HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 c2W
Malcolm Bruce

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what steps the Government are taking to alleviate the effect of the downturn in international commodities markets on(a) developing country producers and (b) the environment, with particular regard to (i) coffee, (ii) cocoa and (iii) cotton. [119008]

Hilary Benn

Price fluctuations are a feature of many primary agricultural commodity markets, including those for coffee, cocoa and cotton. This instability can have negative implications in producer countries at both national level (e.g. in terms of foreign exchange earnings, government revenues and the ability to service debt etc.), and at household level, even in countries where a degree of diversification has been achieved. Any negative effects on the natural and physical environment, such as inappropriate farming practices, cannot be disassociated from the livelihood challenges which a downturn in commodity markets creates for those dependent on the production, marketing and trade in these products.

Many of the world's poorest countries, particularly those in Africa, remain dependent on these three commodities. We are committed to helping these countries reduce their dependence on these commodities and increase their resilience in the face of unstable world prices. The UK Government, through its development programme and other efforts at international level, are seeking to expand trade opportunities, although existing trade barriers (including tariff escalation) and developed country agricultural policies are major impediments to this. The UK is working to secure reform of international trade rules in general and to reduce the impact of protectionist regimes on developing countries such as the Common Agricultural Policy. In addition, there is scope for creating a more favourable domestic environment within commodity dependent countries themselves. This is necessary to generate broader more diverse economic growth that will provide the means to reduce vulnerability to shocks, such as falling prices. The UK provides support to a variety of activities in this area.