To build BRICS without straw
The 5th annual BRICS Summit taking place in Durban on 26 and 27 March is closely being monitored by various analysts across the globe.
“If we take into account the importance of the agricultural sector in all of the BRICS countries, there does not seem to be a clear plan to tackle the shorter term challenges of rising input costs, the major contributing factor to current high levels of food inflation. Initiatives focused on small-holder farmers, a sector particularly vulnerable to high input costs, also seemed to be focused more on the medium to long term.”said Lullu Krugel ahead of this year’s BRICS summit.
At the previous BRICS summit, trade ministers from the BRICS nations made it clear that their view was that protectionist strategies in the agricultural sector by rich countries was undermining food security. However the focus of BRICS nations on food security has a long history and from the very first BRIC summit in 2009, BRIC countries have made pronouncements on food security.
“In 2010, the Moscow Declaration was accepted by BRIC countries (before SA joined). The Moscow Declaration included a focus on pragmatic cooperation, and adopted tangible measures to boost domestic agricultural productivity, which has played a positive role in promoting food security and maintaining economic stability. In 2011, the same ministers, under the theme of ‘Making Joint Efforts for World Food Security’, agreed to establish the BRICS Strategic Alliance for Agricultural Research and Technology Cooperation, which is aimed to pool the effort of BRICS countries in addressing major challenges faced by the world in agricultural technologies. The Alliance will receive guidance and support from the agricultural ministries of the countries.” explained Krugel.
The Chief Economist also noted that there is an action plan in play that is meant to alleviate the burden that declining food output could have on the BRICS nations. The countries have adopted the Action Plan 2012-2016 for Agricultural Cooperation of BRICS countries. The Action Plan 2012 – 2016, has the following 5 priority areas: The creation of a basic agricultural information exchange system in BRICS countries; development of a general strategy for ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable section(s) of the population; undertaking measures to reduce the negative impact of climate change on food security; adapting agriculture to climate change; enhancing agricultural technology co-operation and innovation as well as [promoting] trade and investment in agriculture. These plans are yet to take their full effect and at this stage act as a silencer to those with truly peering eyes on the subject matter.
With the theme for the summit set as “BRICS and Africa- Partnerships for Integration and Industrialization,”Other difficult issues are to be considered by the South African counterparts. “In January 2013, South Africa imposed provisional payments of between 6 and 62 per cent on chicken imports from Brazil but last year, when these provision payments “expired”, the country moved instead to a general imposition of higher tariffs on all chicken imports, which will impact all countries exporting chicken to South Africa. The reason for this move might be because the minister, due to the BRICS relationship, did not want to single out Brazil,”said Krugel when asked about commodity dumping that takes place amongst the nations. At the end of the day she stated that the whole subject must be a difficult issue for the trade ministers of the particular countries. She foresaw that it could lead to some difficulties in trade relations as there are clearly competing interests between the BRICS countries, in particular in respect of their agricultural exports to Africa. She stated that the whole issue needs to be handled carefully. “Up to now, there have been no general BRICS agreements on this, and it seems to be something that is handled on a case-by-case basis.”