The Malagasy Republic has so far escaped the effects of the world energy crisis. Petrol?
The Malagasy Republic has so far escaped the effects of the world energy crisis. Petrol is abundant and there had been no need to restrict sales.
But the island nation has been suffering from another, and perhaps more serious, crisis. There has been a rice shortage, and rice is one of the staple foods in the people of Madagascar's diet.
The rice shortage has its beginnings at the end of 1972, when tropical cyclones hit the island and ruined the crop. The following year, millions of acres of rice fields were flooded and the harvest in the plains around Lake Aloatra was lost. The area was the most important rice growing centre on the island.
For the last six months, rice has been rationed. Each day, shoppers have lined up in market places for two to three hours to buy up to five kilogrammes (II pounds). In some towns, officials have issued ration vouchers to ensure that families get their rice allocation.
The government has decided to take charge of rice production, as part of drive to save an important part of the republic's economy. Because of the unexpected crop failures, large quantities of rice have had to be imported.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been responsible for the imports and has spent a good deal of time outside the republic. The People's Republic of China and the United States of America have been the largest suppliers, and Brazil, Thailand and Japan have also played an important role in meeting the Malagasy Republic's need.
In September 1973 alone, The People's Republic of China exported 18,000 tons of rice to the Malagasy Republic. But the future looks brighter. Soon, the crisis period should be over, with a plentiful new rice harvest. Moves are underway to increase the land area given to rice-growing, and modern techniques are being introduced to replace traditional growing methods.
The government has introduced incentives to boost rice production and the growers' price is to be increased. The government hopes the island will once again be self-sufficient by 1975.