Part of the annual cycle of living on a farm is the harvest, or in our case and that of so many farmers in New Zealand, when the sheep trucks come to transport the unlucky chosen to the freezing works. That those sheep might end up on a dinner table on the other side of the world was taken for granted. New Zealand exports its agricultural products to the world, so international trade and the rules that govern it are very important to us.
Farmers here in the 1970s received a subsidy in the form of supplementary minimum prices. I remember discussing this with my Dad who, with his typical pride and dignity, believed that it was wrong to give hand-outs to farmers. He felt that you either farmed well and profitably, or not at all. He did not want government support. So he didn’t complain about the changes in the 1980s when government subsidies to agriculture were dropped, despite the timing of these that ensured the value of his land dropped just before his retirement and sale of the farm.
So I was disappointed and angry but not surprised to hear on Tuesday that the latest round of international trade talks – the Doha Round – have collapsed yet again.
I am angry at the rich west that has enough money to subsidise its farmers, artificially lowering the cost of their produce that then competes with that of much poorer, developing countries. Yet at the same time, the US (and Europe?) refuses to allow the developing world the right to provide some rudimentary protection to their farmers through emergency protection measures when they are adversely affected by the west’s cheap subsidised goods flooding into their markets. That’s not free or fair competition. And yet they claim to be in favour of free trade.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s hypocrisy.