The new FAO Director General (and why things will falter)
In going through recent articles on food security, I was extremely surprised to see such a pompous stance taken by José Graziano da Silva, who will step up as the new FAO director general on January 1, 2011.
1. In the several questions addressed to him explicitly mentioning Africa, he sidestepped the question and instead gave examples from South America. Your background may be specific to Latin America, but if you are to be the global director for such an organization, you ought to know the global state of things.
2. He plans to “start consultations with…poor food importers.” Importing food is not the way to go for any country that already has foreign debts, high poverty rates (thus people can’t afford imported food without high subsidies), and no other industries to fall back on when local economies are driven by smallholder food production.
3. He sees nothing wrong with biofuels other than corn (supposedly because everything else doesn’t distort food prices.) There are other measures of good decision-making besides economic efficiency…
4. The kick: he sees corporate agribusiness as benevolent and complementary to smallholder farmers, and civil society groups as a detriment to progress. Even smallerholders in Brazil are screwed over by Cargill and other global traders. Sure, they may have a market to sell their soy now, but if they’re getting below-market prices because the agribusiness has no competitors, then is that really the best outcome?
The few views from his interview that I would agree with (that were, albeit, rather obvious):
- More emphasis on diversified food crops
- Greater cooperation between FAO and other relevant organizations (i.e. IFAD, though one could ask “How?”)
- Less emphasis on chemical rather than organic fertilizers
- Development of local markets (which I doubt is within the jurisdiction of the FAO anyway, but he’s a politician after all)