Some of Oxfam's publicity on farm subsidies (FAC, Oct/Nov 2003) is misplaced. I doubt that anyone can substantiate the estimate that scrapping the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would raise per capita incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by 13 per cent. And most certainly the damage to EU agriculture would have negative economic effects outside Europe.
The EU is the foremost importer of agricultural products from every developing region, and takes two thirds of all African exports. On top of this is the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative which grants free access to the EU for all exports from the 49 poorest countries.
Contrary to what you state in your Fact File, Brazil is the biggest exporter of sugar--about twice as big as the EU, which comes second. But the EU is also the second biggest importer after Russia, because of preferential arrangements made with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which guarantee stable prices. This guarantee is important to the producers, because the world price is often well below the production costs of even the most efficient. On a free-for-all trade basis, imports to Europe would most likely come from Brazil and Australia, which produce sugar in large plantations. But this might not be the best outcome from the point of view of the development of the poorest.
However that does not deny the need for changes, and for them to happen more speedily. We need a thorough examination of the historical position which has arisen, and an objective study of the best way forward. There are plenty of valid criticisms of the CAP, but it has succeeded in steadily diminishing agricultural exports over the last ten years. A commitment to phase out export subsidies completely could be a helpful step.
from Allison Holt, Victoria, BC, Canada
I am very grateful for Andrew Stallybrass's article, 'Becoming myself' (FAC, Oct/Nov 2003). To me, it's like finding 'the pearl of great price'--by casting off all falseness and embracing humility, I learn to become myself and love my neighbour. By applying the outlines of this article I found a fresh start.
Terra Williams, by email
EF Schumacher's book, Small is Beautiful, made a deep impression on me when I first read it years ago while living in Jamaica. It is heartening that a person who shares Schumacher's great spiritual sensitivity and vision--Mr St George (FAC, Feb/Mar 2003)--is heading the organization created to carry on his work. In a world that often seems to be drowning in negativity, reports from those who are dedicated to upliftment are vital food for the spirit!
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|Publication:||For A Change|
|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2004|
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