The global marketplace
Oxfam Trade Campaign
In the past, our fresh food was produced by farmers who lived
relatively nearby. This was because fresh food is perishable
and it could not be transported long distances without going
Today, the transport of food by air, together with new methods
of harvesting and storage, means that the food sold in our
shops comes from all over the world.
A global market has a lot of advantages. For one, we can eat
tropical fruit in the middle of a cold British winter. However,
there are disadvantages too.
A global market has an effect on the livelihoods of farmers.
Previously, they would compete with other local farmers to
sell their produce. Now, they may have to compete with farmers
from all over the world.
The global market is controlled by international trade rules.
In theory, these rules follow the principle of free
trade. Countries produce the goods they are best at producing,
and trade their surpluses for products that they cannot produce,
or are less efficient at producing.
Click on the following links for more detailed explanations:
In practice, the richer and more powerful countries subsidise
their own produce and protect themselves against cheaper imports
by imposing tariffs
They also dump
surplus produce on poorer countries, often at prices lower
than it would cost farmers there to produce them. The rich
countries get away with this, because they have greater power
and influence within the international institutions that regulate
Many poor countries rely on loans from the rich countries
or the large international organisations. The loans are given
on the condition that the poor countries abide by the rules
of free trade. This means that they must not subsidise farmers
or protect their markets from cheap imports, including the
surpluses of the rich countries.
Poorer countries are not allowed to protect their markets.
Richer countries can protect theirs. Thus, poorer countries
are prevented from improving their situation.
To make matters worse, many poorer countries are also stung
by the agricultural
problem because they produce mainly agricultural goods.
of surplus food on poorer countries can cause many small farmers
to go out of business. They cannot compete with the low prices
of the imported food, even though they are producing food
Small farmers in the rich countries are also suffering as
a result of current trade practices. Smaller farms receive
a much smaller slice of the subsidy cake, while larger farms
receive more subsidies.
Eighty per cent of all financial support given by the European
Union in the form of subsidies goes to just 20 per cent
To find out more the lives of two small farmers, one in Wales
and one in Jamaica, click on Real
Oxfam believes that current international trade rules are
unfair, and is campaigning for change.
Oxfam would like to see:
- a decision by the international organisations which lend
money to poor countries to stop attaching conditions which
force these countries to open their markets regardless of
the impact on poor people;
- a ban on agricultural export
subsidies, ending the cycle of over-production which leads
by the rich countries;
- the prices for primary commodities (such as food) kept
at higher levels, which would give small farmers everywhere
- the WTO
become more democratic, with poorer countries having a stronger
- the rich countries remove barriers which prevent imports
from the poorer countries.
Questions to think about
- What do you think?
- What changes would you like to see?
Have your say! Look at Take
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