Friday, October 05, 2007

German NGO warns over EPAs

German NGO warns over EPAs
By Brighton Phiri
Friday October 05, 2007 [04:00]

THE Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are a threat to food security in Africa, visiting German-based FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) trade officer Armin Paasih warned yesterday.

Presenting a research report on the impact of EPAs on milk and honey sectors in Zambia, jointly conducted by Civil Society Trade Network of Zambia (CSTNZ), FIAN, Germanwatch and National Peasant Farmers' Association of Ghana under the Fact Finding Mission (FFM), Paasih warned that the EPAs would lead to severe violation of human rights to adequate food, which was enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations (UN).

The team conducted interviews with small milk producers in Magoye, beekeepers in Ndola, government and Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) officials.

"It is very clear that very few countries will benefit from the EPAs. There is high level of hypocrisy on the part of European Union (EU) over this EPAs debate," Paasih said.

According to Paasih, the report revealed that milk was an emerging sector in Zambia and that it had a potential to remove many smallholder farmers out of abject poverty through provision of income, employment and food.

"Despite this, milk farmers are still facing many problems, as from the interviews with members of a diary co-operative in Magoye," he said. "While the farmers benefit from a guaranteed market access through a contract with Parmalat, they are not able to influence the price for the milk but have to accept the price set by the board of Parmalat.

"The farmers lack financial capacities and access to affordable credits to purchase adequate feed and pure or cross breads than can produce larger quantities of milk."

Paasih warned that higher imports from the EU would strangulate the local farmers' efforts if EPAs led to cuts in tariffs and exposed them to an open market with highly subsidised competitors.

"Indeed while their cows, in the rainy season, give at highest four litres of milk, a German cow can give up to 50 litres of milk due to high levels of subsidies. It is very unlikely that Zambian farmers will be able to compete with their European colleagues. This threat would be even higher if the quota system in the EU would be removed by 2015, like the EU intends to do."

He asked the Zambian government not to sign any trade agreement, which could reduce the policy space to protect the right to food for its citizens.

He advised negotiating parties to extend the timeframe to allow meaningful consultation within the country until all the outstanding issues were resolved.
CSTNZ programme officer Dominic Chanda said about 97 per cent of Zambians were not aware of the current debate on the EPAs.

He urged government to embark on a wide sensitisation programme on the EPAs so that the people could be aware of the dangers.

Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana president Mohammed Adam Nashiru said EPAs were not in the interest of Africans.

"If we sign these EPAs, it is as good as signing our own death warrant. We have no choice but to stop these EPAs because under these agreements African farmers will be kicked out of the market," said Nashiru.



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