The Evils of Foreign Food “Aid”

The Evils of Foreign Food “Aid”

Various types of foreign “aid” have become a major part of the United States government foreign policy. It is seen as a way to project “soft power” and show global “leadership.” While relief in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is a somewhat different matter, the principle of persistent foreign “aid” is a tool of neo-imperialism which keeps countries perpetually weak, unstable, and dependent on Western powers.

Foreign aid may be unpopular among the right wing, but it maintains broad public support from people who want a vague good feeling of “doing something” without taking any actions that remotely require work. And it is hard to argue against giving food to the starving. However, food “aid” is really a massive giveaway to corporate agribusiness that perpetuates poverty. To put it simply, local agriculture industries cannot develop because the US provides subsidized crops for free or far below cost. Beyond which, the US foods are generally calorie dense and nutrient poor. This means that on top of making domestic agriculture unprofitable, it causes a variety of health problems in third world residents who are now eating a diet heavy in mass produced grains.

In few places have the evils of US agriculture aid been as visible and devastating as the poverty stricken island nation of Haiti. The damages of food “aid” to Haiti were detailed earlier this year in an article titled “How US Crop Dumping Keeps Haiti Poor and Dependent” published by the great organization Foundation for Economic Education. 

The article starts by telling the story of peanut farmers,

“In May 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture was caught in the act of “crop dumping” when they shipped 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haiti. Haitians and aid groups pleaded against this act of crop dumping, as it undermines the peanut industry in Haiti which is home to over 150,000 peanut farmers. These farmers cannot compete with the price of zero, and that is what they must do when the U.S. insists on dumping crops…The U.S. insistence on providing foreign aid with a disregard to Haitian markets endangers the economic livelihood of Haiti.”

These crops are simply a surplus that have been produced in the US, generally to receive agriculture subsidies. In an effort to prop up prices the US government agrees to buy up the surplus, instead of letting it serve as a lesson for farmers to produce fewer peanuts next year. Instead, they go against the wishes and wellbeing of the people and peanut farmers on Haiti by providing them at no cost. It all sounds so compassionate.

The rice industry in Haiti has also suffered from US government interference,

“Haiti was once an economy with a strong rice industry. Pressured by the U.S. and other international creditors, Haiti undertook trade liberalization during the 1980’s, and this coincided with the U.S. Food Security Act of 1985 which heavily subsidized the U.S. rice industry. During the 1990’s, the U.S. was responsible for dumping rice into Haiti. The U.S. flooded the Haitian economy with what came to be known as ‘Miami rice’ because the rice came from the port in Miami. As Haitian imports of rice replaced domestic production, artificially depressed prices for rice drove Haitians out of the rice industry altogether. The U.S. subsidizing its own industries caused many Haitian rice farmers to fail and forced Haitians into foreign aid dependence…Haitian farmers deserved a chance to compete, but U.S. policy killed Haitian opportunities to escape poverty.”

Here again, the United States, the great supporter of free markets, is killing market competition. Beyond hurting the Haitian agriculture industry, policies like this keep the entire country in debt, and entirely dependent on foreign “aid” instead of developing their own economy.

To make matters worse for Haiti and other Caribbean nations, the United States has protective sugar tariffs designed to prop up domestic production. This is a ridiculous policy in a nation that only has a tiny percentage of land viable for sugar. However, it is a great policy for the corn industry and it’s high fructose syrup.  Not a great policy for public health. Nor is it a good policy for the Caribbean.

“Haiti is no longer a heavy producer of sugar, but if they had the freedom to export sugar to the U.S., Haitian entrepreneurs could find the sugar market as profitable…Sugar markets are restricted by bad rules as well. Researchers at The Heritage Foundation found that “Since the turn of the millennium, Americans have paid an average of 79 percent more for raw sugar and 87 percent more for refined sugar compared to the average world price.” Why are prices so high? The U.S. still has protectionist policies in place, some of which date back to the New Deal. Protectionist policies do not lead to a prosperous nation and are representative of the crony capitalism from which Americans suffer.”

Clearly, what all of these countries need is some economic freedom in the agriculture sector. The article concludes with a concise explanation of that is wrong with food aid:

“The intention of feeding people is not immoral, but the policies carrying out the good intention are deeply flawed. The mutually beneficial exchange that would otherwise occur has been replaced by waste and suffering. The U.S. must eliminate the agricultural and foreign aid policies that have propagated Haiti’s economic stagnation. The unseen consequences of U.S. policy may get even worse for the Haitian economy. The intentions of providing Haitians with free food threatens the Haitian agricultural industry and has been detrimental to their growth…The U.S. should learn from our past mistakes and feed people through the most efficient way possible–the private market.”

This is what happens when government gets involved in “good will.” The government never helps out of good nature, they only do it to transfer money from taxpayers to corporations and to and to promote geopolitical objectives.

Read the rest here.

Jamaica provides another example of the nefarious nature of food “aid.” Some time back there was a dairy surplus in the US, so naturally the dairy industry lobbied the government to buy their surplus and dump powdered milk on Jamaica, predictably collapsing the domestic dairy industry. Some of the damages are detailed in this youtube video:

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