Yes, the food crisis is real. No, I don’t pretend to fully understand its causes, nor do I trust much that I have read about how to resolve it. But long before most other media jumped all over it, the FT was running serious and sober analysis of the problem. The paper has had a great microsite up for months, and has been running a very useful series of analysis pieces. Today’s focused on Africa, and the big takeaway, from my perspective, is the extent to which Africa has been screwed by ideologues of the left and the right.
From the right, a distressingly familiar story:
Much of the agricultural support apparatus that African governments used back in the 1970s – state marketing boards to which farmers sold their produce, across-the-board fertiliser and seed subsidies, strategic reserves of grain in case of food crisis, target prices maintained by official intervention – were dismantled, often at the urging of the World Bank and other aid donors, which regarded them as wasteful, prone to corruption or positively damaging. (Similar institutions persist in European and American farming, however.) But the vacuum left by the wholesale withdrawal of the state was often not filled by private businesses, leaving farmers disconnected from domestic and international markets.
From the left, today’s colossal idiocy of the day:
Andrew Dorward, an academic at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, says that adoption of GM crops resistant to herbicide would, for example, be disastrous for many poor households: the crops would allow the replacement of hand-weeding, which is a big source of income for many.
Which, of course, is why we should have workers dig ditches with spoons.