comment by kbog ·
2020-03-28T22:22:53.136Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Regarding food aid, you showed a couple papers discussing negative impacts from 'food dumping', subsidized agricultural exports from wealthy countries to poor ones. A topic that you studied in detail.
I did not read all of the text, but they mainly say: the foreign impact is that it displaces farmers. We send cheap exports, which are in fact cheaper than what a free market would produce, for a combination of reasons but mainly because of our agricultural subsidies. This puts farmers in the aid-receiving country out of work because they cannot compete.
My immediate objection is, why believe that the costs to farmers outweigh the benefits to consumers? If food is lower-priced then that should help many people. I found this paper arguing that the consumer benefits outweighed the hit to farming, on average, for households at all income levels in Ethiopia. It was not cited by either of the papers listed above.
The 1st article also says that dependence on food imports creates vulnerability to price spikes, citing this paper. But local food sources are volatile too, no? Local weather patterns, political instability, plant diseases, etc can create local price spikes. I imagine this would be worse than volatility in global commodity prices. Now, you can have imports step up to cover local price spikes, but you can also have local production step up to cover global price spikes. The former may be easier, but overall I just don't see good reason to believe that dumping increases price volatility.
There is then the long-run question of whether a country should develop its agricultural sector vs other sectors. The 1st paper touches on this. I will have to think/read more on this, or maybe you can better answer it.
comment by brb243 ·
2020-03-29T09:42:25.226Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
1) Both farmers and consumers (who may overlap) could benefit if food aid of advanced economies was purchased locally.
2) Vulnerability to price spikes could be addressed by improved resilience of local crops to weather and by better local storage practices.
3) A developing country with majority subsistence population should invest into rural development so that farmers can first feed themselves securely and second engage in trade of their surpluses as well as diversify their production from just agriculture.
comment by kbog ·
2020-03-31T02:32:13.662Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
1. But WHY do you believe that the costs outweigh benefits? Again - the paper looking at Ethiopia estimated that benefits of lower prices outweighed costs on average. This seems intuitively sensible, too - if we sell subsidized low-priced goods, it should increase their wealth in the short run at least.
2. It could be - and there are also many other ways to address vulnerability to spikes in global commodity prices, as described in the last paper I linked. Of course none of these solutions is perfect and simple otherwise the problems would not exist anymore. I think we should look at the likely consequences within current regimes rather than assuming that countries/societies will get much better at responding to problems.
3. But you see how it's a tradeoff, right? People can specialize in farming or they can specialize in other trades, not both. There can be different people doing different jobs, but every person who becomes a farmer is neglecting the possibility of specializing in something else. If a country has an industrial policy it will have to make a tough choice of what industries it wants to specialize in.
I am adding these considerations to Candidate Scoring System, which is more of an encyclopedia with all kinds of policy issues, but for the Civic Handbook I think I will leave the matter out as it does not have the kind of clear argumentative support necessary to build an Effective Altruist consensus.
comment by brb243 ·
2020-04-09T14:02:38.752Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Sorry for the late reply.
1. I was only comparing the situation of food aid sent from abroad (an advanced economy) and food aid purchased by that advanced economy locally, in the area that the aid was supposed to help. Then, if the food aid is purchased locally, farmers earn income AND everyone gains access to food aid, increasing their wealth they can spend on non-food.
2. Of course, emergencies need to be addressed and prevented within the current system and at the same time, institutions need to improve to enable development of emerging countries.
3. Perhaps farmers can specialize in adding value to their products. Investing into agriculture has been quite effective with OneAcreFund (reported also by Roger Thurow) - and researched by RCTs.
That makes sense. Thank you. I hope that the EA candidates win.