Professional organizations of farmers in West Africa fear being overwhelmed by industrial and agrarian products from the EU countries. According to Ibrahima Coulibaly, leader of the Malian farmers’ organization the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations (CNOP), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will open their frontiers to EU products in 2015. This move follows the signing of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) by leaders last October.
One month after the signing, African farmer organizations decided to combat this agreement, which they say will jeopardize unprepared small-scale farmers in West Africa.
Coulibaly says within each ECOWAS country, local actions are being undertaken to inform authorities about the negative impacts that the agreement may have on local industries and farming systems.
“For 10 years we are fighting against the EPA, but the ECOWAS heads of states betrayed their peoples,” Coulibaly told AFKInsder. “We invited President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to avoid signing the agreement in its current estate.”
In an African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) press release published last December, the ACP leaders announced tightening their economic cooperation with Europe in 2015, which is supposed to be the beginning of an important economic partnership.
Representatives of the EU and the ACP countries — which include ECOWAS countries — who met in Brussels said the policy shift will be a unique opportunity for the ACP group and the EU countries to show they have efficient relationship that must be preserved.
The EU countries promised more money to finance development projects in the ACP countries, according to the EU Development Commissioner, Neven Mimica. But the Malian farmers’ representatives say the EU countries, which are well organized, try to impose on West Africa free-trade through the EPA.
“What they want is a free-trade area between Europe and the ECOWAS. That would be a good thing if we had something that could be sold in European markets,” Coulibaly added.
Endangering Cattle breeding and Agriculture
According to the confederation of Burkina Faso farmers (CPF), the ECOWAS country members should stop the process of the partnership, which at the moment is starting a new tax payment on the goods entering the continent. Bassiaka Dao, president of the organization believes local farmers will lose out with the EPA as rich and poor countries cannot have equal opportunities when it comes to creating economic competition.
In all of the ECOWAS countries, a new taxation system will be introduced in 2015. It allows the traders to pay only 35 percent of taxes on the goods from foreign countries. This is not a sufficient rate, according to Dao who according to Le Pays pledges to raise the payment up to 50 percent on the products — rice, milk, wheat, meat — that can endanger cattle breeding and agriculture in the West African region.
The West African leaders should suspend the application of the agreement, according to Tiasse Bouare, a parliament member in Mali.
“We have to suspend the process until our countries are well prepared to face the competition,” he told AFKInsider. “If we don’t, all this can lead to complications for the production of the basic elements of local economy.”