Subsidizing Protests

BBC News – Colombia troops to patrol Bogotá after protests.

Clashes broke out on Thursday afternoon after tens of thousands of people marched peacefully in support of a 10-day protest by small-scale farmers.

Colombia’s government deployed the military after protests became violent.  Small-scale subsistence farmers, along with students, teachers, and healthcare workers, have been protesting against the importation of cheap food from the EU and the US.

Because both the EU and the US subsidize agricultural production with payments to farmers and big agricultural producers, they are able to sell their products cheaper than most smallholders.  And countries with free-trade agreements have a hard time competing with the lost-cost products. So the Colombian government is negotiating with its farmers and has

promised more protection from products imported at lower prices from countries with free-trade agreements with Colombia.

It’s very hard for the small-scale farmers.

They say that free trade agreements with the European Union and the US, which have recently come into force, are flooding the market with agricultural products at prices they are unable to match.
They also complain that rising fuel and production costs have turned small-scale farming into a loss-making business.

Once they can’t make a living, they move into city slums, creating more hardship for themselves and their government.  How will this end?  Who will end up benefiting?  Probably not the poor farmers and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

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