Monday, 9 June 2008

Kedgley loses the plot

Kiwiblog encourages us to go and read the blog posting by Sue Kedgley on the World Food Conference in Rome. The post says
They [NGOs] argued that the main cause of the crisis was that food production in much of the developing world has been decimated by three decades of globalization and free trade liberalization policies.
Note the problem is free trade. Then Kedgley goes on to add
Previously self sufficient countries had been unable to compete with heavily subsidized, cheap European and American food and so small self sufficient agricultural sectors collapsed in country after country, leaving developing countries dependent on imports and food aid.
So now the problem is heavily subsidized food. But I thought it was free trade? And how can you have free trade in food if food is being heavily subsidized? Subsidies imply a lack of free trade and their removal is one necessary step to move us towards free trade. So which is it, is the problem free trade or the lack of free trade?

On the topic of the problems caused by the agriculture policies in many countries around the world, hasn't every economist been trying to point these out for years! For one, small, example see my blog posting More on subsidies and trade restrictions.

So having said that the problem is both free trade and large subsidies, without seemingly seeing the contradiction, Kedgley finishes her posting by saying
Free trade liberalization as a consequence, is all but dead, with countries erecting export controls, introducing subsidies and other measures to protect and support local farmers.
So the answer to the problem is to do exactly what you said helped caused the problem in the first place?! Of course this is exactly what they should not do. These actions will not protect and support local farmers. Prices should be allowed to rise as a spur to production, as a way of increasing the income of local farmers. Putting on things like export controls will decrease the local price of food, but this lower price just means there is little incentive for the local farmers to expand production, which is the real answer to the problem. As Zimbabwe is currently proving price controls dry up the supply. The way to help consumers hurt by the price increases is some form of income support.

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