A row over farm subsidies in European Union countries could turn to be good news for African farmers.
The European farmers are to face huge cuts in their subsidies as EU chiefs count the cost of life without Britain which left after the Brexit vote and the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan is now being asked to slash £51 billion-a-year farm subsidies.
For years, the EU countries have always subsidized their farmers and organisations such as OXFAM have argued that such subsidies have ended up depriving tens of thousands of African farmers of their livelihoods.
Oxfam argues that the excess subsidised produce is dumped into African countries forcing local producers out of business.
A widely circulated Oxfam report said: “Not only does the Common Agricultural Policy hit European shoppers in their pockets but strikes a blow against the heart of development in places like Africa. The CAP lavishes subsidies on the UK’s wealthiest farmers and biggest landowners at the expense of millions of poorest farmers in the developing world. The UK Government must lobby hard within the EU to agree an overhaul of the CAP by 2008 to put an end to the vicious cycle of overproduction and dumping.”
It is said that the multi-billion pound EU agricultural subsidy regime is one of the biggest iniquities facing farmers in Africa and other developing counties.
This is because they cannot export their products into European markets because they compete with the lower prices made possible by government payments.
They then dump the extra produce into Africa and the local produce cannot compete with subsidized produce from EU countries.
More so, African countries are forced by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to stop subsidizing the farmers saying that such practice distorts markets. They however turn a blind eye to the EU members who are allowed to give subsidy to farmers.
For instance, EU sugar is usually dumped in many African markets and has been blamed for the collapse of the sector in many African countries.
“While agriculture constitutes less than 3 per cent of Europe’s GDP, it is more than 90 per cent of many African economies; and when cheap European farm goods flood in, it’s hard for African producers to compete, even in their own home markets,” wrote Heather Stewart in an opinion.
Oxfam says that Europe exports sugar and beef to the developing world at less than half cost price.
Last year, Former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan indirectly criticised the European Union’s farming subsidies. The former diplomat said it was sometimes “easier to import tinned tomatoes” than for Africans to grow them locally, and that he would like to see a “global trading system that is fair to everybody, which would allow all regions to develop”.
The proposed subsidy ceiling will impact Eastern European farms, including Czech Republic, which has the EU’s largest farms by far, with its average size of 133 hectares in comparison to the continent’s average of 16 hectares.
At the moment, the bloc faces an £11billion shortfall due to Brexit, which forms part of an overall £18billion budget blackhole caused by other crises including migration.
Africa is watching keenly as this debate opens.