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Monday, 25 July 2011

West Africa’s future being determined in Brussels

In a critical vote on the future of European agriculture last month European Parliamentarians sent conflicting messages to policy makers. They acknowledged that making the Common Agricultural Policy more market oriented has ‘proved its worth’ but went on to defend production based premiums that distort trade such as those given to cotton farmers.

European Parliamentarians describe a scenario where there is ‘no alternative’ to the established cost-intensive forms of production when trade distorting subsidies need to exist. But in today’s day and age it’s hard to imagine that the ‘impossible’ is not possible. With technology developing at the speed of light how can there be ‘no alternative’ to anything let alone better seeds and better soil?

Suggesting that European farmers need to be told what to plant and paid to do it because they have ‘no alternative’ not only dumbs them down but also means that poor farmers in developing countries don’t get a fair chance at making a decent living from what they produce. This is a disappointment for the Great Cotton Stitch-Up campaigners who have lobbied their local European Parliament representatives and decorated three miles of bunting for trade justice.

Luckily the European Parliament is not the only institution making the rules. The British government still has a chance to prove that eliminating cotton subsidies is a ‘key objective’ in Europe as they claim.  So far, however, there is no sign of Agriculture Minister Caroline Spelman making the case with any of her European counterparts. The future for West African cotton farmers does not look bright.

Source: Fair Trade Foundation