Having just taught the Developing Economies topic at the UNITEC A2 revision course I couldn’t help noticing this graph that was in The Economist last week. This was extremely useful when you look at how developing nations are locked out of the trading system by the subsidies given to those developed nations agricultural sectors. For years the World Bank and the IMF have forced developing nations to stop subsidising their agricultural sector.
Government support for agriculture in the mostly rich countries of the OECD amounted to $252 billion in 2011, or 19% of total farm receipts. Although there is a move away from support linked directly to production, it is still about half of the total. The general trend is downwards: compared with the second half of the 1990s subsidies fell in all countries. But levels of support vary widely. In Norway, Switzerland and Japan, more than half of gross farm receipts in 2009-11 came from support policies; for producers in Australia, Chile and New Zealand, it was less than 5%. Commodity prices will stay high for some time, suggests the OECD, so markets will provide the farm income that many governments have tried to prop up.