This press release is a little dated, but it’s important to post. It concerns “Economic Partnership Agreements”, the arrangements between that Europe and large parts of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific Island States, which began life as invasion and colonialism. After Europe begrudgingly handed sovereignty back to its colonies, it offered ‘preferential access’ to its markets – as close as Europe gets to an apology for colonialism. Unfortunately, that access ran counter to the emerging World Trade Organization rules (which Europe had a large hand in drafting). The response has been to remove the apology, and to maintain a relationship of ‘reciprocity’ between trading nations. The effects of this have been to drive farmers in developing countries to bankruptcy.
Read more below, from the FIAN Press release.
EPA threatens the Human Right to Food of Peasant Farmers in Ghana
Accra, 06/07/2007 – Import surges of tomato paste and chicken parts already have severe impact on the ability of Ghanaian peasant farmers to feed their families. Cuts in the levels of import tariffs on these products, through an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, are likely to cause further violations of their Human Right to adequate Food.
These are the preliminary conclusions of an international fact finding visit organized by FIAN International and the Send Foundation of West Africa. The team was joined by the National Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana.
The aim of the fact finding visit was to investigate the likely effects on the Human Right to Food of the Economic Partnership Agreement that is currently negotiated between ECOWAS and the European Union. Between June 30th and July 5th 2007, the team conducted interviews with tomato producers in Koluedor in the East Dangbe District, poultry farmers and market women in Ashaiman in the District of Greater Accra, local and national government officials, as well as experts from farmers’ organizations, research institutions and NGOs.
Interviews conducted with poultry producers and their representatives have revealed that the production of poultry in Ghana is at a high risk of collapsing. Most farmers have moved out of producing broilers and are now concentrating on the production of eggs. In the past, the production of broilers was strategic in bringing ready cash to the households. Today, many farmers who rely on the production of eggs are without any income during several months before the layers produce the first eggs. Especially during this time, peasant farmers find it difficult to feed their families. Some poultry farmers even reported that they have constantly had only two meals per day over the last years.
The move away from the production of broilers was mainly due to the difficulty of accessing markets and the low profits as a result of low producer prices and rising costs of inputs. Interviews with farmers and market women support studies done by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and by NGOs which show that imported chicken parts from the European Union have been dominating the Ghanaian markets for some years now. Although the bird flu scare is reported to have already affected the market in Ghana in 2004, farmers are convinced that it is imports from Europe which are the greater threat to the business. They appeal to the government of Ghana to create a business environment where there is fair competition and to reduce the imports of cheap chicken parts.
Farmers report that the cost of inputs has increased at a faster rate than the price they receive for the poultry products they produce. Small farmers have to buy inputs on credit which speeds up the cost even more. For example, a farmer in Ashaiman reported that while he spent 250,000 cedis on an 80 kg bag of maize in 2004, today he has to pay 450,000 cedis. Farmers therefore appeal to the government to provide access to favorable credit schemes and to mitigate the high cost of inputs. The fact finding team is deeply concerned that none of the farmers interviewed has received any support by the Ghanaian government. Also, the government has so far failed to increase the level of import tariffs, although it has been aware for several years that the income of poultry farmers is severely threatened by cheap imports. It is the view of the fact finding team that the government of Ghana has failed to protect the Right to Food of the small poultry farmers affected by the imports. It has also failed to use the maximum of available resources to fulfill the Right to Food of the same farmers by not providing any support to them.
Ghanaian producers of fresh tomato have lost a considerable market share due to imports surges of tomato paste mainly from European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal. Annual imports of tomato paste have increased from 3,269 tons in 1998 to 24,740 tons in 2003, while domestic production of fresh tomatoes has stagnated or even declined. Imports of fresh tomatoes from Burkina Faso have also increased pressure on producer prices. The interviews show that peasant farmers in Koluedor find it more and more difficult to sell their fresh tomatoes at volumes and prices which permit them to feed their families adequately. All of them complained that production costs have increased much more than producer prices. For poor peasants, this increasing gap means that they frequently have to reduce meals, especially of children and women, and that they have started running into debts.
Currently, the increasing demand for tomato paste constitutes a threat to Ghanaian tomato producers, while it could also open a window of opportunity for pro-poor growth. In case tariffs are cut below the current level of 20 percent, the ladder to welfare of Ghanaian tomato producers will be kicked away for the future. The precondition for the development of a vibrant tomato sector would be a higher level of market protection and a simultaneous development of processing and canning infrastructure in the country. The government of Ghana so far has not taken the necessary steps to take advantage of this opportunity. Because of stiff competition from imported tomato paste, companies running processing plants are not in a position to offer adequate prices to the farmers. At the same time, the lack of irrigation and other support measures makes it difficult for producers to supply the plants with the right varieties of tomatoes all year round.
In 2000, Ghana ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which in article 11 protects the Right to Food. The fact finding team appeals to the governments of Ghana, ECOWAS and the European Union not to limit the ability of Ghana to protect the Right to Food of its peasant farmers by reducing or even eliminating tariffs. Interviews strongly indicate that rather a substantial increase of the level of tariffs is necessary to ensure market access and adequate levels of income for food insecure tomato and poultry farmers. This will be made impossible if Ghana agrees to fix tariff ceilings at the current applied level of 20 percent under the Common External Tariff (CET) within ECOWAS. In addition, the fact finding team is concerned, that the negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ECOWAS and the EU will result in tariff cuts to a level even below 20 percent.
The team furthermore calls on the government of Ghana and the international donor community to provide assistance to tomato and poultry farmers which will support them to raise household incomes and improve food security on the household level. Interviews revealed that government support to tomato and poultry farmers has been virtually non-existent in the last ten years. This is in contradiction of Ghana’s obligations under international law to fulfill the Human Right to Food of its population by using the maximum of available resources.
FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Network) is an international Human Rights Organization which advocates for the Right to Food. The NGO has consultative status with the United Nations. The SEND Foundation – Social Enterprise Development Foundation of West Africa promotes livelihood security in resource poor communities in West Africa. The report on the final conclusions of the fact finding visit will be presented in September of this year.