains.
Two months ago, a weekly market was started in Mopti. Africans were beginning to bring their goods there.
Now that the river has receded, the Mopti market is getting more business because people can walk there. The increase in the amount of market and Dioula trade fees collected by the administrator are an indication of the growth of trade activity in Mopti.
|Month||Market fees collected (francs)||Patentes de Dioula collected (francs)|
One local industry in Mopti was iron-working, but the administrator noted that the raw materials are scarce and must be brought from the interior. Other industries included pirogue construction, pottery, rope-making and weaving. Most traders and merchandise bypass Mopti without stopping. One fifth of the Dioula traders traveling from Timbuktu go on to Sofara, two fifths go to Djenné and the remainder go to San, Sikasso and Bobo. Those with the largest amounts of salt go to Djenné, so that over one half of all the salt that was reexported from Mopti went to Djenné.
The Mopti market is still not important. Most Dioula traders bypass it. In the past quarter, 12 cows, 18 donkeys and 122 sheep were sold in the Mopti market, plus 10,750 barres of salt.
European merchants have reached Mopti by this point. Sales of "plume d'aigrette" (egret feathers) reached an all-time high and there were as many as 500-600 hunters, both European and African, in the area.
The Mopti market had clients from as far away as Dahomey. It was finally becoming important.
Despite the arrival of the dry season, commercial activity is greater than it was a year ago. Exports of locally-produced rice towards Bamako, Kita and Kayes were up. European commerce injected a fair amount of cash into the economy which was used to pay taxes. The author attrributed all of this to European competition and the reduction of transportation costs.
An epidemic in Kayes slowed commerce because of quarantine measures taken by the Europeans. Europeans began to process wool in Mopti, and cowries became relatively rare.
The following European merchants were established in Mopti: Deves et Chaumet, Société Commerciale, Peyrissac, Maurer, Danel, Seinon, and Mourot (owner of the Ilot de Charleville, a nearby island in the Niger River).
19,000 francs in coins were imported to Mopti from Gold Coast as payment for 639 cattle. 185 sheep were also sold. 71 barres of salt reached Mopti, of which four were purchased for local consumption and the other 67 were purchased by merchants who reexported them onward.
There are no reports at all for 1909.
NOTE: The subsequent reports show that there was some kind of economic crisis in 1909. In 1908, many ex-slaves began to assert their independence by refusing to make their contractual payments to their former Peul masters. Other data shows that while rice, skins and gum exports increased sharply, other exports declined. Perhaps Rimaïbes (former slaves) sold rice on their own behalf, but refused to deliver anything to the Peuls, disrupting all other trade.
European merchants drove the price of wool up to 0.325 francs/kilogram. Peanuts sold in the Mopti market for the first time -- a total of 70 tons.
Local rice prices rebounded following the 1909 crisis, reaching 100 francs/ton at the Mopti quay. However, the market was hesitant and merchants were afraid that imported Saigon rice would arrive via Guinea. In any case, they had no plans to export rice to Senegal, since markets in Timbuktu and Saraféré were still reliable. "C'est pourquoi la prosperité de Mopti et de la région nous semble indépendent de l'exportation par les magasins européenes" (That is why the prosperity of Mopti and the region does not appear to depend on the sale of export commodities to European merchants).
The crisis of 1909 affected the European commercial houses. M. Oger gave up and left Mopti, while Deves et Chaumet prepared to abandon their operaiton, but then finally sent someone to represent them in December.
People from Senegal came to the Mopti region to buy heifers (génisses). Their price was up from 30 francs to 60-70 francs. A total of 15 horses, 1,850 cows, 40 donkeys and 200 sheep were sold in the market. Oddly enough, cows sold to merchants headed for the Gold Coast cost 40 francs, while those listed as "transit" cost only 20 francs.
There is a large supply of francs in the area. Since 1909, the exchange rate fell from 1,600 cowries/franc to 960 cowries/franc.
The peanut trade stopped in January when merchants in Kayes announced that they would pay no more than 80-90 francs/ton. Producers in Mopti expected 150 francs/ton. However, in March, the European merchants in Kayes gave in and bought peanuts at the higher price.
The price of rice imported from Cochinchine (Vietnam) went up, so Mopti rice sales in Senegal were excellent. A Frenchman named Simon opened an "usine de rice" for husking rice. He also experimented with soap-making and dehusking palm nuts.
The exchange rate dropped to 800 cowries/franc. Somono and Djennianké speculators bought them up in August and September, so European merchants couldn't find coins with which to purchase the harvest. Only 2-franc coins were available, because Africans didn't like them.
Deves et Chaumet began selling salt from Rumania and "Gandielle" (possibly Spain or somewhere along the Senegalese coast?). Cowries rose to 700/franc and there were still not enough small coins for local business. The author hoped that some day cowries would disappear from Mopti as they did in Kayes, Kita, Sikasso and Bamako after their respective economies reached "a certain stage."
Deves et Chaumet brought in two loads of salt (80 tons and 50 tons) from Rumania. It was purchased quickly and the administrator believed that it posed a real threat to Timbuktu salt. Cowries declined against the franc to 1000/franc.
Peanut shipments from Mopti were nearly zero. On the other hand, 320 tons of Rumanian salt had nearly driven Timbuktu salt out of the market. Rumanian salt sold for 17 francs/30 kilograms while Timbuktu salt sold for 28 francs/37 kilograms (probably the equivalent of one barre).
Even marabouts became involved in the conflict between Rumanian and Timbuktu salt. They spoke out against the European imports, but their opposition was unsuccessful and Rumanian salt became one of the most profitable items for European traders.
Cattle sales were reduced by a serious epidemic of epizooties. However, Africans experimented with the sale of cattle in Senegal by driving 960 cows to Dakar via Podor.
There were no economic statistics in the 1912 reports "par suite de la suppression des patentes qui nous permettaients de controler le trafic indigène" (because the French no longer controlled the movement of African merchants by requiring them to purchase a license."
Now that the tax season is over, the exchange rate for cowries was up to 800/franc.
This one of the best seasons ever for wool and rice exports by Europeans from the Mopti area. Wool sold for 500 francs/ton and local rice sold for 140 francs/ton. The report offers no statistics but says that exact figures for the total amount shipped could be obtained from the Service de Navigation or the Chemin de Fer (railroad).
African commerçants were increasingly buying their goods in Mopti rather than Bamako or Koulikoro. A good deal of buying went on during the Muslim holiday season of Ramadan.
1,700 cows were exported, up from 1,200 the previous year, despite measures taken to control the spread of cattle epizooties.
Cowries exchanged at 800/franc, up from 900/franc the previous year. One problem was caused by the refusal of certain French "caisse publics" (government offices) to accept French coins that were old or damaged. Africans feared that if they accepted French coins, they would be stuck with them.
Prices for all export products were down and Europeans bought less, but this hesitation was typical of the early part of the buying season. The market at Bandiagara provided small amounts of peanuts and sesame. 3,000 catle were exported to the Gold Coast, while Rumanian salt and European cloth were sold to Africans in rural areas.
The price of rice dropped to 100 francs/ton after February 1913. The Timbuktu market for rice was constant, so the administrator in Mopti attributed this drop in price to changes in the export market. Sales of peanuts and millet increased, provided mostly from Bandiagara. 1,518 cows were exported at a price of 30 franc/head, and Dioula traders accumulated a total of 100,000 francs in English gold from their sales to the Gold Coast. They exchanged this for francs at an Agence Speciale d'Exchange operated by the French. Also, trade in animal skins improved because European demand increased.
The trade with Timbuktu seemed to be reduced, but the French administrater couldn't be sure. Moors began to come to Mopti to buy provisions.
Rice prices were down because of competition from Guinea rice growers who had switched from rubber when the bottom dropped out of the world market. M. Simon's rice factory was still in operation. Rumanian salt was so cheap that people came from Niafunké and Bandiagara to buy it. As the level of the Niger River dropped, exports of rice, wool, sesame and skins to Koulikoro dropped off as well.
The Société Commericale and the Maison Danel catered to the Europeans in Mopti.
150,000 francs, of which 90,000 were in the form of English gold, where sent to the Agence Speciale d'Echange of the colonial treasury at Koulouba (Bamako). Roughly 500,000 francs in currency remained in circulation.
The statistics on African commerce were unreliable because Diola traders refused to present themselves to the French authorities.
European merchants hide the extent of their commercial activities from the administration and won't even reveal the capacity of their barges.
The animal skin trade declined as the epidemic of epizooties ended.
5-franc coins are useless because Africans won't accept them since the caisse public refused to accept them. 50-centime coins are much more popular. There are relatively few coins ("monnaie de billon") in circulation (copper or nickel).
After a terrible harvest, the Maison Simon was the only company with rice for sale, at a price of 299 francs/ton. Deves et Chaumet and the Société Commerciale sold millet for 290 francs/ton.
Hunters got a total of 17 kilograms of egret feathers. M. Simon employed 43 hunters and his firm got the largest amount: 6.76 kilograms.
There was still some peanuts and sesame produced in Bandiagara.
5-franc and 50-centime coins were accepted, but 1-franc and 2-franc coins were largely rejected by Africans.