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Tags: , , , , , , | Category: Agriculture, Farmers, Social Problem, environment

EU farm subsidy, world poverty and Indian farmers’ suicide

Recently I was in Tarragona (Spain) and had some discussion about poverty in India, Indians’ resistance to EU-US farm subsidies, and links to poverty and farmers’ suicide in India. I was putting some strong points like we in Europe are equally responsible for farmers’ suicide and poverty in the world. We all have blood in our hand!!! Our tax money is used to make world trade distorted and unfavourable for poor famers in India, Africa and many other poor countries. Many of us don’t understand this argument that how we normal people contribute to world poverty. I will try to explain this with simple illustration of European farms’ subsidies and how it has been used.

The EU spends more than half its annual budget (about €53 billion in 2007) in farm subsidies. The subsidies cost each European Union citizen around €110 a year, according to the European Commission. The money is raised from customs duties, sales taxes and a contribution made by each EU country based on its wealth which again comes from national tax. We in Europe are paying double for our food — one for higher food prices in the stores and then for the taxes that goes to pay for farm subsidies.

Europe farm subsidies started as production incentives in the 1960s, when its goal was to increase the food supply and help farm communities still recovering from the ravages of World War II. The practice of tying subsidies to food production, which led to vast surpluses in the 1980s, was eliminated in a series of reforms, and grants to landowners are now based on the amount of land farmed, rather than how much is grown on it.

But now who is receiving the farm subsidies?

In 2008, Elizabeth the queen of England receive £473,500 for a a 20,000-acre royal retreat in England; Prince Albert II of Monaco got a dole of €507,972 for his wheat farms in France; The duke of Westminster (the third richest person in Britain with a fortune estimated at £6.5 billion) receives £486,534 for his farm.

Look who else receives this free flow of tax money: ÀRIDS ROMÀ (http://www.aridsroma.cat/presentacio.htm) a construction company from Lleida (Cataluña) receives €1.59 millions, Ligabue Catering (http://www.ligabue.it/pages/en/home.php) a Venice caterer that serves airlines and luxury cruise ships, received €148,000 in export subsidies in 2008  (for what? sugar and dairy creamer sachets sold to airlines and cruise ships which literally prevented the company to import from other part of the world).

Who else? Cargill ( a multi-national agriculture firm from USA) received at least €10.5 million. This was sort of bribe to Cargill to operate business from EU instead of shifting to some poorer country.

EU argue that much of the subsidies given to rich and multinationals ultimately trickles down to local farmers, since without them many of them might import cheaper food elsewhere. But the rebates have a powerful effect on global trade by depressing world prices and undercutting poor farmers outside Europe, whose incomes are damaged. It is another form of distorting global trade, and a system that encouraged overproduction of food (compromising environment).

If the objective of subsidies is to supplement farm income, then it should be means tested — that is, going to people who have low incomes. However a typical small farmer in Romania might qualify for about €400 in subsidies, and that may not be guaranteed that he will receive it.

Let see see some data from Spain and see the huge disparity with some poor country.

Spain

Total spending on Farm Subsidies: €6,619 Million

Contribution per citizen: €104

Spending per citizen: €146

Spending per farm: €6,135

Spending per farm worker: €7,010

Spending per hectare: €261

 (Source: http://farmsubsidy.org)

Now let me give you some data from a typical farm in Bihar (India). Average land holding in Pojh (where NGO Prabhat is working) is 0.6 hectare.

Average income per farm (per farming family) is Rs 14,700 (€225), Income per hectare is about Rs 20,000 (about €300). Which means Spanish farm workers receive 30 times more subsidies from EU to what a farmers earn in Pojh. EU spends almost equal amount on per hectare as subsidies to what a farmer earn in one hectare in Pojh. That is the scale of disparity which keeps world poor still poor. 70% poor of world and more than 80% of Bihar depend on agriculture. If developed countries are honest in their approach to remove the world poverty, then they will make agriculture of poor countries more competitive. 

Now I guess you understand my friend why farmers in India have no option but suicide…

Lets cheers for those subsidies of Queens and kings in EU and salvation of farmers in India & Africa!!!

Vikas

 

Related blog: http://blog.savevillage.org/?p=20

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1 comment to EU farm subsidy, world poverty and Indian farmers’ suicide

  • I agree that farm subsidies are the main cause of hunger and migration world wide. In India, there is growing suicide amongst farmers because they cannot compete with the farm products from agibusiness subsidized by wealthy nations who are pushng them to this extreme.

    This is a crime against humanity. We must voice our objections so human inequity is stopped. Agribusiness constitutes 51% of pollution which is destroying our planet and poor societies.

    We cannot wait for governments to address this, we the people must bring this consciousness to all, if we hope to have a planet at all.

    Please watch this extraordinary video and share it with all you now. Then one can will realize that our ways are incompatible with world sustainability.

    http://www.youtube.com/homeproject#p/a/f/0/jqxENMKaeCU

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