Did you know that Jamaicans pay higher prices for farm produce than any other Caribbean country or that Colombia spends the most on agricultural research as a percentage of the national budget?
Researchers and policymakers now have these facts and more at their fingertips through an agricultural database released by the Inter-American Development Bank last spring. The database, called the IDB Agrimonitor, is the first policy-oriented tool for the Latin America and Caribbean region. Efforts to document the impact of agricultural policies on trade relations and government expenditures have been around since the 1940s, when the dawn of refrigeration and the expansion of infrastructure prompted a massive increase in the distribution of agricultural goods that could now travel further afield. By the 1960s, the global economy had expanded so much that researchers began developing “protection theories” to evaluate the impact of tariffs.
While working as an economist for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Professor. Timothy Josling began applying a concept he titled the “producer subsidy equivalent” or “producer support estimate” (PSE) as a way of measuring agricultural competitiveness. With this indicator, governments can measure the annual monetary value of transfers from consumers and taxpayers to agricultural producers, along with spending on services and infrastructure. Today, Josling’s PSE concept has never been so important with important issues such as climate change, food security and regional integration on the agenda. Together with the IDB, Professor Josling has helped to modernize the use of this indicator through the IDB Agrimonitor
The historic account of Agricultural Policies is a deep one, influenced by global events; and one which its ancestry may deserve a blog on its own. What matters most, is that researchers and institutions including the IDB have over the years committed to calculating the indicators of agricultural support and the use of these calculations for measuring policy has become invaluable.
For example, did you know that the producer price for Bananas in Ecuador in 2012 was $292, almost twice the price received in 2006 ($150/tonne)? The IDB Agrimonitor can also tell you how this price compares to other countries and the world reference price. There are many other questions to be answered; questions from payments to subsidies and from commodity transfers to support estimates. After all, doesn’t every taxpayer want to know how their hard-earned money is being spent?
This new database makes “agro-knowledge” easy for users. There is no need to search through 100-page reports, or rip the appendix from a study. Best of all, there is no need to send constant reminders to the Ministries or the Central Bank just to know the value of milk production and whether it is soy, goat or cow milk. The truth is, we don’t have that information either but we do have what you are REALLY looking for. The IDB Agrimonitor also goes beyond agriculture and delves into other special topics such as climate change, food security, market integration and agriculture competitiveness.
While the IDB embraces traditional studies and research, the bank is excited to find out how an online data tool can further agricultural information gathering and policymaking. The information is no longer out there, it is right here!! We have done your homework… so go ahead, start searching!!