ECOWAS : the 10% increase on imported rice will not protect domestic production.

(Agence Ecofin) – The Common External Tariff (CET) has not put an end to the heated debate on this subject. Whilst the CET regulation is scheduled to enter into force on the 1st of January next year, a study undertaken by The Alliance of West African Farmer and Producer Organisations (Le Réseau des organisations paysannes et des producteurs agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest) ROPPA, on the impact on rice of this scheme, finds that it will not protect West African producers: “The introduction of this regulation will not result in a really strong protection of the agricultural sector” says Souleymane Sadiou Diallo, research scientist at the Economic and Social Research Centre in Ivory Coast, and vice-president of REPAD, the Research Network for Support to Development in Africa.

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Thai rice imported at below cost pricesThe 10% tax on imported rice set by the CET for the ECOWAS area, does not satisfy producers and has also raised concern among some officials. Colonel Guidado Sow, who is the Director of regulation and international cooperation at the General Customs Directorate of Senegal, has no qualms in declaring: “We have created all the conditions for not becoming self-sufficient in rice”. His view is shared by the President of the Coordination council for West African rice farmer organsations, Benou Pascal of Bénin, in the Sud Quotidien. According to him «rice imports penalise our local rice production, since the foreign producers receive large government subsidies. Quite the contrary to the situation in our countries. Here African rice farmers are exposed to disloyal competition and are therefore unable to improve their efforts to make their rice more readily available. Moreover, our heads of state have adopted a common external tariff of 10% for rice, which is one of the lowest tax rates in the world. However, we could well produce rice of quality, which is not stored for years and years, as is the case with our foreign competitors” he points out in the Sud Quotidien . Until recently Nigeria applied a tax of 110% on rice imports, the purpose of which was to enable the country to become self sufficient in rice, but this effort was strongly undermined by fraudulent imports of rice from Bénin. Aaron Akinocho of Agence Ecofin (End of quote)

mr 2466Fulani woman defending local milk supplyTo pursue the argument further we may look at the situation of milk, and powder milk in particular. 25 kg bags of powder milk are at present subject to a tax of 5%, which does not ensure any protection at all. Although the price on the world market has increased slightly, it still is below the production cost (because we are dealing with subsidised surplus production, that can be exported at cut throat prices). In Burkina the largest dairy processing plant, which makes most of the yoghurt sold in the country, uses milk powder. This does not stop the industry from selling the product in attractive plastic pots, where consumers can read on the cover "produit du Burkina", with a map of Burkina to boot. Everything is calculated to convey an illusion of yoghurt based on local milk from cows of this country. Likewise Ghana Nestlé sells unsweetened condensed milk with a label reading “product of Ghana from pure cow milk”. On the pot there is also a number customers can call to obtain additional information. I took the opportunity of investigating where the cows which had supplied the pure milk were to be found. The answer was “In Ireland”.

We could multiply the examples. The new CET is disastrous for farmers and producers in the ECOWAS. It is also a serious political error: ECOWAS members have all that is required (land, water, sunshine, men, women) to become a strong international power in agriculture and food in the world. The only thing that is missing is a political will to adopt a genuine farm and food policy-.

Koudougou, July 23 2014
Maurice Oudet
Director SEDELAN

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