But look at the Doha agenda with a more detached set of eyes, and you wonder what all the fuss is about. True, farm-support policies in rich countries tend to depress world prices, along with the incomes of agricultural producers in developing countries. But for most farm products, the phasing out of these subsidies is likely to have only modest effects on world prices – at most a few percentage points. This is small potatoes compared to the significant run-up in prices that world markets have been experiencing recently, and it would in any case be swamped by the high volatility to which these markets are normally subject.
While higher world farm prices help producers, they hurt urban households in developing countries, many of which are also poor. That is why the recent spike in food prices has led many food-growing countries to impose export restrictions and has caused near panic among those concerned about global poverty.
It is hard to square these fears with the view that the Doha trade round could lift tens, if not hundreds, of millions out of poverty. The best that can be said is that farm reform in rich countries would be a mixed blessing for the world’s poor. Clear-cut gains exist only for a few commodities, such as cotton and sugar, which are not consumed in large quantities by poor households
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