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Agricultural Inconsistencies: Senegal

By Chris | May 24, 2008

It seems like just the other day that Bono was vilifying developed countries for flooding the world markets with cheap food.  Consider this excerpt from a news article leading up to the 2006 G8 summit:

In Senegal, a resilient showcase of democracy in a continent otherwise pervaded by corrupt dictatorships and brutal wars, producers of tomatoes and other food products have been suffering for more than a decade under the unfair trade relations with Europe and other wealthy regions of the world.  Their markets are overflowing with cheap, subsidised tomatoes from Italy, onions from the Netherlands, rice from Japan, cotton from the United States, and chicken parts from across Europe. As the UNHDR 2005 put it, “Sub-Saharan Africa has become increasingly marginalised (in the global trade). Today, the region, with 689 million people, accounts for a smaller share of world exports than Belgium, with 10 million people.”

Today, no one in Senegal is complaining about an overflow of cheap food:

The world food crisis, with rising prices causing shortages, riots and hunger — often for those already struggling to feed themselves — has brutally exposed Senegal’s Achilles’ heel: it imports the majority of its needs.  This has left the west African state particularly at risk as it struggles to keep prices under control while setting up a vast programme to stimulate food self-sufficiency…locals grumble they can no longer afford to buy sufficient food.

Agricultural subsidies are neither efficient nor equitable.  They often end up in the richest farmers’ pockets.  For example, take a look at this map showing the 2007 subsidies received by farmers living in…Manhattan…New York. Nevertheless, I have always been hesitant to blame agricultural subsidies on the economic woes of lesser developed nations. Subsidies in rich countries effectively subsidize the cost of food for people around the world.  Some producers are hurt, but on net, the world is getting free food.  Domestic farmers may complain when prices are too low, but nations riot when prices are too high.

While writing this post, I learned that the U.S. requires that all food aid originate in the United States.  Transportation costs make this incredibly wasteful.

One cost-cutting measure, supported by many economists and by relief organizations such as CARE, would be to permit the U.S. government to buy at least some of the grain it donates from farmers nearer to famine zones — to buy, say, South African or Ethiopian wheat and ship it to the hungry elsewhere in Africa. Both the European Union and Canada have recently authorized such “local and regional purchases,” with broadly successful results. President Bush has called for allowing as much as 25 percent of the U.S. food aid budget to be used this way.

The provision did not make it into the final bill that was passed by Congress, despite the president’s veto.

Topics: Economics, Food, Law, Markets | 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Agricultural Inconsistencies: Senegal”

  1. Andrew Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Great catch on the Bono quote. It’s hard to complain about cheap commodities on the open market now.

    The Farm bill and America’s agricultural policies are some of the most inefficient, irrational and wasteful policies we have. While Bush has disenfranchised me on a number of issues during his tenure, I was glad to see he attempted to veto the Farm bill. Unfortunately, 2/3 of our representatives and senators had other plans……

  2. Aiden Thompson Says:
    July 2nd, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Food Aids are badly needed by third world countries like in Africa in Asia.,*~

  3. Summer Lewis Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 4:50 am

    food aids are badly needed by third world countries and we really need to give something to the poor.:.,

  4. Sleeper Sofa ` Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 10:07 am

    food aids are mostly needed by the poor coutnries in africa and also in asia;~-

  5. Health Medicine : Says:
    October 31st, 2010 at 1:46 am

    there are lots of cheap foods on the market that taste like crap but there are good quality ones too `

  6. Jackson Lobendahn Says:
    November 24th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    you can always buy cheap foods on any supermarket these days because food production is mechanized already -‘*

  7. Wall Hooks %0B Says:
    December 12th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    we can always give food aid to the african countries if we just save some pennies and donate it to them “:`

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