PARIS, Dec 1 (Reuters): Farm Ministers from Benin, Senegal and Guinea yesterday urged rich nations to eliminate export subsidies on cotton ahead of the key World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Hong Kong to seek a global trade deal.
"There is a silent tsunami going on which is going to destroy our populations in the next two years if nothing is done," Benin Agriculture Minister Fatiou Aplogan told a conference, "Small farmers get their say", organised by France's most powerful farm union, the FNSEA.
Aplogan also called for an emergency fund to be put in place to manage losses as a result of the drop in the price of cotton on the world market.
But French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said an emergency fund would not end a problem that had to be solved at its roots.
"There has to be put an end to abusive subsidies, such as American ones, which have desastrous consequences on West African countries that rely on cotton production," Lagarde said.
Senegal Agriculture Minister Jean-Paul Sarr questioned what weight African countries could have in the WTO negotiations when they accounted for just two per cent of world trade.
The United States, the world largest cotton exporter, has proposed to eliminate export subsidies in 2010, cutting domestic subsidies by 60 per cent and then eliminating over time, and reducing import duties by 55 to 90 per cent.