Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Cotton on, America

I hadn't until now realised the immense power of the blogosphere. Yesterday at 06h31 I posted a demand that the banks should retain cheques as a means of payment: by lunchtime they had caved in. Wow. Let's hope there is similar quick action on the far more important subject of today's post.

For some reason which I don't understand, but it is quite flattering, there are almost as many (4 847) "page-hits" for this blog from the US as from the UK (6 241). So today's post is aimed at our American readers.

British readers will be familiar with the statistic that each European cow receives a daily subsidy equivalent to $2.2, which is rather more that over 1bn of the world's population have to live on, and is something that we in Europe need to work on. The Traidcraft organisation, which practises and promotes fair trade (commerce equitable in France) points out that the US government has subsidised its 3 500 cotton farmers to the tune of $24bn over the past 9 years. If I've pressed the buttons of my calculator correctly that's an average of over $700 000 per farm per year, though in fact the bulk of the subsidy goes to the largest 10% of the farms.

The result is that the US is able to flood the world market with artificially cheap cotton, the 10 million or so African cotton growers are unable to compete and remain in abject poverty.

These subsidies are ruled illegal by the World Trade organisation , of which the US is a member. Yet the US likes to present itself as the world advocate and guardian of democracy and the rule of law.

So, American readers, the Farm Bill is presently being re-negotiated by the President and Congress. Please campaign vigorously for an end to this illegal practice which comforts a few of your rich but makes millions poor and undermines your efforts, through generous aid, to eradicate world poverty.


  1. A book I find fascinating is "The travels of a T-shirt in the global economy' by Pietra Rivoli which looks at the whole complex of issues over protection and competition. The producer subsidies issue is only a fraction of it, and in some ways not the most important part.

    What do you think?

  2. Thanks for that link. I haven't read the book but shall follow it up.