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Trade policies and hunger
Trade policies and hunger

In 2006, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance’s Trade for People Campaign commissioned FIAN International (FoodFirst Information and Action Network) to undertake a study aimed at analysing whether the Right to Food of specific communities has been violated as a result of trade liberalisation. The research was carried out in 2007 looking at the impact of trade liberalization on the right to food of rice farming communities in Indonesia, Honduras and Ghana.

Rice was chosen as the example because it is central for food security all over the world. Rice is a staple food for half of the world’s population. Two billion people depend on rice production as their main source of income. Ninety percent of these are smallholders, usually working on a plot of less than one hectare, and most of these smallholders are women. Globally such small-scale farmers are vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.

The research found that as a result of liberalization all the countries had experienced import surges, highly changeable prices and selling of imported rice at less than the cost of production (dumping). Farming communities lost income, many farmers quit farming, and their access to food was less secure than it had been in previous decades. Food is one of the last things that people will cut back on – we will sacrifice many other things in order to have enough to eat – but at the “hungry times” (before the next harvest, when stocks from the last harvest are running low) people cut back on both the number of meals they eat and the nutritional content of the meals.

In each country there were attempts to change the liberalization policies through governmental processes, but these were opposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The findings of the research are published in the report Trade policies and hunger: The impact of trade liberalization on the Right to Food of rice farming communities in Ghana, Honduras and Indonesia.

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Full Study, PDF, 128 pages

A4: EN, ES, FR, BA
Letter: EN, ES, FR


Executive Summary, PDF, 4 pages

A4: EN, ES, FR, PT
Letter: EN, ES, FR, PT
A3: EN, ES, FR, PT
Tabloid: EN, ES, FR, PT

 

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Trade policies and the food crisis

The issues highlighted in this research are also causal factors of the food crisis that emerged in the first months of 2008. Although the research was done at a time of low prices, many of the problems identified in the report are at the roots of the crisis of high prices:

  • vulnerability of smallholder farmers when exposed to the volatility and unpredictability of prices in the global market fuelled by liberalization;
  • lack of success of liberalization in benefiting either producers or consumers because profits are captured by corporations and middlemen;
  • importance of designing trade policies to promote the welfare of the most vulnerable people including their right to food;
  • importance of allowing flexibility and space in trade rules to enable governments to develop and alter trade policies in relation to changing reality on the ground

 
Learn more on the connections between trade policy and the food crisis from the briefing paper Understanding the Food Crisis: Taking Action or the many resources available in the EAA network.

A4: EN, ES, FR
Letter: EN, ES, FR
A3: EN