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WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) Harms Small Farmers
April 8, 2002
Seven years after the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), one of the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade and investment pacts governing the global economy, small farmers are not experiencing the prosperity promised by the agreement's proponents. This is the conclusion of a new seven-country study conducted by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its grassroots and NGO partners.
"These were empty promises, and for millions of small farmers and peasants, especially women, the result has been the entrenchment of poverty, destruction of livelihoods, increased burdens, and for many it has literally meant empty stomachs," said PAN AP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam, speaking on March 8, International Women's Day. Rengam added, "It is very clear that agricultural trade liberalization has indeed harmed small farmers and impoverished the poor further, making them more food insecure."
The study, resulting in the report and resource guide "Empty Promises...Empty Stomachs--Impact of the Agreement on Agriculture and Trade Liberalization on Food Security," examined cases in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, India, and Pakistan. Most of the cases focus on a single crop important to the area (for example, rice, potato or cassava).
PAN AP and its partners released the report on International Women's Day to raise awareness of impacts on women in particular. Rengam emphasized that "Women are the worst hit by the process of liberalization. As a farmer, she faces loss of livelihood as subsidized imported food products are dumped into the country. She is working longer and harder, and is increasingly exposed to hazardous pesticides. The cost of food production has increased due to costlier inputs. All these factors are intensifying rural women's impoverishment, displacement and hunger."
During trade negotiations, proponents claimed that the AoA would provide greater access to world markets for agricultural products of all countries by reducing tariffs and other trade barriers, and eliminating farming subsidies (excepting food-importing, least developed countries). However, according to the report, manipulation by food-exporting developed countries to retain high tariffs and subsidies has flooded developing countries with cheap food exports. Unable to face this unfair competition, small and subsistence farmers have suffered from depressed prices and high costs of production. This has resulted in loss of income, displacement and loss of land and increased bankruptcies.
The study includes these conclusions:
The study was carried out by the following organizations: Rural Reconstruction Alumni and Friends Association (RRAFA), Thailand; Asian Indigenous Women's Network (AIWN), Philippines; International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia; Education and Research Association for Consumers (ERA), Malaysia; Citizens Alliance for Consumer Protection Korea (CACPK), South Korea; Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), India; and ROOTS for Equity, Pakistan.
Source: Press Release, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, March 7, 2002.
Contact: Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific; phone (604) 657-0271; email firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site http://www.poptel.org.uk/panap.