Self sufficiency in food and the Doha round

Author: Shiro Armstrong

Prime Minister Fukuda announced recently:

It goes without saying that Japan, the world’s largest food importer, must achieve greater agricultural production and increase our food self-sufficiency rate.

Full Cabinet email magazine here (hat tip: Adam Johns)

Japan was 73 per cent self sufficient in food production, measured in caloric terms, in 1965 and now has been at 40 per cent for the last 10 years or so, the lowest in developed countries. [here and here].

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has also just announced the Philippines aims to become self sufficient in food production by 2010.

This sort of policy strategy is inconsistent with the rapid rise of incomes and welfare in East Asian economies in the last 30-40 years. Self sufficiency rates fell in East Asia as growth accelerated and protection became costly in terms allocation of resources and output.

I asked our in house expert, Ray Trewin, on what the recent ‘world food crisis’ means for the stalled Doha round:

There are two views on this: the protectionists who are blaming the crisis on liberalisation and wanting to go back to higher protection, subsidies etc; and another school of liberalists who are saying the current high prices offer an opportunity to remove assistance and protection and let this raise production levels in countries with a comparative advantage so as to make the world more secure with higher incomes, trade etc.

. . .it is unclear what will be the outcome for agriculture in Doha. I would probably take a strong position that regardless of Doha the latter approach is the only sustainable one as I did at a presentation to the ACT AARES group last week. This uncertainty was also the outcome of the two sides battling it out at the FAO in Rome a week ago and I have not seen any consensus position coming out of that.

More on this to follow soon.