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24739: Durban (pub) Rice Subsidies & Haiti Imports
Lance Durban <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded to me today and I found it interesting, although I
have not checked authenticity, either of the Oxfam data or the
authenticity of publication in the Globe and Mail.
From Canada’s Globe and Mail….
Dumping hurts world's poorest farmers, Oxfam says
By ESTANISLAO OZIEWICZ
Monday, April 11, 2005
The international trade in rice and other foods is rigged and
millions of poor farmers are being squeezed out of business by
rich countries dumping massively subsidized food, the aid agency
Oxfam says in a report released today.
The situation for vulnerable farmers around the world is likely
to worsen, Oxfam says, if the United States and Europe sell
excess farm produce below cost in developing countries after
winning greater access to those markets in the current round of
world trade talks.
The United States is the world's third largest rice exporter,
even though its production costs are twice as high as in the
leading exporters, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to Oxfam, the United States spends $1.3-billion in
subsidies to support a rice crop that costs $1.8-billion to
This situation enables U.S. exporters to dump 4.7 metric tonnes
of rice on world markets at 34 per cent below the cost of
production, a move that hurts struggling farmers in countries
such as Ghana, Haiti and Honduras.
"This is an example of rigged rules and double standards at
their baldest," said Phil Bloomer, head of Oxfam's Make Trade
"Rich countries are demanding that poor countries pull down
their barriers to trade and, at the same time, they are
continuing to subsidize massive overproduction and dumping.
Their selfish motives couldn't be clearer."
Two billion people earn their livelihood from growing and
processing rice, most of them small farmers in poor countries.
Oxfam says if state support was reduced and import tariffs cut
sharply, low-cost imports would force local producers out of
business. It cited the case of Haiti, where the government,
responding to pressure from the International Monetary Fund, cut
tariffs on rice imports in 1995 to 3 per cent from 35 per cent.
This resulted in a 150-per-cent increase in imports.
Today, Oxfam says, three out of every four plates of rice eaten
in Haiti comes from the United States.
"It has devastated farmers in Haiti where rice-growing areas now
have some of the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty,"
the 68-page report says.
The Texas-based U.S. Rice Producers Association could not be
reached yesterday for comment.
But in congressional testimony last month, association trade
official Dennis DeLaughter revealed a quirk in Washington's
political war with Havana.
Mr. DeLaughter complained that new trade restrictions on Cuba
were threatening a rebirth of the Cuban rice market coming from
exemptions made in 2000 to Washington's economic embargo against
Since the exemption, Mr. DeLaughter said, Cuba had agreed to buy
$1.25-billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods, including
$81-million in rice. He said that last year Cuba bought
$64-million in rice, establishing the pariah country as the
United States's fastest growing market.
Rieky Stuart, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said Canada
does not dump its agricultural imports as the United States and
the European Union do.
"But Canada's drive to force poor countries to lower tariffs
quickly can be just as devastating. Poor countries have been
forced to liberalize agricultural trade faster and deeper than
any rich country in history. They are losing by this shock
therapy and shouldn't have to endure it."
The World Trade Organization is trying to put together a new
global trade treaty by the end of next year. As part of those
efforts, its members are negotiating an agreement to reduce
tariffs and subsidies at a summit this year in Hong Kong.
Mr. Bloomer said that poor countries with fledgling rice sectors
simply can't compete against subsidizing superpowers and any new
WTO deal must allow them to regulate imports.
Free trade and rice
In 1995, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere,
cut its rice import tariffs from 35 per cent to 3 per cent.
Imports, mostly from the United States, jumped dramatically and
Haitian rice production tumbled.
HAITI RICE PRODUCTION
1986: 135,000 tonnes
1998: 25% less
TOP FIVE Rice Exports % total
RICE EXPORTERS millions of tons world rice exports
Thailand 8.4 30.5%
Vietnam 3.8 13.8%
USA 3.8 13.7%
India 3.4 12.4%
China 2.6 9 %
Rest of world 5.5 20.6%
SOURCE: OXFAM BRIEFING NEWS