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Countries Make Plans
To Ramp Up Food Output

May 15, 2008 (EIRNS)—Numbers of national governments and also farm and food leaders are putting forth specifics of how to mobilize to produce more food in the shortest time, for either solely domestic consumption, or to also help meet international needs. The following is a review of recent public announcements, and also reports provided by those active in the Schiller Institute international mobilization to set the agenda for the June FAO "High Level Conference on Food Security" to focus on doubling world food production and meeting all emergency needs.

Central, South America:
Restore Self-Sufficiency, Exports

Argentina: Federal Deputy Alberto Cantero Gutiérrez, Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies' Agricultural Committee, has called for doubling national food production, and creating a state agency to oversee all aspects of agricultural marketing. He held a hearing May 14 on these proposals, and on May 15, in an exclusive interview with the LYM, he endorsed the LaRouche movement's global mobilization to make the subject of the FAO meeting how to double world food production. Argentina, for its part, could produce enough food to feed 500 million people—Argentina's 40 million plus another 450 million more people—he told Emiliano Andino of the LYM. See slug in this briefing.

There are several initiatives on restoring state regulation over agriculture being debated in the country, at a time when cartel-dominated soy producers, including the Anglophiliac landed oligarchy, have gone on strike to demand that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner eliminate higher taxes on soybean and sunflower seed exports, which are intended to keep domestic food prices low and ensure more equal income distribution. The cartel-aligned agricultural producers, prefer to let "the market" take precedence over the general welfare.

Honduras: President José Manuel Zelaya has launched the Plan for Supply of Basic Grains and the Technological Productive Bond (BTP), in order to produce enough basic grains this year to feed the population of 7.3 million people. There will be provision of some basic inputs in terms of agricultural credit at low interest rates (lowered from 24% to 9%), seeds, technology, etc. "We have to support these reforms so the nation can once again become the granary of Central America," he said, referring to Honduras's past status as a key regional food producer. There are measures to increase cereals output, including rice. The National Agriculture Development Bank (Banadesa) will aid smaller producers to grow the crops, for which a special fund of 1.2 billion lempiras has been created. Rice production was wiped out in Honduras, beginning in 1990, when, as Zelaya said, "someone had the bright idea that it would be easier to bring rice from the U.S. than produce it in Honduras." And then, he said, "Somebody said, 'why don't you give me that import business?', and it was at that point that three or four shiploads of rice were dumped on Honduran producers, which drove them into bankruptcy." Now, under the new plan, rice-growing and other capacity is to be reinstated.

In particular, it was the terms of a 1990 World Bank loan, that dictated Honduras must open itself up to imports of food, when its consumption needs at that time were being successfully met over 90% from homegrown food. The World Bank ordered the dismantling of the trade laws that protected Honduran domestic producers, and Honduran agriculture was smashed.

Colombia: "Colombia Could Produce Food for the Hungry of the World," the president of the LaRouche Association of Colombia, Maximiliano Londoño, urged in a statement issued May 14. Colombia currently imports more than 8 million tons of food a year, including 3.4 million tons of corn, 1.4 million of wheat, and lesser amounts of barley, soy, and beans, when the nation should not only be food self-sufficient, but generate surplus for export. Of the 20 million hectares available for cultivation, no more than 4.5 million hectares have been cultivated for the past 40 years, and today, after the free trade measures of the 1990s, only 3 million hectares are cultivated. Immediately, says Londoño, 1 million more hectares should be cultivated again, growing grains now being imported. For example, if 700,000 additional hectares were used to grow corn, Colombia could stop all corn imports. The first step required, is to cancel the huge subsidies and incentives granted for biofuels. And the vast areas that are today absurdly dedicated to extensive cattle ranching, should be converted to farming, using intensive methods, such as feed-lots.

Colombia's National Association of Cereals and Legume Producers (FENALCE) has likewise launched a campaign for ending Colombia's food import dependency, through greatly expanding land under cultivation using government price supports, guaranteed purchasing agreements, and aid for improving agricultural output, as well as cancelling biofuels and transforming ranching methods.

Africa: Plans to Resume Self-Sufficiency

Senegal: President Abdoulaye Wade set forth an ambitious program on April 19, which he calls the, "Grand Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA, in French)." On a national scale, the aim of this policy, he said, is to satisfy all our food needs and beyond that to fill up our granaries. By next Winter, the aim is for Senegal to have 2 million tons of corn, 3 million tons of manioc, 500,000 tons of rice, and 2 million tons of other cereals, such as millet, sorghum, etc., and 400 million liters of milk and 43,500 tons of meat.

The government will take all measures to make quality seed and equipment available to all potential producers. There is a call up of government officials to cultivate at least 20 hectares of land. Wade has also been outspoken in his denunciation of the FAO's record of going through the motions on agriculture, and running costly, ineffective operations. Wade wants to replace traditional food aid hand-outs, with real production capacity.

Malawi: In 2005, the government of Malawi, led by President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, decided to ignore the threats from the IMF et al., about the dire consequences of violating the so-called "laws of the marketplace," and to act for the survival of the Malawi people, by distributing government vouchers for seed, and more important, subsidies for fertilizer, to poor farmers. The results were nothing short of spectacular, producing a 283% increase in corn output over two years. Corn production shot up to 2.7 million metric tons in 2006, and to 3.4 million metric tons in 2007, up from 1.2 million metric tons in 2005. The subsidy program has enabled Malawi to become a net exporter of grain to the region, including sending 270,000 metric tons to Zimbabwe.

The Malawi Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security says that the government will implement a countrywide Farm Subsidy Program for the third season, following the success of the 2005-06 and 2006-07 subsidy programs. The fertilizer subsidy program for 2008 is expected to benefit 1.7 million small farmers; each coupon distributed by the government will be good for purchase of 50 kilograms of fertilizer. In addition, there will be 2 million coupons for improved maize seed and 1 million coupons for purchase of cotton seeds or legume seeds. The coupons will be distributed to farmers in an open village forum, and each household will receive only one set of coupons. The land-locked nation of Malawi, in southwest Africa, is one of the poorest nations in the world, but it is now showing the way. Its principled example was presented to the U.S. Congress at a May 14 hearing on the world food crisis, amidst an otherwise dismal atmosphere of debate over a new non-production oriented, five-year U.S. farm bill!

Southeast Asia

Philippines: In April, the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo committed the country to a crash progam to regain rice self-sufficiency within three years. The Philippines was once rice-sufficient, then fell back under the global regime of the IMF/WTO era, to the point where the nation, along with Nigeria and the Persian Gulf countries, are the world's biggest rice importers today. But now, despite Gloria's lack of public support, the principle of restoring national agriculture capacity is commanding respect. The Green Revolution agency, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, which is international in scope, but happens to be located in the Philippines), announced on May 3 that they will give full backing to the government's intention to swiftly increase the national output of rice and other foods. The $1 billion government plant includes measures for fertilizer, seed and other logistics. Only recently, from 2002-2004, an effort with the same goal was thwarted by the goverment. But now, under severe life-and-death lack of sufficient rice for the country, the plans are resumed.

Malaysia: The government has announced commitments for major programs to restore food self-sufficiency to the nation. A centerpiece is Sarawak, one of the provinces on the northern coast of Borneo, which is separated from the Malaysian peninsula by the South China Sea, and has vast undeveloped agricultural potential. It is also the site of the Bakun Dam, which will be completed within the next four years, providing adequate energy supplies to the region for agro-industrial development.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced a farm/food development program in April. A committee composed of high-level figures from both the public and the private sectors was established to oversee the implementation. Prime Minister Badawi said, after meeting with the chief minister of Sarawak, YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, "If other countries don't want to export to us, this will create problems for our people.... We want to ensure food security, so ... Sarawak can become the 'rice field' for Malaysia." The chief minister noted that rice growers elsewhere had turned to cereals for biofuels production, and said big rice plantations were needed to meet the rice national-sufficiency goal. Transportation and irrigation infrastructure investment will be required to make this possible.

Mohd Peter Davis, a scientist at Universiti Putra Malaysia and a representative of the LaRouche movement in the country, who has endorsed Zepp LaRouche's call for emergency action on the food crisis, has long warned that the intentional dependence on food imports could result in disaster for Malaysia. He is now campaigning for high-tech programs of all kinds, including how to expand the animal protein supply, by using "deep tropical" animal husbandry, with livestock confinement and intense forage production. (See EIR, April 25, 2008).

Australia: (From report by the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC), May 10.) Australia can double its wheat production in 2008-09, in fact, to 15-16 million million metric tons (mmt); though the doubling comes off two drought-afflicted years just ended, nonetheless it can be real.

While in 2005-06, Australian wheat exports were 12 million mmt, they have fallen greatly since. This is a precious world food potential, because Australia can export 80% of its wheat production. It is critical that none of this be allowed to go into ethanol production, which is presently happening. Australia is currently making 25 million gal+ of ethanol annually from food crops.

Australian rice production has been allowed to disappear in just the last 5 years—it was 620,000 mmt in 2002-03; then fell to just 70,000 mmt in 2007-08, making Australia a big rice importer of 700,000 mmt. The export capacity can and must be restored.

Overall, Australia could immediately cut its own food imports back by 50%, and send out large amounts of wheat, as above, and critical amounts of rice.

One immediate task must be accomplished, on the water supply for agriculture: The sequestering of the Murray-Darling Basin water by first the Howard government, and now, the new cut in water releases by the Kevin Rudd government, must be reversed.