USA `industrial’ agriculture enjoys high subsidies
Agriculture-dependent countries get no subsidies!
Indian agriculture is very different from what we see in advanced countries or small countries in Central Asia or Africa.In the USA agriculture is becoming an industrial activity. There big agri/food companies have emerged as the big buyers of agri products. Thus, McDonalds, the fast food chain is the biggest buyer of apples. This junk-food supplier had changed its business strategy to face the possible lawsuits against obesity charges by youngsters! America is a crazy country where everyone feeling aggrieved about any possible injustice can sue the offenders. Now, America faces the surging obesity, suspected to become the next big killer, third of the American population is already obese and therefore McDonalds had changed its selling tactics. It had introduced a new food called Apple Dippers, a salad.
Now, Washington is the most extensive apple producing region in the region. And McDonalds as the biggest buyer sets the standards of quality for apples, the variety, the size, the colour and so on and also the fixing of the price, the workers in farms, why, even the fortunes of farming are set by the private sector industry.
There are books on the consequences of the growth of fast food industry and American agriculture! A book rightly titled, Fast Food Nation, had become the talking point.
A lesson for Indian farmers is that as these fast food shops are opening their branches in India, our government must frame rules so that they also invest and promote the cultivation of needed vegetables and fruits. As Pepsi already does in Punjab. We can also impose obligations of exporting Indian agri produce. The aim is to ensure higher prices for Indian farmers and also introducing latest cultivation practices and thereby raising yields, productivity.
Now, one-third of Americans are obese-twice as many as in 1990, it will soon become the top killer in the country.
However, some farms are spread over 200 acres cultivating the highly sought after cameo variety of apple. Another farm, bigger one, spread over 93,000 acres agro complex. Of course there are movements to protect the exploited workers and now it is a practice that big buyers don’t buy from farms where no fair wages are paid. Now, in another part of the world, this time it is Central Asia. Cotton is a major cash crop in the three Central Asian republics : Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan. These are the three leading former Soviet regions known for their cotton crop. Now under the WTO regime, where US/EU payment of high agri subsidies had denied these countries a fair price for their cotton in heir exports to the West. The WTO ruled recently that billions of dollars in the US subsidies to its cotton farmers were illegal. All hell broke out!
This is a moral victory for cotton in developing countries like India, more so the three former Soviet bloc countries which together produce 15 per cent of world cotton for export! But market distortion by payment of illegal subsidies in US/EU is costing millions of dollars in deprivation by denying a fair market in the West.
For African cotton farmers such a loss is estimated to run to 400 million dollars a year.
The point is that countries that produce cotton, as most poor countries in Africa and Central Asia produce, they lose out in the price war. The EU, US cotton prices are many times the prices in the international market. Such injustice to WTO is yet to correct.
There is a new book : The Curse of Cotton! Yes, as of now, producing cotton, including in India where there is some monopoly cotton procurement in Maharashtra, we are sorry to note is not at all benefitting cotton farmers in other states. Cotton farmers are at the mercy of textile units.
At another end of the world is Mozambique. The sugar producers of Mozambique have a peculiar problem. Here the big sugar mills are owned by British companies. One owned by the London-based company Tate& Lyle is of course paid a high agri subsidy under the EU scheme. Moazmbique sugar industry employs 20,000 workers, the factories wherever they work, you can see primary schools, secondary schools working to full capacity, where the sugar factories remain closed we see the misery all round. Brazil, Thailand, Australia are the lowest cost sugar producers and yet the EU sugar is dumped abroad and price rigging is routinely done, in spite of the WTO ruling against the EU practices. Sugar is produced in some of the poorest countries in Caribbean islands, African countries, Sudan and Ethiopia, the international trade regime is riddled with quotas, only one-third of Mozambique production goes to EU, as for others the free and fair access to the EU/US markets is the only way to get minimum prices for the poor farmers and the sugar producers in these countries as well.
Says the current European Agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer says: “the current prices for the sugar producers outside EU is simply unsustainable”. Clearly the WTO, the G-20 countries and other agencies have a lot of work to do. In ensuring a stable and sustainable agriculture in the Third World countries.
This is America, where the people living on the farms is dwindling, now the farm workers are illegal Mexicans whose daily wage, you know? 7.75 dollar an hour, the lowest in any non-farm business.