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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 12:19 GMT
End subsidies, rich countries urged
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Food subsidies contribute to famine, Annan said

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called on the world's richest countries to stop subsidising their farmers, as a step towards tackling famine in Africa.

He said governments had to deal with the structural causes of famine as well as the lack of food itself.

Mr Annan was addressing a contact group of the eight richest nations, established to give higher priority to agricultural development in Africa.

He told them that their food subsidies - which total $300bn a year - were stifling agricultural production in Africa.

Lack of sustainable food production was contributing to severe shortages which threatened more than 30 million Africans with starvation, said Mr Annan.

Cheap imports

Developing countries struggle to sell their produce to highly protected markets like Japan and the European Union because they do not enjoy the kind of subsidies that allow their farmers to sell food more cheaply.

Observers say that matters are made worse by the fact that they also have to contend with cheap imports from the same rich countries into their own markets, leaving them without any livelihood.

Mr Annan said the way that agricultural trade was structured was just as responsible for famine in Africa as the lack of food itself.

Aids threat

He also appealed again to the developed world to bolster the fight against Aids, which he said was rapidly killing off farmers in Africa while creating a generation of orphans.

A spokesman for the contact group of richest nations said they intended to present a plan addressing the long-term issues surrounding subsidies at a summit in June.

The European Union and the United States agreed last year to reduce tariffs and subsidies which hinder world commerce.

But there has been no deal yet in world trade talks on winding down farm subsidies, leaving developing countries frustrated at the difficulty of getting their agricultural goods into markets in the developed world.

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