World Food Day: Oxfam’s treatment worse than the disease
IPN Press release
LONDON -- Oxfam wants £15m to help the hungry on World Food Day but its diagnosis of poverty and hunger only helps perpetuate these afflictions, development analysts said here today. Oxfam wants more State interference in farming and further restrictions on trade but these will not help the hundreds of millions of people suffering from hunger around the world, they added.
“Oxfam lays the blame on trade liberalisation but the sad fact remains that a whopping 70% of the world’s trade barriers are imposed by governments of poor countries on themselves and each other,” said Alec van Gelder, Network Director of International Policy Network: “governments that really care about their people and want to reduce the cost of food must remove those tariffs immediately.” But Oxfam supports tariffs in poor countries as a source of government revenue and to bolster protectionism.
Rising food prices have caused street protests from Mexico to India to Senegal. US and EU ethanol subsidies are partly to blame. Western subsidies are indeed ridiculous but poor countries suffer more from their own restrictions than from anyone else’s.
· The Indian government imposes average tariffs of over 60% on agricultural goods
· The average tariff on agricultural goods between Sub-Saharan African countries is 34%.
· Nigeria has actually banned imports of various staples at different times, including wheat, rice, maize and vegetable oil.
· The removal of tariffs on fertilizer and other agricultural inputs would lead to increased crop productivity, improving the lives of farmers and reducing further the cost of foodstuffs.
· Average fertilizer use in poorer countries is 107kg per hectare. In Africa it is only 8kg (yes, eight). Tariffs on fertilizer imports are a major reason for this low use-rate.
· The removal of subsidies to biofuels (including requirements to include a proportion of such fuel in petrol and diesel – such as those being implemented in the EU) would also reduce food prices and must be a priority for rich countries.
· Some countries have recently imposed tariffs and bans on exports of foods. While such trade restrictions temporarily reduce local prices, they increase prices in importing countries, result in reciprocal bans, and reduce the incentives to produce those foods in the next season – leading to reduced global supplies.
“World Food Day should be about increasing people's access to food. Reducing agricultural trade barriers would increase the supply and reduce cost, benefitting the very poorest people in the world,” Caroline Boin, IPN’s Environment Programme Director said.
International Policy Network is a London-based think-tank which seeks to educate the public about the role of markets and their underlying institutions
Oxfam launches report and £15 million appeal to tackle world food crisis
Number of hungry people in Africa- FAO figure
Sub-Saharan countries’ average tariff of 33.6%, Global Economic Prospects, World Bank 2004, quoted on page 9 (rounded up to 34%)
70% of the world’s trade barriers are imposed by governments in poor countries on people in other poor countries - The Benefits of Trade for Developing Countries, from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Trade Facts, June 2006
India’s tariffs – WTO
Nigeria: More Goods to Join Ban List, This Day (Lagos), 25 March 2004
ARTICLES ON THIS TOPIC
Rising food prices, protectionism and the poor, Business Day (South Africa), 20 March 2008, by Caroline Boin and Alec van Gelder
Warped Policies Plant Hunger, Business Daily (Kenya), 29 October 2007, by Caroline Boin
World trade begins at home, New Times (Rwanda), 17 December 2007, by Alec van Gelder