How Europe’s Agricultural Polices Hurt Africa

International trade policies seem to benefit large scale industrial farmers in Europe and hurt smaller scale farmers in Africa.

This is according to a recent 2018 DW documentary which focuses on how Industrial technology, large scale industrial production and European Union Subsidies make EU agricultural products much cheaper than locally produced African agricultural products, despite the much lower wages in Africa.

It is evidence which suggests that the global trade system is not promoting development in Africa – rather it benefits developed countries as they are able to export their cheaper products to poorer countries which undermine local farmers who produce viable alternatives.

The documentary focuses on Wheat produced in Germany and how this ends up being three times cheaper than other flour products such as Cassava which is grown in Senegal.

This is an excellent contemporary piece of research for Trade and development which is one of the main topics in the Global Development option for sociology.

The documentary is perfectly suited for teaching Global Development as it is split into several key sections which contrast agricultural systems in Germany and then Senegal.

Wheat production in Germany

The documentary starts off by visiting a 40 Hectare farm in Germany – the guy who runs it only does it as a side venture as he cannot live off the income he gets from his crop – which is 20 to 22 EU per year, which includes a government subsidy, which makes up 40% of his income.

Wheat exporters

The documentary now goes to the port of Hamburg and interviews a wheat exporter – 40% of Germany’s wheat is exported and 25% of that goes to Africa. NB Germany aren’t the largest exporters to Africa, that is mainly China and the USA.

Shops in Senegal

Next we visit the capital of Senegal and go to some food shops, nearly all of which are stocking exclusively EU imported food stuffs, such as wheat flour and vegetables.

They only find one shop on the outskirts which stocks Cassava flour, which is locally produced and it is three times as expensive as the imported EU flour, which is odd given the higher wages in Germany.

The Millet Co-operative

We now go to a local co-operative which produces Millet, an alternative to Wheat, which can be ground into flour. They say that they would like to process their raw grain into flour and sell that because it would fetch more than the raw grain, but they can’t sell it because of the cheaper EU wheat imports.

We actually see two women who should be employed to grind the grain, but they are not because of the lack of ability to sell it (the lack of a market).

Perversely the co-op is funded by EU aid money which they used to buy grinding stones.

Instead of selling it, the millet is used mainly for their own consumption.

The local shop even stocks EU products such as onions and powdered milk despite the fact that these can be produced easily enough in Senegal.

Things are set to get worse

The documentary now visits a Port which has recently been upgraded with over 70 million EU of aid money, making it easier to import even more products from the West, which are increasingly processed abroad.

The EU is also in negotiations with several African countries to remove trade barriers, giving them even less freedom to protect themselves.

The consequences of unfair trade

It’s mooted that if local farmers cannot make a living (80% of people in Senegal work in agriculture) they will increasingly look to migrate – thus EU policies could be causing migration to Europe from Africa.

The EU won’t defend itself on camera

The documentary tried to get a member of the EU responsible for agriculture to discuss its findings, no one was available!

Could Senegal feed itself?

The answer seems to be yes – at one point the documentary focuses on a research project which led to a higher yield Millet crop being produced, but the higher yields are fed to cattle not people because of the cheaper imported Wheat.

In order to benefit local farmers, countries such as Senegal in Africa need to be allowed to develop, they need to be allowed to protect themselves from cheap EU imports, which are cheaper because they benefit from more than a century of technology and policy developments which makes their goods cheaper.

The situation with Wheat is contrasted to that of Chicken – Senegal slaps a 30% import tax on Chicken and there are plenty of local farmers selling Chicken in the local markets, just not flour products.

As it stands it seems that the global trade system here is benefitting a handful of farmers in EU countries at the expense of many more farmers in poorer countries.

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