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Tom Brake

Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington

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Local MP Takes Tomato Trade Crisis to the Top

September 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake has recently returned from a fact-finding mission with Oxfam to northern Ghana, where he saw how EU agricultural subsidies affects Ghanaian tomato farmers. On 18 September, Mr Brake met with local Oxfam campaigners at the Oxfam shop in Carshalton to discuss the plight facing Ghanaian farmers and he has vowed to take the Government to task on this issue.

Mr Brake, who serves as Liberal Democrat spokesperson for International Development, visited villages and farms and spoke to local people about European Union (EU) trade practices, and how these were keeping Ghanaians in a cycle of poverty.

Tom Brake has written to Tony Blair and Hilary Benn (Secretary of State for International Development) about the situation in Ghana, and how the UK government can play a major role in pulling Ghanaians out of the cycle of poverty.

The EU dumps subsidised produce on Ghana, driving down the price of local produce - with devastating effects on the local economy. This unbalanced playing field has made many poor farmers even poorer, depriving them of vital income to pay for food and basic healthcare or education, or forced farmers off their land completely. These days, Ghanaian families are more likely to be eating tomato paste made in Italy than their own country. Ironically, the EU tells the poor world to get rid of subsidies and then continues to subsidise its own farming enterprises.

One farmer told Tom Brake: "I don't earn enough to give my family three meals a day. I can't afford to pay medical bills or send my children to school".

Tom Brake identified the G8 summit taking place in Scotland next year, and the UK holding the Presidency of the EU in 2005 as big opportunities to really make a difference to trade practices, and help African countries to grow and develop.

Tom Brake said: "For every dollar given to poor countries in aid, two dollars are lost because of unfair trade. Unfair trade is costing the poor world $100 billion a year. World trade rules are a major part of the problem, fundamental changes are needed to make them part of the solution."

Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign is calling for an end to dumping of produce and subsidies that put poor countries at an unfair disadvantage.

Local Oxfam campaigner, Kevin Willsher, said:

"The people of Sutton can make a real difference. By supporting the Make Trade Fair campaign, they can make government aware of the problems Ghanaians face, and what needs to be done to break the cycle of poverty".