Global food security Act will not benefit African farmers

A bipartisan Global Food Security Act was recently passed by the American Congress. The US$7 billion dollar project is aimed at bolstering efforts to end hunger, malnutrition and poverty across the globe. However, according to Stacy Ndlovu, managing editor of Young Voices, 
the Act will most certainly not improve global food security, especially in Africa, because it fails to address what, in her opinion, is a fundamental cause of food insecurity in the developing world: US agricultural subsidies.

It has been well documented by the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, and numerous experts that subsidies go against the principles of free trade. They lead to “international dumping” - where products from developed countries are sold to consumers in developing countries at unfairly low prices that force out domestic producers.

Food dependency
As the global economic order currently stands, African farmers - and their governments - cannot compete with billions worth of American protectionism on essential crops such as tobacco, cotton, corn and rice. Since the 1950s, the IMF and World Bank mandated that African governments liberalize their economies with Structural Adjustment Policies in order to qualify for loans. As a result, many of these countries can neither afford to subsidize their own farmers, nor can they put import duties on foreign produce. In other words, they simply do not stand a chance on the global marketplace.

One might reasonably argue that President Obama has a primary duty to help American farmers before foreign ones. Yet, extensive economic studies show that it is wealthy farmers who benefit from subsidies, not poor ones. Rather than aid small farms, subsidies lead to farm consolidation and drive small-scale farms out of business. Subsidies also inflate the value of farmland, thereby artificially raising barriers for entry of young, aspiring farmers. All these issues have been documented by different economists, from institutions ranging from the Brookings Institute to the Mercatus Center to the Heritage Foundation.

Thriving without subsidies
Further, agricultural products that receive little to no direct subsidies from the American government, such as, fruit, vegetables and tree nuts, have managed to thrive. According to the Economic Research Service at the USDA, the U.S. fruit and tree nuts industry generates over US$25 billion in farm cash receipts annually, accounting for 13 percent of the total receipts for all agricultural commodities. 

Without addressing the issue of subsidies, initiatives such as the Global Food Security Act will serve to maintain global food insecurity.



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