Food Security and Agricultural Trade Liberalization

24 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2010

Date Written: July 2, 2010


Many Sub-Saharan African countries are highly dependent on the agricultural sector for the livelihood of the population. Agriculture is source of livelihood for 64 percent of the population in the region; the sector contributes about one-fifth of total gross domestic product, and about 12 per cent of the total export earnings for the region. These countries are gifted with abundant land, labor and natural resources indicating existence of comparative advantage in the agriculture sector. With the existence of comparative advantage, one can reasonably expect the continent to be able to feed its citizens. However, food security is of particular concern to many Sub-Saharan African countries and a daily problem for large parts of the population. Many of the countries which faced recurrent food shortage for the period 1998-2002 are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Food security of a country is affected by different factors; one of which is international trade policy. Trade policy reform resulting from the WTO negotiations involves a combination of the three pillars of the Agreement on Agriculture: tariff, domestic support measures and export subsidies. Each of these pillars have one way or another an implication on food security. Lowering of tariff in agricultural products would lead to an increase in import and declining of price of imported goods thereby enhancing food security. However, for a continent like Africa, where more than 64% of the population depends on the sector, the negative consequences could out weigh. The rules on domestic support and export subsidy also have an impact on food security in that their removal will increase the price of food in the world market there by increasing the import bills of food importing countries and decreasing the amount of food supply to food deficit countries in the form of food aid. The removal of support, however, is beneficial in the long run as it would enhance competitiveness of agricultural products from African countries. In light of the fact that trade policy plays a great role in the food security of countries, the issue deserving consideration is the effect of the WTO agricultural trade liberalization on food security and the available mechanisms for addressing the issue.

The article examines the food security implications of the WTO agreement on Agriculture. It asserts that the Agreement on Agriculture favors agricultural producers of the developed countries at the cost of producers in developing countries, including Africa. The article will also address the extent to which the realization of the objectives of the Agreement on Agriculture will promote food security in food insecure African countries. Accordingly, the next section will define food security and look into the state of food (in)security in Sub-Saharan African countries as well as the causes for food insecurity. The third chapter touches upon the three pillars of the AoA and their implementation and will also discuss their relationship with food security. The fourth section will highlight the state of affairs in the current negotiation and indicate the reforms necessary to be undertaken under the current round of negotiation which aims towards enhancing food security in the region. The paper will finalize by making some concluding remarks.

Presented at the SIEL 2010 Conference in Barcelona.

Keywords: Sub-Saharan Africa, Africa, Agriculture, Food security, Food shortage, Agreement on Agriculture, AoA, WTO

JEL Classification: F02, F10, F12, F13, F14, Q17

Suggested Citation

Hailu, Martha Belete, Food Security and Agricultural Trade Liberalization (July 2, 2010). Society of International Economic Law (SIEL), Second Biennial Global Conference, University of Barcelona, July 8-10, 2010, Available at SSRN: or

Martha Belete Hailu (Contact Author)

Addis Ababa University ( email )

King George VI St
Addis Ababa, 1000

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