For decades, earnings from farming in many developing countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa, have been depressed by a pro-urban bias in own-country policies, as well as by governments of richer countries favouring their farmers with import barriers and subsidies. Both sets of policies reduced global economic welfare and agricultural trade, and almost certainly added to global inequality and poverty and to food insecurity in many low-income countries. Progress has been made over the past three decades in reducing the trend levels of agricultural protection in high-income countries and of agricultural disincentives in African and other developing countries. However, there is a propensity for governments to insulate their domestic food market from fluctuations in international prices, and that has not waned. That action amplifies international food price fluctuations, yet when both food-importing and food-exporting countries so engage in insulating behaviour, it does little to advance their national food security. Anderson argues much scope remains to improve economic welfare and reduce poverty and food insecurity by removing trade distortions. He summarizes indicators of these trends and fluctuations in trade barriers before pointing to changes in both border policies and complementary domestic measures that together could improve African food security.
Johann Swinnen (commentator). Johan Swinnen is Professor of Development Economics and Director of LICOS Center for Institutions and Economic Performance at the University of Leuven (KUL) in Belgium. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels, where he directs the programme on EU agricultural and rural policy. From 2003 to 2004 he was Lead Economist at the World Bank and from 1998 to 2001 Economic Advisor at the European Commission.