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Dacian Cioloș

Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development

Food for Everyone

European Economic and Social Committee – Conference on Food Security

Brussels, 23 May 2011

I am looking for the discussions at the G-20 meeting on food security to provide a genuine road map for rethinking relations among the world's farmers.

On one side of the planet, over a billion people suffer from afflictions brought on by overeating, while on the other almost a billion suffer due to food shortages.

On one side, the excessive concentration of production endangers the environment, while the other faces desertification, the disappearance of rural communities and the abandonment of land and villages.

One half of the planet dreams of an agricultural sector that is increasingly open to the world, while the other half seeks refuge from the financialisation of the food markets and the unsustainable volatility of agricultural prices.

This disorder, aggravated by climate change and demographic pressure, constitutes a serious threat to food security and the long-term stability of the planet.

The world needs a genuinely coherent strategy for agricultural development. The G-20 must create a new international agricultural dynamic and set the tone.

This dynamic must be based on four objectives: strong agricultural policies, market transparency, well-thought out trade and support for development.

  • 1.More than ever, we need a new generation of strong and proactive agricultural policies for sustainable, competitive and innovative farming. And not just in Europe or the rich countries.

Clearly, agricultural policies must not harm the agricultural sectors of our neighbours. Moreover, as part of the impact study for the reform of the CAP after 2013, we are analysing the potential consequences of our decisions on agriculture in the developing countries. These policies must enable increases in production whilst also translating the differing expectations as regards agriculture of societies in Africa, the United States, Asia and Latin America into concrete realities.

Today, we must clearly state that the European approach is compatible with the right to eat. It meets the specific expectations of European society with respect to agriculture, in terms of the environment, animal welfare, food safety and rural development. This approach will become more evident with the advent of the reform that we are preparing. The shake-up of almost all the export subsidies (less than 0.5% of the CAP budget in 2011) and the decoupling of financial aid and agricultural production show that the EU and the CAP have opted for a fundamental change in direction. We will not be making any U-turns.

  • 2.Nonetheless, these agricultural policies can only be effective within the context of markets that operate on a transparent and rational basis.

The beat of a butterfly's wings in New Zealand or Australia can cause a storm in Europe, a local drought in Russia can have global consequences.

It is this globalisation, alongside the increased financialisation of markets, that lies at the heart of the unprecedented volatility in agricultural prices that we must combat with force. Why?

  • Firstly for consumers. Let us not forget that in 2007-08, price volatility brought famine upon 75 million people, while families in all the Member States had to allocate a greater part of their budgets to food, a phenomenon not seen for several decades.

  • Secondly for farmers, who need some measure of predictability. Their investments are very long term, but they face short-term hazards. The end of certainties guaranteed by public policies to regulate the markets must not prevent farmers from being able to plan and invest.

So what should be done to promote greater transparency?

The European Commission has begun detailed work to ensure that the financialisation of the markets works in favour of farmers and does not discourage investment in this strategic sector. The work focuses on improving the functioning of forward markets.

In addition to this, the major exporting nations must talk to each other! A body must be set up for this. It is irresponsible to take markets by surprise with unilateral and uncoordinated decisions to stop exports.

Lastly, I propose that Europe take up its responsibilities by making short-term market predictions, public and private stocks and harvest forecasts totally transparent so that operators are better informed. But this transparency drive must be shared. Farmers must be well informed in order to be able to make production decisions, which is not the case today.

  • 3.Trade must also be a tool to improve food security.

I believe that it is too simplistic to contrast farming for food with currency-generating international agriculture.

A dual approach must be adopted. On the one hand, trade must contribute to ensuring food supplies in places where they are not guaranteed and to diversifying supplies. On the other, trade can be used to bolster development policy.

Europe has put this approach into action by offering access under the "Everything But Arms" agreements. We must strengthen these initiatives so that the countries concerned fully benefit from the trade openings that are available to them.

But it must also be understood that we in Europe also have sensitive products that are in need of protection and that we must maintain and modernise our own agricultural sector throughout the Union.

Often when I travel, I see that the difficulties faced by farmers are the same the world over. And it is clear that the Chinese farmers I met during my visit to China in March have nothing to gain from seeing the disappearance of their European counterparts.

  • 4.Let us show proof of a new ambition for development support policies.

I speak of development support and not aid because I am convinced that we must be facilitators, helping local initiatives, rather than imposing ready-made solutions.

I am also convinced that there is no real food security if food security is not enjoyed by everyone. Agriculture must reassert its place at the top of development agenda based on one key objective: increasing global production capacity by creating conditions that are favourable to public and private investment.

We must not increase production at any price. I am clearly in favour of a development strategy that is based on the pursuit of sustainability and added value. One such example is a project I am going to launch in partnership with the African Union in the next few days to develop geographical indications and organic farming. Working groups will be set up.

The five pillars of the future development policy are:

  • 1.Pursuing value added;

  • 2. Structuring local agriculture around solid producer organisations;

  • 3. Investing in knowledge-based agriculture and in the transfer of knowledge;

  • 4.Strengthening rural development policies and improving the quality of life in rural areas;

  • 5.Promoting the truly global governance of agriculture with the strong participation of the major donors and an international organisation, the FAO, that is equal to the challenges.

In general, we must step up our action to promote the emergence of genuine agricultural policies in places other than the developed countries. Europe has real expertise in managing agricultural markets which it must share.

It is with this in mind that I have proposed the launching of projects similar to IPARD for the Mediterranean. These projects have allowed the new EU Member States to develop and modernise their agriculture by creating an appropriate political and institutional framework and supporting local projects to promote development, advice and training for farmers. We can build on these experiences.

I expect a lot from today's dialogue with civil society and the subsequent recommendations.

I am sure that Europe will be a driving force in this debate – it will ensure genuine leadership. My intention today and in the coming weeks is to move things forward and to be open to new ideas.

The European Union must act at a European level by using the CAP effectively. It must also make its presence felt on the world stage with a real support strategy to develop the world's agriculture and real ambition for the emergence of a global and sustainable world food market.

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