logo logo

Economic Partnership Agreements: Family farmers speak out!

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Vienna, 19 June 2006

Economic Partnership Agreements: Family Farmers speak out!

At the initiative of the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’
Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA), leaders of three small farmers’
networks from ACP regions met in parallel to the Joint Parliamentary
Assembly (JPA) in Vienna on 19 June 2006 to assess the process of
negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements between their regions and
the European Union. The networks represented were ROPPA for West Africa,
the East African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) for East Africa and the
Windward Island Farmers Association (WINFA) for the Caribbean.
ACP and EU members of the JPA, ACP ambassadors, representatives of the
European Commission, and civil society organizations from ACP and
European countries listened to the farmers’ views and participated in the

1. Regional integration: a desirable goal but how to get there?
For farmers’ organizations regional integration is an important opportunity: it
can create a larger domestic market for their produce and facilitate the
sharing of experiences, strengths and complementarities to develop the rural
sector and ensure food security. Yet, they point out, so far as agricultural
trade is concerned regional integration is not progressing; on the contrary it is
moving backwards as compared with previous years. In West Africa, for
example, intra-regional food product exchanges as a proportion of overall
importations of food products has fallen from 11% in 1995 to 7% in 2004.
Throughout ACP regions food dependency is on the rise.
Trade in the ACP regions has traditionally targeted external markets rather
than exchange among countries in the same region. Strong regional
integration, a necessary precondition to liberalization of exchanges between
ACP regions and the EU, has to be built on :

- protection of the regional space through the application of « regional
preference » policies;
- and on increased investment directed primarily towards family farming,
which is dominant in ACP countries and constitutes the basis of their
economics and societies.

The European experience confirms the importance of these pillars of regional

2. Consumers and producers: a win-win situation
A common argument against market protection is that consumers lose out
when tariffs are raised. While the farmers agree it is necessary to consider the
welfare of poor consumers with low purchasing power, they point out that:

- 65% of the ACP consumers are rural people who draw their
livelihhoods from the production and marketing of agricultural
products. The level of their incomes is highly dependent on protection
of the regional market.
- The majority of the poor in ACP countries are rural people.
- Lowering tariffs does not necessarily benefit consumers. Evidence
shows that consumer prices most often remain at the same levels
when tariffs drop, or actually increase, with other actors pocketing the

3. More support for agriculture is imperative, but what model?
There is a broad consensus that support to agriculture in ACP countries is
highly insufficient (less than 10% of national budgets). But which form of
agriculture should be privileged? Most of ACP agricultural production is
guaranteed by family farms. This alone justifies giving them priority attention.
It is also important, however, to recognize the multifunctional nature of family
farming into consideration - non trade concerns in WTO language - which
enables it to respond to numerous social needs (in particular the role of
women in ensuring food security, group solidarity....) as well as economic and
environmental concerns.

In conclusion, farmers’ organizations feel it is urgent to develop and defend
alternatives to the dogmatic liberalization scenario which currently dominates
in the EPA negotiations. Margins for manoeuvre do exist, also with regard to
the WTO, concerning both the time limits for establishing EPAs and the
asymmetries of exchanges between ACP countries and the EU which can be
allowed. A large proportion of the agricultural sector could benefit from
temporary or even permanent protection. This is justified by the impact
assessments carried out in the context of the EPA negotiations. The midterm
review of the EPAs offers an opportunity to highlight these issues which must
not be allowed to slip by. But it should be carried out on the basis of a
meaningful “partnership”, putting the “P” back into the EPAs, in which small
farmer organizations are enabled to participate effectively.

The workshop on “Can EPAs be an instrument to promote the socio- economic and cultural integration of the ACP regions?” was organized with the support of the campaign "EuropAfrica: for a mutually-supportive and sustainable agriculture in the North and the South " (Terra Nuova, Collectif Stratégies Alimentaires, Crocevia),and of “AlimenTerre” (SOS-Faim, CFSI), IFAD, FAO, APRODEV and EED.

Contacts :
ROPPA : Saliou Sarr
EAFF : Philip Kiriro
WINFA : Renwick Rose
EuropAfrique : Nora McKeon +39 335-8388785