[ASC-media] Media release: rural poor face globalisation risks

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Sat Aug 12 18:45:24 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   ph 07 5504 4019


EMBARGO: 9AM AEST, Sunday, August 13, 2006		


The World's least developed countries and small farmers, even in countries experiencing rapid growth, could lose out in the face of widening globalization, according to the President of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE), Dr Prabhu Pingali.  

Dr. Pingali's remarks were made in his Presidential Address to the IAAE Conference which opens on Australia's Gold Coast today and meets in Australia only once in a generation.

While agriculture has been the 'engine of growth' for most developed and rapidly-advancing countries, poor nations are finding it increasingly hard to catch up, warns Dr Pingali, who is Director of the Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Under globalization, "countries at the low end of the transformation process tend to lose out because their low productivity agricultural systems are uncompetitive in an increasingly integrated global food system.  

"These societies, most of them food insecure, face daunting physical, infrastructural and institutional obstacles to "getting agriculture moving"," Dr Pingali says.

Countries at the forefront of agricultural transformation - such as Australia - are likely to benefit from globalization provided they remain responsive to market signals, he adds.

On the bright side, substantial progress has been made in global hunger and poverty reduction, Dr Pingali says. FAO now projects that the goal of cutting the proportion of hungry people by half by 2015 will be achieved worldwide and for all regions except Sub-Saharan Africa.   

"While "trickle down" from globalization-induced income growth can, to some extent, help alleviate poverty and food insecurity it will not be adequate without concerted efforts targeted at the neediest populations," he cautions.

Globalization has brought rapid growth in world trade, internationalization of production by large corporations and the rapid spread of supermarket chains. This has benefited consumers and producers in most countries.

However the poorest and most vulnerable countries are spending more and more of their limited funds importing food as domestic farm production wilts.

If the recent Latin American experience is anything to go by, supermarkets and large-scale distribution will progressively dominate urban food marketing worldwide, Dr Pingali forsees.

"Concentration of food trade in the hands of a few retailers and large market intermediaries threatens the existence of small traders and small business, central food markets and neighbourhood stores," he says.

And, on the farm, "in the absence of deliberate action, small-scale producers will eventually be put out of business by competition from large-scale producers," - though small farms can still compete successfully if they are efficient.

At the same time, preserving the natural resource base for future food production will be a formidable challenge.

These trends place strong pressure on national governments and international agencies to intervene directly to assist the poor and needy, find ways to help poor farmers participate in global markets, step up agricultural research worldwide, reform land tenure, reduce trade barriers, and help developing countries to meet global food standards.

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4019
Dr Prabhu Pingali, IAAE President, (phone +393488703223)
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb,+61 (0)418 639 245

Copies of Dr Pingali's address available: ph 0418 639 245.

Conference program & details:

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