This film is held by the BFI (ID: 10301).


Lime production on the Gold Coast and the manufacture of lime juice.

The film opens with shots of locals collecting fruit from the trees in their baskets and then carrying the baskets on their heads. The commentator explains that these lime plantations stretch for 'miles and miles as far as the eye can see' and are all owned by Africans'. The fruit is carried - in many cases by young children - for up to ten miles to the local factory, where an African worker measures the fruit. Those delivering the limes are then paid, according to how much they have brought in, by an African man seated behind a desk. Further shots of the factory follow, highlighting in particular the social interaction between the African workers as well as the process of loading the limes. Next, the film shows local men constructing the oak casks by hand and then loading them up. The limes are then dropped into water. Rollers crush the limes and the pips are removed from the juice, which is loaded into the casks. The crushed skins are in turn used in the manufacture of jam. At frequent intervals a sample is 'taken in a glass and analysed in a laboratory', where African men in lab coats present the sample to a European man, who conducts a series of tests. The produce is now transported from the factory (a sign reads L. Rose and Co. Ltd') by lorry to Cape Coast. Here surfboats take the barrels a mile out to the larger ocean vessels, where the casks are loaded. The film concludes with a further shot of the Africans rowing on the surfboats.



Tropical Harvest is one of a number of productions set in the Gold Coast made by Anglo-Scottish Pictures. These include The Gold Coast People, 1947 (1948) made for the Colonial Office, and Cocoa Harvest (1948) and Drums for a Holiday (1950), which were both sponsored by Cadbury. Anglo-Scottish Pictures was incorporated in 1946 and primarily produced shorts and sponsored documentaries from its Shepperton studio (British Film and Television Yearbook, 1949, 252). The credits for Tropical Harvest list the personnel collectively as ‘Production Unit’, but it is possible to establish the probable individual roles of the three credited filmmakers. Peter Stiles was one of three ‘contract producers and directors at the company’ in 1949, while Julien Caunter had joined Anglo-Scottish Pictures from the RAF Film Unit in 1946 as chief editor (Noble, 1960, 59). Stan Goozee was credited with the photography on Drums for a Holiday in 1949 and thus presumably filmed the footage for Tropical Harvest during this trip. The completed film was distributed by Premier Distributors (Monthly Film Bulletin, 1949, 124).

The Colonial Office report for the Gold Coast in 1948 noted that ‘between 2,000 and 3,000 acres of land near the villages of Abakrampa and Asebu, near Cape Coast, are devoted to the cultivation of limes. This area supplies the needs of two factories owned by a well-known firm of lime juice manufacturers’. This ‘well-known firm’ was L. Rose and Company, which had established itself in the area in 1924.



Tropical Harvest is in many respects typical of the many sponsored documentaries produced in Africa, but it offers some attractive photography of a West African industry which, unlike the cocoa industry for example, is rarely seen on film. Furthermore, it suggests a gradual shift in the representation of a West African workforce, as the film encompasses both traditional representations and a more progressive image of autonomous African workers.

The film offers many traditional ethnographic-style shots of the African workers – for example carrying the baskets on the heads – and emphasises the continuing traditions as the ‘native craftsmen’, all descended from ‘one family’, produce the casks ‘entirely by hand’. The film depicts the workers as contented and social, with upbeat local music playing as they gather at the factory. Some of the final lines within the film further reiterate this traditional, romanticised image of West African workers, as the commentator states that ‘over the roar of the surf, there is the sound of native voices singing in time with their paddles until the last barrels are on their way to the ship’.

However, the film also offers a modern and progressive image of an African industry as it emphasises the responsibility and control seemingly exercised by the Africans at all stages of the industrial process. The commentator explains that the lime plantations ‘are all owned by Africans’ and depict African men behind desks organising the workers’ wages, and in shirt and tie noting the transfer of barrels onto the surfboats. Even the task of rowing out to the ship is recognised as a job that ‘requires great skill’.

Although this is a British company operating in West Africa, the film makes no mention of this and there is no evidence of any British involvement within the industry until a sample of the lime juice is brought to a European man in a laboratory. The European here represents science and development and later shots also depict Europeans watching the loading of casks onto the surfboats. One of the European men also travels on one of the surfboats, as the African workers row out to the ship. However, this European involvement is certainly not prioritised or noted within the commentary. Indeed, it is only with the film’s final line, which explains that ‘the fruit of another West African harvest is on its way to Britain’, that this industrial process is brought directly into an imperial and British context.

Tom Rice (February 2009)


Works Cited

British Film and Television Yearbook (London: British and American Film Press, 1949).

Colonial Office, Annual Reports on the Colonies. Gold Coast, 1948 (London: H.M.S.O., 1948).

‘New Short Films’, Monthly Film Bulletin, 1949, 124.

Noble, Peter, British Film and Television Yearbook (London: British and American Film Press, 1960).




Technical Data

Running Time:
10 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
ALLEN, Frederick
Production Company