Agricultural subsidies deemed “socially and environmentally harmful” by three UN agencies

The majority of agricultural subsidies paid in the world “Lead to price distortions and are socially and environmentally harmful”. This observation does not emanate from coalitions of NGOs or trade unions of small producers, but from three UN agencies: the United Nations Organization for Agriculture and the Environment (FAO), the UN Program for environment (UNEP) and development (UNDP).

Entitled A multibillion dollar opportunity – redirecting agricultural support, the report was released on Tuesday, September 14, a few days before a summit on food systems, to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, on September 23. It constitutes a “Warning to governments to reform their agricultural subsidy programs”, underlines the Director General of FAO, Qu Dongyu, in the preamble of the text.

Small producers penalized

UN agencies have calculated that all agricultural support measures amount to 540 billion dollars per year (457 billion euros), or 15% of the productive value of agriculture, and could triple by 2030 By examining more closely the type of measures put in place (tax aid, aid per hectare, tariff barriers, coupled aid, that is to say intended for a certain type of product, etc.), the FAO , UNEP and UNDP consider that 87% of these subsidies have deleterious effects. Either because they are unfairly distributed and penalize certain categories such as small producers, or because they cause undesirable effects for the environment and the climate or because they favor certain monocultures to the detriment of a variety of crops. healthier foods.

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In order to carry out this analysis, the experts from the three agencies drew on various databases on global agricultural aid policies, in particular those of the OECD, in order to establish an exhaustive inventory of the measures adopted. “In middle-income countries, price distortion measures are becoming more and more common, notes Marco Sanchez Cantillo, director of FAO’s food division and lead author of the report. In low-income countries, the agricultural sector is penalized by prices kept very low to protect consumers. “ Globally, the most subsidized commodities are meat, dairy products, rice, which also consume the most resources, as well as sugar.

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