NAFTA & Inter-American Trade Monitor
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
November 1, 1996
Volume 3, Number 21
Changes in agricultural production patterns are expected to be part of the discussion at the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference of trade ministers in Singapore on December 9-13. U.S. government officials are expected to use the WTO meeting in December to push for an end to duties and subsidies in the oilseeds sector and publication of details of commercial dealings of government marketing boards, such as the Canadian Wheat Boards.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in September that tariff-reduction agreements negotiated as part of the Uruguay Round accelerated modernization of agriculture throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The FAO report predicted a sharp increase in export income from agriculture for the region by 1999, estimating that farm exports will earn $2.6 billion more annually after the year 2000. The increase is attributed to sugar, vegetable and animal oils, cereals, coffee and dairy products.
The modernization of agricultural production has led to a major decrease in national food production in favor of increased agroexports, quickening the pace of concentration of land ownership, causing more dependency on food imports, and contributing to increased hunger and malnutrition. The FAO estimates that 14 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, some 60 million people, suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hunger and malnutrition are concentrated in rural areas, and in households headed by single women. In Haiti, the rate of rural poverty is estimated by the International Fund for Agricultural Development at 97 percent. The FAO says that malnutrition in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Honduras, Panama and Guatemala is at 47 percent.
In Bolivia, 15,000 rural and indigenous protesters marched on the capital in late September, demanding land. In Guatemala, continuing land occupations have been followed by violent evictions. One such eviction in late September resulted in the death of a 30-year-old rural worker and more than two dozen injuries. In Brazil, nearly 1,000 people were killed in land conflicts from 1985-1995.
Looking ahead to the World Food Summit in Rome on November 13-17, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf warned that world food needs are increasing, and called for a guarantee of access to food for everyone while developing production and supply systems, "which take into account the environmental balance and the richness of the water resources."
"Upcoming World Trade Organization Conference Generates Debate Over Uruguay Round's Impact on Latin America," NOTISUR, October 18, 1996; Ian Elliott, "U.S. Spells Out Goals for WTO Meeting," FEEDSTUFFS, October 7, 1996; Zoraida Portillo, "Plenty of Food But Many Still Hungry," INTERPRESS SERVICE, October 22, 1996; Jorge Pi=F1a, "The Paradox of the Fat and the Thin," INTERPRESS SERVICE, October 16, 1996; "Protests and Violence Over Land," INTERPRESS SERVICE, September 27, 1996.