Sunday, June 19, 2011


Nationalism is inculcated in young minds in the schools and it is true that every denizen on this planet is proud of his or her country, whatever be the fault lines. But time has changed and there is a yearning desire that the world should have borderless countries, enabling people to make seamless interaction and camaraderie. The very idea of WTO is that there should be free trade among the nations and barriers are slowly being brought down to attain such a dream. If this is true how can one explain the phenomenon of "protectionism" that is rearing its ugly head now and then? Any one single country cannot be blamed for this as more and more nations, rich or poor, are indulging in this practice. European Union (EU) was conceived based on such ideal and it is good to see the members of EU working together as a single identity, submerging each one's individual identity in many areas. Probably it is time that a "World Union" is conceived that may remove most of the irritation and reservation among countries due to many reasons. Here is a case of an orchestrated British campaign that has been unleashed to condemn imported foods, mainly from developing countries, as low quality and pressurizing the local buyers to patronize only British-made products. How can one justify such blatantly irrational policies in a world considered as a global village?

"MORe British food is set to be served up to troops, civil servants and prisoners under a new Government drive to stop departments splashing out on low-quality foreign produce at the expense of domestic farmers But farmers fear they will still be squeezed out by the new rules which will require food bought by Government departments, the military and prisons to meet high British welfare standards – as long as it is not more expensive. The new rules come after years in which Whitehall departments have shunned home-grown produce in favour of imports which are much cheaper because animal welfare standards are often much lower. Earlier this year the Yorkshire Post revealed that as little as half of the food served to the nation's servicemen and women is produced on British farms. But farmers have accused Ministers of a "missed opportunity" after swathes of the public sector – including hospitals, councils and schools – were omitted from the new rules and a loophole was left that means British-standard food only has to be purchased if it is cheaper. There are also questions over transparency after it emerged that departments will not be forced to publish the proportion of food they source from UK producers – although they have been "strongly advised" to do so by Environment Ministers. Instead, each department will be required to report annually on what proportion of food has been produced to UK standards. Despite repeated pledges from different political parties for Government to set a better example of buying domestic produce, Ministers have been hamstrung by the fact that it would be illegal to introduce a simple "buy British" rule. Instead, Ministers hope to give British farmers an advantage by insisting that produce must meet "UK or equivalent standards of production". Imports of meat are often cheaper because many foreign countries have lower animal welfare standards to meet - a significant factor in the increased cost of British produce. However, with public spending under strain, the Government has decided the new rules should only apply if there is no increase in cost – raising fears that British farmers will continue to be under-cut by lower quality foreign produce".

The UK is not the only country practicing such double standards as they have good company in Australia, USA, Japan and others who want to be choosy in accepting or rejecting foreign made food products at their whims and fancies! If 80% of the meat, fish and poultry products eaten in Western countries come from Asia, it is not because of the noble nature of these nations but because of compulsion in the form of feeding their population with cheap foods! No doubt that there should not be any compromise on safety issues but if safety standards are set and exporters from Asia are able to meet them, why this wailing against such imports?. If domestic industry cannot compete with imported foods, these countries must get to the root of the problem and find answers as to how processing efficiency can be improved to make them competitive. It is a strange logic on the part of countries like the US when they put pressure on countries like India to increase imports from them, knowing well that their products cost at least 100% more when imported into that in India. Advocates of free market must leave the market to dictate about the products consumer wants to buy rather than indulging in political chicanery!


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