The Guardian November 1, 2000


Free marketeers are "all for one"

by Marcus Browning

The creed of the free marketeers is strictly "all for one", though they 
want everyone to believe it is actually "one for all". In agriculture, as 
in every other sphere of production, globalisation  with its economic 
deregulation and planlessness  has brought uncertainty and chaos as 
industries slide towards the abyss of the free market.

Deregulation of the Australian dairy industry has resulted in thousands of 
smaller farms going to the wall as their farm gate price for drinking milk 
plummeted from around 56 cents to 27 cents.

As this has happened the three processors in Australia, Dairy Farmers, 
Parmalat-Pauls and National Foods, have moved towards increased monopoly 
with a short-term supermarket milk price war that will undoubtedly lead to 
merger deals.

As the Australian Dairy Industry Council noted, cut-price milk in 
supermarkets is not a long-term proposition.

And in the global roller coaster of acquisitions and takeovers, Italian-
based Parmalat has now been joined by the New Zealand Dairy Group which has 
seven percent of National Foods.

That deregulation imposes the get-big-or-get-out formula can be seen in how 
Victoria's dairy industry, with its big agri-business operations, is 
thriving, feeding on the corpses of the other states' dairy industries as 
the major dairy state with 70 percent of Australia's production.

With the low Australian dollar, producers in Victoria are also raking in 
the profits from the export of cheese, skim milk powder and butter.

Sugar

As the class battle was being fought on the streets of Seattle during last 
year's World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting, the Cairns Group  a lobby 
for the globalisation of agriculture made up of 18 small-economy and 
underdeveloped countries, including Australia  formed the Global Alliance 
For Sugar Trade Reform.

This sugar trade alliance exposes the nature of globalisation itself as a 
front for increasing the domination of the three most powerful capitalist 
economic centres  the USA, EU and Japan.

The US holds sway over world sugar prices. The US Government is the biggest 
purchaser of the US sugar crop, has a tariff quota on sugar and a huge 
surplus it could dump on the world market at any time.

In Australia, low world sugar prices, plus factors such as weather, have 
seen sugar growers facing a crisis and put the Howard Government under 
enough pressure from marginal rural electorates to provide short-term, 
targeted funding of around $90 million to growers.

The response of the Cairns Group to this growing dilemma was to base its 
arguments on Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics 
figures which claim that globalisation policies of reduced protection, such 
as scrapping tariffs and ending government funded marketing, will see world 
sugar prices increase 41 per cent by 2005.

But globalisation does not result, and was never intended to result, in 
more equitable trade between nations and more returns to developing 
countries.

As the communique for the 21st meeting of the Cairns Group, in Canada on 
October 10 noted, protection for farmers in general in the richest 
developed nations exceeds US$360 billion.

Sugar export subsidies, price support, plus restricted access for the likes 
of Cairns Group member countries to the major markets of Europe, Japan and 
the US, highlight the real meaning of the stated aim of the WTO for 
complete deregulation.

Global domination

The US, EU and Japan have no intention of letting their global economic 
domination be encroached upon in any way.

To the big three of capitalism, globalisation, market freedom and 
competition are the means for increasing their economic power, by taking 
more markets from other countries, and from each other.

That is why the Cairns Group's proposals for "liberalisation", including 
the complete elimination of sugar export subsidies, actually spells 
disaster for the sugar growers of its member countries, and for consumers.

In the US, consumers pay twice the world price for sugar, while a few 
transnational corporations are the main beneficiaries of government 
handouts, as is the case with the likes of CSR in Australia.

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