Brazilian Farmers in Hong Kong Say Free Market Will Kill Family Farms

Representatives of Brazilian family farmers don’t want the Brazilian government to yield its autonomy to create and implement policies to protect the sector.

Altemir Tortelli, general coordinator of the Federation of Brazilian Family Farm Workers (Fetraf) is in Hong Kong, participating in the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"A vision is being peddled that the only way to solve the world’s problems is to end the protection governments offer their agricultural sectors, without the right for governments to have their own national policies," he said, Thursday 15, in a telephone interview.

According to Tortelli, the Brazilian government "can’t bargain away its independence." He says that other countries have already complained to Brazil about the National Family Farming Program (Pronaf) for being considered a type of subsidy.

Tortelli observes that, at present, Brazil has more than 4.1 million families engaged in family farming. Altogether, that means more than 20 million people who subsist directly on what they produce.

Tortelli believes that one of the risks inherent in the elimination of import duties is that thousands of Brazilian family farmers will lose their livelihoods.

He cites dairy producers as an example. "We run the risk in Brazil of importing milk subsidized in its country of origin. The tariff in the Mercosur is already zero, but for milk from other countries, the tariff is around 35% or 37%.

"Just to give you an idea, if we lower this tariff to 10% in 10 years, we run the risk of no longer having small dairy producers in the country."

Tortelli believes that this "vision that markets by themselves resolve the hunger problem" is a falsehood and must be replaced by "new ways of conceiving markets in the context of each country."

The family farmers’ representatives who are participating in the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting are preparing a document that calls for an alternative approach to agriculture.

"We don’t want the market to be the only space in which family farming can survive, because, for us, agriculture is, first of all, the production of food, not merchandise," Tortelli affirms.

Eight of every ten rural establishments belong to family farmers, according to the farmers’ representative. He points out that, currently, 84% of the manioc produced in the country derives from family farming. The same is true for 77% of the beans, 58% of the poultry and eggs, 58% of the pork, and 54% of the milk.

Agência Brasil

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