Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi has called on the U.S. Congress to remove subsidies on cotton production from the 2007 farm bill, saying the subsidies impoverished millions of African farmers.
A statement from the Benin government late on Thursday said Yayi had written to U.S. legislators to argue subsidies were depressing international cotton prices, forcing African farmers into debt and increasing misery in the world’s poorest continent.
Cotton accounts for 60 percent of exports from Benin, which acts as the spokesman for Africa’s cotton growers.
In sub-Saharan Africa’s main producers – Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Benin – nearly 60 percent of the population relies on cotton for its livelihood.
“These subsidies represent an injustice for poor countries and deny them equal access to world markets,” said Yayi. “With a view to ending these practices which distort the international cotton trade and stop the poorest countries from seizing the opportunities offered by world trade, I invited the speaker and members of the American Congress who will examine the farming bill to remove any clauses which disrupt free trade.”
The 2007 farm bill, now being discussed by Congress, will set subsidies in the U.S. agricultural sector for the next five years, but a draft version by the House Agriculture Committee has hit opposition from the White House which says it misses a chance to reform the sector.