Pork Pies

Pork Pies

farmsubsidiesPreparing for the first-ever WTO leadership meeting on African soil in December, Kenyans are coming out swinging.

Against western trade deals. Against western “communism.” They have a point.

Developing countries overriding responsibility is to feed their population. Many developing countries, like those in East Africa, have large amounts of agricultural land, relatively modern farming techniques and educated farmers.

Today they are even being supported by better infrastructure for getting their product to market.

They are entirely capable of not only feeding their own population, but growing an agricultural sector through global exports. Tanzania, in fact, has had multiple years in the last two decades of doing just this.

The problem is that their countries are not wealthy enough to subsidize their agricultural sectors while the world’s mega economies, including the U.S. and Europeans, do.

Advantage Big.

“The US … spends billions of dollars every year subsidizing its agricultural sector. These subsidies lead to over-production of commodities and dumping of surpluses on the global markets,” explains Pete Ondeng, director of the “Lead Africa Foundation.

The result is that it’s often cheaper for Africans to import American food than develop an agricultural industry that becomes self-sustainable.

This makes the African countries real economic vassals of the developing world. Its populations eat well when the developing world makes good decisions, but its people starve when the developed world does poorly or ignores them.

It’s also a characteristic of societies managed from the top, not by free markets. It’s a perfect example of communism, and Africans see this as the height of American hypocrisy.

Most of the U.S. disputes over its subsidies to farmers have been with non-African countries like Brazil (for cotton) and India (for meat). Last year, however, the African country of Burkina Faso blasted the U.S. for destroying its cotton industry with the billions of dollars of cotton subsidies paid U.S. farmers in the last decade.

This “buying” of the market would be a federal offense if the dynamic occurred wholly within the United States.

Kenyans believe that the World Trade Organization’s decision to hold its leadership conference in Nairobi this year is a signal that the organization will more aggressively advocate the interests of developing nations.

“The meeting presents a unique opportunity, not just for Kenya, but for all African countries to make their voices heard. Clearly, something new has to happen,” Mr. Ondeng says.

Western pandering to combat poverty in the developing world comes cleanly exposed when trade issues like this are put on the table.

But the political hold that farmers in the developed world hold on their countries’ socialist if not communist policies to artificially prop up their farming is so strong that even the most conservative developed world farmer does not see it as unfair.

I’ve always insisted that charity begins at home.

If westerners are truly interested in combating world poverty, this is where to begin: end agricultural subsidies.