Press Release 27th November 2010
The Great Stitch-up
The Keswick and District Fair Trade Campaign Trade Justice Group, at their meeting on 25th November, considered a report on the cotton trade which has just been published by the Fairtrade Foundation.
According to the report the production of this natural fibre, known as 'white gold', should be the commodity to lift farmers in West Africa out of poverty. The countries known as the 'Cotton Four'- Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali - produce cotton at a low cost and should be able to make a decent profit in the market. These countries have grown cotton for export since the nineteenth century when they responded to demand from their colonial rulers in France and Britain. Many of the farmers there are dependent on their cotton crop for their livelihoods. The report gives us a glimpse into the lives of such farmers. One of them is Moussa Doumbia who harvests three tonnes of cotton which brings in an annual income of less than a $1 a day.
If the market was indeed a free one, the cotton producers in the Cotton Four would be able to earn sufficient to feed and educate their families. But they come up against competition from the US and the EU where cotton farmers are paid subsidies.
"We have been aware of, and appalled by this injustice for some time", says Jo Alberti, on behalf of the Trade Justice Group. "It is totally unjust that the EU pays $2.51 per pound in subsidy to the European cotton growers: this is actually more than the market price for cotton so that the European cotton grower in effect gets twice the price for their cotton than the West African."
The subsidy per pound paid in the US is less, but the amount of cotton grown there is much greater, so the total direct support to cotton production was around three billion dollars in the 2008-2009 growing season, or an equivalent of 50 cents per pound. Apart from this huge total, the other shocking aspect of the US subsidies is that they are paid to large farmers.
The Trade Justice Group will take the opportunity of the attention given to the Fairtrade Foundation Report to lobby the Government and our Members of the European Parliament. The European Union is committed to the development of the world's poorest countries and is aware of the conflict between its cotton policy and this commitment. Discussions on the renewal of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy are beginning and the Trade Justice Group will be pressing for the removal of all trade distorting cotton subsidies.
For more information on this press release, contact Jo Alberti at Johannaalberti@aol.com 017687 79199.