to the World Food Summit: To Reduce Poverty and Hunger, Developing Countries Need Better
Domestic Policies And More Open Markets
For the past few years, at every international gathering, anti-globalization demonstrators have marched on behalf of the poor in developing countries. Next weeks World Food Summit in Rome will be no different. Many of these demonstrators will call for more aid and less trade as the way to reduce poverty and hunger in developing countries. Yet, when you talk to agricultural policymakers, farmers and businessmen from developing countries about reducing poverty and hunger, they call for the exact opposite.
In 1997, the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade launched a four-year global initiative focusing on the links between agricultural trade and agricultural production in Asia, Africa and South America. Despite the passage of four years, and despite the wide differences across continents, the views of developing country leaders around the world were remarkably similar. To reduce poverty and hunger, agricultural leaders from Asia, Africa and South America said they themselves need to do more to increase domestic agricultural production, but they also said that developed countries need to do more to open their agricultural markets to developing countries.
On Increasing Domestic Food Production
Leaders expressed widespread optimism about the potential for agricultural production in Asia, Africa and South America. And, while demonstrators blame inadequate foreign aid funding, most developing country farm leaders blame homegrown impediments to increased food production. They singled out macroeconomic and fiscal policies that were biased against farmers. They pointed to investment policies that were biased against rural areas. They pointed to insecure land-tenure and limited access to credit for farmers. Many of these policies were put into place to keep food prices low for urban consumers. But, as one Minister of Agriculture said: "There is no such thing as a cheap food policy. Eventually a cheap food policy becomes a no food policy".
Developing country farm leaders agreed on what developing countries need to do to increase domestic production:
On Opening Agricultural Markets
Developing country leaders in every region complained about high domestic subsidies and high tariffs in wealthy countries. Nevertheless, they believe developing countries will have significant comparative advantages in agricultural trade, if they can get access to developed country markets. Despite broad cynicism about the results of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, developing country agricultural leaders saw the WTO as their only defense against high domestic subsidies and against unfair trade practices by wealthier countries. They agreed that developing countries need to take a more active role in the Doha Round negotiations.
Again, there was broad consensus among developed country agricultural leaders on what developed countries need to do to open agricultural markets:
The declaration from the World Food Summit to be hammered out in Rome next week will no doubt call for more foreign aid and more technical assistance. But developing country agricultural policymakers and farmers are calling for better domestic policies and more open markets. To paraphrase a former IPC member from Africa:
© 2001 The International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council. All Rights Reserved.