Economic pact not good for us - farmers tell ACP delegates

Graphic Ghana | 29 September 2008

Economic Pact Not Good For Us - Farmers Tell ACP Delegates

Peasant farmers and some civil society groups in Ghana have called on African Ministers and negotiators to reject the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.

The group explained that when the economic agreements came into force it would collapse local manufacturing industry as well as the agricultural sector as subsidised goods would be dumped in Ghana and other signatory economies.

The Administrative Secretary of the Osudoku Agricultural Co-operatives Association, Mr David Odonkor, at a ‘No EPAs’ forum organised by the Ghana Trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC) at Asutsuare in the Dangbe East District, called on ministers and delegates who will be attending the ACP meeting in Accra to kick against such lopsided economic agreements.

He drew attention to flows in fertiliser subsidies under the government’s emergency plan and said if such simple policies could not be implemented, why should such agreements which have far-reaching negative consequences on the local agricultural industry be signed.

Ghana, a member of the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, is negotiating a bilateral trade agreement known as the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

The call of tomato and rice co-operative farmer groups in the Dangbe East and West districts of the Greater Accra Region, as well as those in parts of the Central Region, comes at a time when the ACP is holding its sixth ministerial meeting in Accra from tomorrow.

Topmost on the agenda of the ACP countries is how to conclude negotiations on the EPAs, which should have been signed last December.

Mr Odonkor said farmers in the hinterlands did not even have access to basic facilities like schools and asked why should the tariffs on imported rice should be cut instead of using the proceeds from the tariffs to support the farming communities.

Some farmers from Ada also called for a permanent ban on the importation of tomato paste in the country, since the local industry could meet that need.

While the EU produces industrial goods and subsidises its farmers substantially, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, mainly former colonies of Europe, are still engaged in traditional peasant and subsistence farming with crude implements and methods.

ACP countries also cannot provide any substantial subsidies to its farmers.

The Co-ordinator of GTLC, Mr Ibrahim Akalbila, said the coalition, an affiliate of the Africa Trade Network (ATN) wanted a stop to the EPAs because they had devastating consequences on the economies of the ACP countries.

He said effective government instruments and policies of governments such as procurement processes, which it used to promote local businesses were all under threat when an EPA came into force.

Mr Akalbila stressed the need to implement to the letter policies that were meant to salvage the local industries, including agriculture, rather than parading to sign EPAs.

The GTLC, as part of the larger ATN, would organise a number of public events, including processions and media interactions, as part of civil society activities during the sixth ACP Ministerial Meetings in Accra.

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire went ahead last December to initial an Interim EPA to prevent its exports, such as banana and pineapples from being rejected by the EU.

source: Graphic Ghana