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Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani




Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani





U.N. chief urges rich states to drop farm subsidie
ROME, June 10 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan onMonday urged wealthy nations not to subsidise their agriculture, sayingsuch protection prevented poor countries from competing in agriculturalmarkets.Asked whether rich nations should drop protection of their agriculturethrough subsidies, Annan told Reuters in an interview: "Absolutely. Wecannot talk of free trade and truly open markets if we are going to dothat."Speaking on the sidelines of a World Food Summit, he added: "What's thepoint of helping dairy farms in the developing country and then sellingsubsidised powdered milk to their economy which makes it difficult forthem to continue their production."The United Nations estimates that wealthy nations spend some $300 billiona year on farm subsidies and says the money depresses world commodityprices making it impossible for third world farmers to compete in globalmarkets."You put yourself in the shoes of a small developing country, which cannotexport agricultural products because of restrictions and tariffs, adeveloping country that cannot export and compete on world markets becauseits richer partners are heavily subsidised," Annan said.The remarks were his strongest comments yet on the issue. In the past theUnited Nations has limited itself to saying that protection by rich statesof their agriculture created an uneven playing field.In his opening remarks to the summit earlier, Annan said the dumping ofagricultural produce by rich countries on developing countries' marketscould discourage poor farmers from producing and lead to unemployment andlost incomes."We must evaluate carefully the impact of the subsidies that are now givento producers in rich countries," Annan told delegates at the start of thefour day meeting."By lowering food prices in the poorest countries, they may help toalleviate hunger in some cases and in the short term," he said. "Butdumping surpluses can also have devastating long term effects -- rangingfrom disincentives for national production and unemployment -- whilemaking it impossible for developing countries to compete on worldmarkets."Against a backdrop of looming famine in southern Africa, Annan made a callto halt "the gnawing pain of hunger"."In a world of plenty, ending hunger is within our grasp. Failure to reachthis goal should fill every one of us with shame. The time for makingpromises is over. It is time to act," he said, adding: "According to someestimates, as many as 24,000 people die every day, as a result (ofhunger)."Delegates approved a declaration dubbed the "International AllianceAgainst Hunger", renewing a pledge made at a previous food summit in 1996to cut the number of hungry to 400 million people from more than 800million.The summit, organised by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),runs until Thursday.