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Est. April 5, 2002
July 13, 2017 - Issue 707

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It’s Happening Again:
The Dumping of U.S. Chicken
on a
Developing Nation


"The powerful are not heeding
the dangers presented by vast
inequality of distribution of the
earth’s riches over generations."

The dumping of “dark meat” chicken on the markets of Africa is not the only situation where a developed country’s produce is sent to markets that cannot defend themselves, but the dumping of less popular chicken by the U.S. in Africa is one example that needs the attention of those who are concerned about a continent that has been colonized and abused for hundreds of years. InterPress Service (IPS), reported from South Africa on July 6 that America’s preference for white meat chicken has created a surplus of dark meat (thigh and leg quarters) and that the surplus has been “dumped” on the African market, and that Africa’s domestic poultry farmers and producers have been undercut, with the loss of farms and jobs.

Luc Smalle, manager at the agricultural firm Rossgro in South Africa’s Mpumalanga area, told IPS that he is uncertain about the future of the poultry business in his area, as well as the entire continent, because of the competition with low-cost chicken coming from the U.S. Rossgro mills its own feed: It has 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres) of maize (corn), 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of soybeans, 1,500 beef cattle, and it provides feed for millions of chickens.

Smalle believes that Africa’s young, dynamic population could lead to economic revival in the region, but is concerned about the importation of goods that undercut Africa’s own producers. The problem that he and others see is that the imports can undersell domestic production of chicken (and likely other food items) because African farmers are on their own when it comes to financing to plant, fertilize, harvest feeds, and care for their livestock. They must get their money from the banks, at interest. American goods, however, starting with the corn, soybeans, wheat, and other grains are heavily subsidized by the government and, therefore, it makes the price for livestock lower in the domestic and foreign markets, as well, because of the deep subsidies.

Anything that lessens the chances of African youth to find work or, if they are interested in farming, but cannot find a way to start without land or financing, will cause them to migrate to the cities or elsewhere, IPS was told. Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a joint African Union-European Union meeting in Rome recently that youth employment should be at the center of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa.

African countries, then, are facing some of the same problems as the more developed nations that must deal with so-called free markets, even before they establish their own systems to deal with development of production of food and industrial goods. While they try to educate and train their own peoples, with the aim of setting up their own systems in their own unique ways, they are finding themselves dealing with already-developed rich country markets that preach “open markets and free markets.”

Most poorer countries have barely begun to create a domestic market for themselves, let alone set up markets that can compete with the rich countries, the proponents of global “free trade.” Because of that, the rich countries have an obligation to assist developing countries in creating their own sustainable economies and raising the standard of living of the citizens of those lands. The rich countries, like the U.S., however, seem to be unable to change their market and economic ideologies, in order to take actions that would accomplish what is needed to make developing countries full partners in anything that could be considered a “global economy,” if such a thing can exist. Ideology and greed keep them from doing the right thing.

The dumping of dark meat chicken on the economy of South Africa may seem to many to be a small thing, especially since it is so far away and we know little about the people. Out of sight, out of mind. But the displacement of thousands of workers, maybe tens of thousands, and the demise of small farms and the impoverishment of those who work them, is a big thing. It works against the development of a thriving small-farm economy, which can be the basis of a fair-share economy, something the founders of the U.S. thought was a good idea, an economy based on equality in politics, the society in general, and the ability to provide a decent life for families. In that, the founders were just speaking about an ideal, not what they were about to launch as a new country. What we see today, a budding oligarchy, is not what the founders envisioned.

United Nations agencies regularly release studies and research about the danger of the continued impoverishment of developing nations, but they can’t seem to get the attention of the dozen, or so, rich countries that pretty much rule the global economy. Even in the U.S., poverty is growing and creeping into the middle class and it will, to a greater or lesser degree, eventually cause a collapse of the economy and the politics. If the rich nations continue their refusal to help the poorer and developing nations, it will damage the stability of those rich nations, as well. After all, the rich nations, from colonialism to today’s oppressive “global free market,” have been taking resources from the colonies, while giving back very little. Not much has changed in the order of things. The rich are still on top and the rest (most of the world) are on the bottom.

When the U.S. poultry industry dumped chickens that were near the sell-by date on the Mexican market, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, untold numbers of chicken farmers on small farms were forced out of the market. The response of those who were left without a means to make a living was to migrate to the U.S. to find work of any kind, so they could send money home to support families. The U.S. has a president who is apparently unaware of this simple formula, since he is unaware of the reasons behind mass migrations from Mexico and Central America. If he were aware, he would know that much of the migration which he rails against is from U.S. meddling economically, politically, and militarily in those countries, and it has been so for two centuries. Unfortunately, he is ignorant of most things that do not have to do with making deals and fattening his purse.

There is great concern about the migration of young people in great number from South Africa and the rest of the continent. Where will they go to escape poverty, starvation, and war? Probably, north to Europe and beyond, but they have the perils of a great continent to travel through to get to what they hope will be some kind of salvation.

Mexicans and Central Americans, by comparison, have a shorter journey and one of the chief causes of their suffering lies to the north, El Norte, where they hope to find work, even at substandard wages. That’s the kind of suffering that Corporate America (including, especially, agribusiness) takes advantage of and the short-changing is even greater when the immigrants are undocumented.

In Africa, the migration will be first to the cities, which are not equipped to handle the rapid increase in population. When those cities cannot provide work and a living, they will move on to another country, other cities, or head to Europe, and even a continent as large and rich as Europe cannot handle the influx of people who are fleeing the ills. What is happening in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and South America is made worse by the wholesale land grabs that are being made by rich countries and transnational corporations to grow food for their own countries or for sale on the international market. If they are lucky, some of those displaced by the land grabs might find a job, at the lowest of wages, on those plantations, and they might see a bit of that food in their own marketplaces, but don’t bet on it.

Just as there were scientists and researchers who were warning a half-century ago about the devastation to the environment that human life would face because of the air, land, food, and water, there are those who are warning about the rich and powerful ignoring the plight of the poor nations (which is most of them), and the devastation that economic collapse will bring, worldwide. Again, though, the rich have not listened, won’t listen, and that’s one of the reasons that the Right-Wing politicians and corporations have tried their best to defund, or minimize the effect of, the UN, which brings to light on a regular basis the inequality in the global economy.

The peoples of the world are faced with the imminent and mortal dangers caused by climate change and warming, because the warnings have not been heeded for more than 40 years. The powerful are not heeding the dangers presented by vast inequality, over generations, of distribution of the earth’s riches. Ask the rich and powerful where they think their children and grandchildren are going to live, when the time of collapse comes, and they have no answer. Rather, they believe that the privilege they have enjoyed all their lives in their house of cards will just go on, and they don’t see that they are the ones fiddling while the earth and its economy burn. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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