Cotton

In 2001, Africa lost an estimated US$301m in revenue. Photo:Helen Palmer/Oxfam
In 2001, Africa lost an estimated US$301m in revenue.

"How can we cope with this problem? Cotton prices are too low to keep our children in school, or to buy food and pay for health." Brahima Outtara, Burkina Faso.

The price of cotton is plummeting. And not gradually. Every year the price is taking a dramatic turn downwards and cotton farmers around the world suffer.

Cotton has become a symbol of the inequities of global trade. While the US advocates free trade and open markets in developing countries, its subsidies are destroying the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers around the world.

As artificially cheap US cotton floods the world's markets poor farmers, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, are priced out of the game. Oxfam estimates that in 2001 US subsidies cost sub-Saharan Africa US$301m in lost revenue, equivalent to almost one quarter of what it receives in American aid.

While America's cotton barons continue to get rich on government subsidies, African farmers suffer the consequences.