PROSPECTIVE LINES FOR THE FUTURE OF SHEEP AND GOAT PRODUCTION IN CEEC
Unité de Recherches sur les
Systémes Agraires et le Développement
Centre INRA de Toulouse, France
Activities of sheep and goat production are performed today through three main types of units which originated after the political break down of the years 1989-1990. Type A : household units of which the observed increasing importance takes its roots in the needs for subsistence in the context of lower living standard of the populations. Type B : small to medium farm units, with low own possibilities of investment, previously existing or created from the dispersal of the large collective or state farms. Type C : new companies and enterprises developed with the support of foreign capital and orientated towards export markets in Europe or even at the world level. Three sheep and goat characteristics compose the traits of their economic back-drop, as well illustrated by Boutonnet: (i) the collapse of economic interest in wool production, which results in a strong numerical decrease of the sheep population through the e1imination of the wool sheep and the rejection of Merino types; (ii) the possibilities offered to family demand by the goat milk production in small units; (iii) the economic niche opened to production and exportation of typical and cultural products from dairy sheep so far as it is founded on a national tradition, as for instance feta, brinza, or kachkaval cheeses.
THE FUTURE OF SHEEP AND GOAT PRODUCTION
Behind this new landscape, recently composed, future evolutions are in genesis and are moving. However, they could be related to the technological progresses, they have their origin in the choices which will be taken for agriculture policy by the states in the more general context of building the European Union and it is said, in the framework of the world economy. I propose to detect these evolutions in designing three possible ways for the future of sheep and goat production in the CEEC.
Way 1- "Laissez faire"
This way is justified by the lake of capital for agriculture in the small-to-medium farm units (Type B), and by the consequences of a general policy which gives priorities to general economic development more than to agriculture specifically, and which welcomes foreign private capital for supporting it. In fact, concretely in the case of sheep and goat production, this way is only favorable to the development of new enterprises and companies which have access to foreign means and markets (Type C). And if this economic policy succeeds, the living standard of the population will increase, and one can predict as a consequence, the progressive decrease of the household units (Type A).
Way 2 - "Farmers and market organization"
This way takes into account the reasonable need for creating or stimulating farmers' organizations, which could take progressively in charge technical and economical means for the development of agriculture and animal production. The reason can be found in the social importance of the part of the population involved in these activities, which is higher than in Western European countries. France and Germany can provide a model of this agricultural policy in which such a choice funded the evolution of the agriculture and animal production for ever 40 years, and finally authorized the European political integration. That supposes sustaining decisions in the long term which could secure subsidies for production from small to medium existing farmers (Type B), which supports their training for their technical evolution by creating a strong public extension service. This works in organizing a national market and in creating suitable infrastructures such as slaughter houses. It means a political choice for rebuilding a new economic and social coherence for agriculture in place of the destroyed past one.
Way 3 - "Land management"
In this way, the rapid evolution of the CEEC countries into the world market of agriculture products in relation to their integration within the European Union, hampered the building of a specific national market. This, in fact, is not a condition for supplying the basic needs of the consumers with low cost products which can be obtained from the world market at relatively low prices, particularly for meat sheep which only contributes to a small part of the protein needs. However, animal production systems, and more specifically sheep and goat production, can be justified by their specific role for using marginal pasture at the local level. In the framework of a general policy which gives major importance to environment and to land use, and which attempts to maintain activities in the deserted areas (mountains and more generally places where agriculture cannot be economically profitable with the world prices), small ruminant units (Type B) can have a privileged place and can be supported by subsidies, as they respect environmental specifications.
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION SERVICES
Having identified the traits of the new situation and considered the possible future evolutions, how can we consider the functional role of the research and extension services? Considering what the scientists express in relation to the three main production unit types and to the three main possible policies, what could be their recommendations for each? I stress that a scientific symposium dedicated to the future of sheep and goat production provides not only technical results, but also provides information on the main fields in which the participants feel they are concerned or consider themselves competent. Obviously, it is difficult to accept that the subjects presented by the scientists during such a symposium and the intensity of their exchanges are related to their economic choices when they are not conscious of this fact. However, this exercise can be profitable for contributing to closer relations between science and society.
Firstly, we can observe that animal production scientists have almost no comments about the household units (Type A). They only consider that information is insufficient regarding their traits and even their reality. However, if we give confidence to the related statistics, they actually concern 60 percent to 75 percent of the sheep and goat owners. We could imagine, due to their present social role in supplying means of subsistence, to propose they receive basic information in news papers, radio, TV - as it is the case for production of fruits and vegetables in the family gardens. Or, is it possible to only consider that this phenomenon will disappear as the living standard increases with actions achieved in other parts of the economic and political life, and that consequently there is no matter with it? And we could also ask if there is any possibility among this category for evolution of any animal owners towards market organization and technical control (Type B).
In contrast to this heavy silence, the papers and the discussions are well developed in respect to advances in new techniques animal production. The expression of the scientists used to be particularly developed in this field (physiology, breeding, nutrition, etc.). But in fact, in the present context of much of the CEEC, as in Hungary, new enterprises and companies (Type C) are only now ready to mobilize them in the absence of a well organized extension service and administration for the units of Type B (small to medium farms). They have access to technical information, university support, specific germplasm and foreign markets. In a context of under-organization of the farmers and of the administration, research and universities can find active partners among this type of new economic actors, particularly through a political way of "Laissez-faire" (Way 1).
Thirdly, the way "Farmers and market organization" (Way 2) can be efficient in the medium to long-term in supporting the increasing role of organized interlocutors to scientists; however, this way is less efficient in providing short-term success stories, and in the first phase of mobilizing the results of research. We can consider also that their is a need to choose a model for this organization, either in considering the examples of the other European countries or in conceiving a new one. A large list of actions to be achieved - a catalogue - can be written. This progressive way presupposes a common training between scientists, administrative officials, farmers, etc. all contributing to the achievement of a large organizational project for development of animal agriculture. Our symposiums and publications are not well adapted for finding solutions to these approaches. However the animal production scientists can be a good resource for people involved in the political decisions at the state level, in so far as they are in connect with the world level in research networks and discussion forums and they accept to largely enter in discussion mobilizing various technical, economic and social points of view and analysis.
Fourthly, the "Land management" policy is very often assimilated into environmental issues. Research programmes carried out for the last 20 years enlighten the role of sheep and goats in the evolution of the plant covers in relation to the characteristics of the productions systems - name1y the feeding regime in marginal lands. A lot of information is available from experimental stations or from on-farm observations. But, research is less efficient in building a global policy of land management, in so far as there is a strong need for giving a realistic response to the question "Who will pay for it?".
MONITORING THE SMALL RUMINANT INDUSTRY
There is a need for methods and traits suitable to inform the present state and to monitor the evolutions of animal production systems in every CEEC country; information is basically available in quantitative statistics collected and processed at the national level. But this source needs complementary interpretations in order to detect the effective trends of the evolution. For instance, the strong decrease of the number of sheep has to be related to the drop of the interest in wool production, and also to a change in the market orientation, and not only to the structural breakdown of the sheep units, as demonstrated in the case of Poland. National or local traditions favourable or not to milk products from small ruminants or to sheep meat consumption, can also fund new traits of the sheep and goat production. And finally, the above comments on the economic finalities of the production units in relation to the evolution of the living standard or to the capital facilities, and on the choices made by the governments for agricultural policy, favourable or not to farmers' organizations, or to a large world market, or to land management and environmental issues, can be considered as terms of reference for monitoring the evolutions.