African Cotton Producers Are Upset

12 September, 2003
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African Cotton producers are upset

Cancun, September 13 -- "Millions of poor African farmers have been deceived" by the Draft Cancun Ministerial text, commented here Francois Traoré, head of the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso. "After so many comments and declarations of sympathy with our cause from the WTO secretariat and many ministers, the mountain gave birth to a mouse... no, not even a mouse, an ant!"

"Nothing was done", he added, commenting on the paragraph on cotton included in the second draft version of the ministerial text, released only one hour before his press conference. "The rethoric was not matched with facts".

Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad are among the poorest countries of the world. They are also very efficient producers of high quality cotton. Yet they are forced to compete with highly subsidized American and European cotton, which is sold at dumping prices in international markets, in clear violation of the spirit of free trade that the WTO is supposed to enforce. NGOs and
development coioperation ministries from European countries
supported the demand of cotton producers for an immediate cut of these subsidies. Yet the draft text merges the issue of cotton with the much larger (and therefore complex and slow) negotiations on textiles and instead of a concrete promise to reduce subsidies, countries "pledge to refrain from utilizing their discretion within Annex Q, paragraph 1 to avoid making reductions in domestic support for cotton". A twisted double negative sentence that will provide little relief to Africans, where those subsidies "signify poverty, disease, illiteracy and war".


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