Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The bitter taste of the CAP

It is worth looking at a couple of pieces in this morning's Independent before they disappear behind its firewall for ever.

The front page story by Maxine Frith and a comment piece by Penny Fowler from Oxfam both look at the EU sugar subsidy regime. Because this is the Independent, the comment piece is a lot less polemical than the front page.

From Maxine Frith's report:

John Fellowes, the fourth Lord de Ramsey, receives more than £500,000 a year in CAP subsidies for various crops grown on his three farms in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

In addition, a minimum pricing system run by the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] guarantees that sugar made from his beet is bought for at least three times more than world prices.

Thousands of miles away, Inacio Albano, 25, cuts sugar cane until his hands bleed at a mill in Marremeo, north-east Mozambique but is just thankful to have a job in a country where more than two-thirds of the population live on less than £1 a day.

This is great fun, but the policy would be just as wrong if John Fellowes were not the fourth Lord anything. I do hope the Indy recognises that.

Meanwhile, what is the EU doing for world poverty? The Expatica website reports:

As part of the global call to combat poverty, the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels - the Berlaymont building - was "wrapped" in a white band for Africa on Thursday ...

The effect of a large white band around the EC building was created by closing the shutters on the windows of floors five and six from 10.30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

I am sure that was a great help.

Fair-minded of Maputo writes: Isn't that a rather jejune juxtaposition? The European Commission is publishing proposals to reform EU sugar subsidy regime today, you know, after a World Trade Organisation ruling earlier this year that it is illegal.

True, but the Independent quotes Oxfam as saying that the proposals:
will not go far enough and will continue to benefit some of the richest farmers in the world at the expense of the poorest. Critics of the system, including the National Farmers' Union, say the system of inflated price guarantees, generous export refunds and high import tariffs surrounding sugar production is the most graphic example of how the ... CAP distorts trade and makes it impossible for African farmers to compete on the international stage.
I remember years ago hearing John Pardoe on Desert Island Discs saying that good Cornish radicals used to refuse to take tea in their sugar as a protest against the slave trade. Perhaps we should follow their example?

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