The Fairtrade Foundation just released a report entitled “The Great Cotton Stitch-Up,” in which it explains that 10 years since the Doha Development Round (143 countries of the World Trade Organization launched a process aimed at creating new global trade rules to stimulate growth and wealth in developing countries) started giving yearly talks, over $40bn has been eaten up by major economics to support their own cotton industries. The result is that West Africa has suffered a major loss.
Dr. Vince Cable, the UK Secratary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills, and the President of the Board of Trade, explained,
“This system pits a typical Malian producer, farming two hectares of cotton, who is lucky to gross $400 a year, against US farms which receive a subsidy of $250 per hectare.”
That is completely outrageous. West Africa has come to rely on the cotton industry for wealth, and this has now been taken away from them. People in Burkina Faso attribute their problems to ‘the monster with three heads,’ which includes a weak dollar, low world prices, and US cotton subsides. Sadly, cotton prices have steadily declined over the last 60 years, placing African farmers at a severe disadvantage.
The report also included some horrifying statistics about life in Mali, as a result of “The Great Cotton Stitch-Up,” and its detrimental impact.
1. 73.8% adult illiteracy rate
2. 77.1% of the population lives below $2.00 a day
3. The life expectancy at birth is 48.1 years
4. HDI Ranking out of 182 is 178th=LOW HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
5. Child mortality rate per 1000=194
6. Agriculture makes up 37% of the GDP
7. 46.9% of the population are enrolled in education….about 12,710,000 make up the Mali population
So what can be done? Oxfam’s research shows that removing US cotton subsidies would boost the average household income to 9% in West Africa. That may seem like a small amount, but it would actually be enough to feed a million people.