Kofi Annan: Protecting at the expense

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«wealthier countries protecting their own agricultural sector – often at the expense of farmers in the developing world»

Kofi Annan: «Food prices, aided by increased production, have been falling in real terms for much of the last three decades. While this has been good news for consumers, particularly in the developed world, it has damaged many rural communities and the long-term global supply of food.

If prices are artificially low, farmers are denied a fair return as well as the incentive and means to increase food production. This has been particularly damaging for small-holder farmers, who together with their families, still make up nearly half of the global population. In contrast, more stable higher prices can encourage investment and help communities, but only if farmers share in the benefits. So in the long-run, a fair price now can stimulate production to help meet increased demand and hold down prices in the future. But we must do more to protect the vulnerable from dangerous price volatility.

While fairer prices can provide the launch pad, there are plenty of other barriers at national and international level which must be overcome to deliver food security.

Higher food prices alone won’t close the shortfall in agricultural investment in regions where we can make the biggest impact in increasing food production.

For overall there has been no shortage of investment in farming and food. It is just that most of this money is spent by wealthier countries protecting their own agricultural sector – often at the expense of farmers in the developing world. The OECD calculated that in 2009 agricultural support from richer countries to their own farmers totalled over $385 billion dollars. This, according to Oxfam, was nearly 80 times the money spent in development aid to agriculture – a figure which had fallen by over 70%, in real terms, in the previous two decades.»

Speech | June 2011 | Rome, Italy

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