[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Ethiopian farmers await WTO deal
By Mark Doyle
BBC World Affairs correspondent in Ethiopia

Farming subsidies is one of the main topics under discussion by World Trade Orginisation (WTO) members meeting in Geneva. The BBC's Mark Doyle spoke to Ethiopian farmers who want the EU to cut back its subsidy system.

Farmers on horseback in central plateau, Ethiopia, Africa
Far away in Ethiopia, farmers await the outcome of the WTO talks
On a wide river plain in central Ethiopia 10,000 workers tend sugar cane at the Matahara sugar plantation.

This place could not be more different from the usual image of Ethiopia - the image of drought and famine.

Here water from the River Awash irrigates the sugar through a vast network of canals, the scenery is green and lush, and the staff are working industriously.

Oxfam criticism

Ethiopia would like to take advantage of the fertile soil it has in some parts of the country and its low labour costs by exporting more sugar to Europe.

But the EU's system of quotas and tariffs prevents it from doing so.

Under pressure from an unusual alliance of free trade lobby groups and charities such as Oxfam, the EU may be about to change its rules in order to allow in more sugar from poor countries.

Oxfam has accused European sugar companies of making hundreds of millions of pounds every year from government subsidies at the expense of farmers in the developing world.

Oxfam says EU based policies effectively subsidise big sugar companies, like London-based Tate & Lyle, whose annual general meeting on Thursday will be lobbied by activists, by guaranteeing high prices for European producers.


The Ethiopian managers of the Matahara sugar plantation want to be ready if the rule changes take place and they have begun drawing up plans to expand their output by 50% in the next few years.

If the EU rules change in Ethiopia's favour thousands of new jobs could be created here.

More trade might mean this country needing less aid.

But Ethiopians are not holding their breath.

They know rich countries have a long history of unfair economic practices, such as subsidising their agriculture while preaching the benefits of free trade.

The BBC's Mark Doyle
"If there was a free market in sugar Ethiopia could compete very favourably"

Bargaining ahead of WTO deadline
29 Jul 04  |  Business
US 'to fight back' in cotton war
18 Jun 04  |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific