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Orzo da Semina in Libya

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Posted 19 January 2007 by Inspecteur Clouzot

Here's a note by Trevisani, who was in charge of supplying Libya and trying to buy stuff from French North Africa.

"Eccellenza Trevisani pregherebbe che Residenza Generale Marocco sia autorizzata esportazione 30.000 quintali orzo da semina per Tripoli compensazione tessuti cotonate".

Right, so he wants 3,000 tons of "orzo da semina" from Morocco and intends to trade cotton cloth for it. My question is what exactly is "orzo da semina"? Orzo is barley, but orzo da semina has me stumped. Are these barley seeds? This might make marginal sense given the date (January) but not much given the context (he wants food *now*), and why wouldn't he write something like "semine di orzo"? Also, 3,000 tons of seeds would be a lot.

Any help on this would be appreciated. No great hurry, though, it's just curiosity. The French replied that they couldn't spare the food unless the Germans agreed to take it from their own share of the French deliveries (which was a diplomatic way of saying "go to hell" as everyone knew what the Germans would say to that).

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Posted 22 January 2007 by FB

Inspecteur Clouzot said:
Here's a note by Trevisani, who was in charge of supplying Libya and trying to buy stuff from French North Africa.

"Eccellenza Trevisani pregherebbe che Residenza Generale Marocco sia autorizzata esportazione 30.000 quintali orzo da semina per Tripoli compensazione tessuti cotonate".

Right, so he wants 3,000 tons of "orzo da semina" from Morocco and intends to trade cotton cloth for it. My question is what exactly is "orzo da semina"? Orzo is barley, but orzo da semina has me stumped. Are these barley seeds? This might make marginal sense given the date (January) but not much given the context (he wants food *now*), and why wouldn't he write something like "semine di orzo"? Also, 3,000 tons of seeds would be a lot.

Any help on this would be appreciated. No great hurry, though, it's just curiosity. The French replied that they couldn't spare the food unless the Germans agreed to take it from their own share of the French deliveries (which was a diplomatic way of saying "go to hell" as everyone knew what the Germans would say to that).
As far as I know and have understood, Orzo da semina means barley seeds, as you suspected. If I have understood the matter correctly, it's barley intended to be planted in order to grow a new crop and not barley intended to be eaten more or less immediately.

Best regards

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Posted 22 January 2007 by Inspecteur Clouzot

Thanks, my problem is that this doesn't seem to make any sense :shock: as this would be a huge quantity, the Italians wanted food and not seeds (they had lost Cyrenaica and needed to provide for their buildup as well as for the Afrika Korps), and January would be too late to plant barley seeds.

I assume that Trevisani wasn't an idiot (from the rest of the exchanges, he seems to have been a competent administrator), so he would be aware of the above.

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Posted 22 January 2007 by Lupo Solitario

Two points:

1) You have not told the date of the note

2) hypothesis: Trevisani seems to be a civilian officer without any worry for military needs. Feeding troops could have not been his duty... (BTW there was about a million civilians in Lybia at time)

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Posted 22 January 2007 by Inspecteur Clouzot

Good point about the date, I thought it was January 1941 but looking up my notes it was 1 October 1941. BTW, it was a telegram, not a note (hence the style). So with the telegram being sent in October, barley seeds would make sense timewise. The quantity would still be very high, but making a high initial demand in view of later bartering would fit in well with the general Franco-Italian relationship of the time.

Trevisani represented the government of Libya, and he was a civilian official. However, he was still trying to arrange the supply of the civilian and military populations, this is quite clear from the other deals going on and besides the two were inseparable.

What I think was happening is that Weygand - military governor of French North Africa - was notoriously reluctant to cooperate with the Axis (and besides, being in charge of all of North Africa including food transfers to France, he was well-aware of how little there was to spare), so was the military governor in Tunisia (Esteva). Therefore the Italians tried to secure the foodstuffs they wanted by bypassing the military and going through the civilian authorities i.e. the Tunisian government (run by French civilians). This led to a fierce bureaucratic battle between Frenchmen in uniform and their civilian counterparts, followed by yet another between those French officers who had been allowed to run things and those French officers who also wanted in (i.e. the armistice administration vs the regular military garrison).

At this time, there were ongoing Trevisani contracts for wheat (Tunisia to supply wheat to Libya, Italy to ship the same quantity to mainland France), purchases of olive oil (not called Trevisani contracts but run by same), and then German purchases by major Dankworth who were being transported alongside the Trevisani supplies - leading to another bureaucratic war, this time an inter-Axis one, for priority. The Italians lost.

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Posted 22 January 2007 by Lupo Solitario

Apart troubles with french bureaucracy, the point is that Trevisani had to think about civilian lybian troubles and it's wrong to think all his acts only concerning military. As I told, he had one million civilians (mainly arabs)to think about and he couldn't let they starve to feed soldiers. It's important we're speaking about barley, which has low importance in italian food, but could be important in arabic food and certainly in feeding cattle.
Being not an agronomist, I can't be sure but it's possible that planting barley in North africa can happen later than in Europe...

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Posted 22 January 2007 by Inspecteur Clouzot
Lupo Solitario said:
Apart troubles with french bureaucracy, the point is that Trevisani had to think about civilian lybian troubles and it's wrong to think all his acts only concerning military.
This has to be put in context. The Italians had been trying to purchase foodstuffs from Tunisia since the spring (1941), they had secured a deal for 16,000 tons of wheat since August, the execution of which was beginning in the end of October and Trevisani was therefore trying to capitalize on that first success to extend his purchases to other assets. There were an additional 11,000 thousand liters of wine being negociated (plus another 5,000 bought for the Germans by Dankworth and that the French had blocked).

French deliveries of 1,500 trucks were beginning, the Axis was trying to set up a supply line through Tunisia, to avoid the worst effect of the Allied submarine campaign at a time when losses were crippling. It's in this context that Trevisani's efforts have to be placed, his purchases were *not* just out of concern for the civilian population. Note that the wheat deal was not a straight purchase: the Italians paid by supplying the same amount of wheat to mainland France. So this was just a way to save shipping, it didn't secure additional resources for the Libyan population.

Lupo Solitario said:
It's important we're speaking about barley, which has low importance in italian food, but could be important in arabic food and certainly in feeding cattle.
Being not an agronomist, I can't be sure but it's possible that planting barley in North africa can happen later than in Europe...
I looked it up, and winter crops seem to have been introduced later. In any case, October would seem about right to plant barley (or any other cereal, for that matter).

Another point about barley was that there was no more wheat to be had - Trevisani had already secured a deal, see above - so he was asking for whatever else the French could provide. The Italians were also trying to secure purchases of vegetables from Tunisia, in addition to olive oil and wine deals. I just didn't mention them as I hadn't had any problem translating these :) but if you want to discuss the whole setup you may want to move this thread away from the "translation request" part of the forum.
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