Market and Trade Policy for Staple Foods in Eastern and Southern Africa
Edited by Alexander Sarris and Jamie Morrison
Chapter 2: Trade, Agriculture and Optimal Commercial Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa
Edward F. Buffie INTRODUCTION 1 Successful agricultural development is critical to overall economic development and to meeting the ambitious targets for poverty reduction endorsed in the Millenium Development Goals. Nowhere is this truer than in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In most of the region, agriculture employs 60 to 80 per cent of the labour force and is home to the great majority of the poor. The last 30 years have seen minimal gains, and in some cases marked declines, in agricultural productivity and food consumption per capita. Agricultural development has stalled even in countries like Zambia that have a potentially large comparative advantage in the production of basic foodstuffs. Agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) has not been exempt from the movement towards more liberal trade policy. Export bans and taxes are much less common than in the past. Most countries have also phased out quotas and reduced tariffs to 10–25 per cent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and trade negotiators for developed countries are pressing for further liberalization, but this appeal has encountered substantial resistance. The general perception among African policy makers is that trade liberalization has not delivered the benefits promised by its supporters and that priority should now be given to battling supply constraints in agriculture (United Nations, 2006). The purpose of this chapter is to revisit the key issues relevant to the formulation of optimal agricultural trade policy in ESA. This is needed for at least two reasons. First, the pros and...
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