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European agriculture policies hit by food price shock

European agriculture policies hit by food price shock

Recent FAO reports are tracking record increases in food prices which substantiate warnings leveled at EU policy makers by the FAO and other key analysts for years.

Recent FAO reports are tracking record increases in food prices which substantiate warnings leveled at EU policy makers by the FAO and other key analysts for years.

“Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winning economist, addressed a high level audience of agriculture and food officials here in Brussels 2 years ago, pointing to the fact that all the conditions are in place for a food price crisis, stressing Europe’s dependence on imports,” said Friedhelm Schmider, director general of ECPA. “The EU has no reason to be surprised by these developments and should be looking to its own policies, regulations and incentives to protect Europeans from high food prices. The key will be to promote productive, efficient agriculture here in Europe and reduce dependency on imports for crops that can be grown here. This is true food security.”

The most recent OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2010-2019 refers to EU agricultural productivity as “stagnant”. It reports very positive projections for food production growth in the US, Canada, Australia, China, India, Russia and Latin America at levels ranging from 15 to 40 percent, based mainly on yield increases. In contrast, over the same period according to the report net agricultural output in the EU-27 will grow less than 4 percent. Growth in consumption on a per capita basis will need to be met by imports. Meanwhile, demand is growing with population (70 percent more food will be needed by 2050 according to the FAO), the cost of energy mounts and prices trend upwards.

As the world’s biggest food importer, Europe has enormous influence on global food prices and distribution as well as vulnerabilty. A recent study by the Humboldt Institute has demonstrated that reducing productivity in Europe has led to the rapid expansion of land dedicated to European food needs. The OECD-FAO report calls this process a “land grab”: right now, an area of farmland the size of Germany is serving Europe in the developing world, risking not only high prices and disruptions in supply but further destruction of rainforests and other natural habitats.

Much more of our food needs could be produced in Europe within a policy framework that actively supports increasing agricultural production through the sustainable use of crop science.

“Europe is currently heading in the opposite direction, promoting unproductive agriculture by incentive and suppressing the contribution of crop science through prohibition and overly precautionary regulation,” said Schmider. “We must strike a healthy balance between increasing food production and maintaining affordability, a healthy environment and wildlife biodiversity. The answer is wise use of the innovative technology available and more agricultural research and innovation."

“Our industry will work with government to counteract the forces that restrain farm productivity and the efficient use of limited land resources; forces that tend to increase European import dependency, stimulate farmland expansion globally and elevate food prices, when reduced income is a reality for many Europeans.”

The ECPA publication Innovative in Nature addresses food price and other issues of priority for European agriculture and food producuction. View the publication at 

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