The war in Ukraine has made staple foods much more expensive in countries that depend on Russian or Ukrainian grains, such as in North Africa and the Middle East. There is a threat of famine and great social unrest here. In the short term, we must show solidarity with these people and do everything we can to prevent food shortages. In the longer term, however, the policy needs to be revised so that both the EU and these regions can become very self-sufficient in their food production.
Future food crises must be prevented. To this end, the climate crisis must not get out of control and we must stop the loss of fertile soil and biodiversity.
Dividend prices for the farmer
But these goals can only be achieved in stable markets with cost-effective dividend prices for the farmer. Only then will the farmer be able to produce sufficient, high-quality food in a sustainable way. This is precisely not the case at present due to wrong choices in the EU, the WTO’s trade policy and the associated Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Since 1992, the EU has increasingly let go of market regulation. In recent decades, instead of stable prices, dairy farmers and field farmers have mainly received too low prices, partly offset by agricultural subsidies. In addition, free trade agreements such as Ceta are being entered into, which confronts them with unfair competition from imported products that do not have to meet the same environmental, animal welfare and labor requirements.
Like corona, this war again shows the risks that arise when the supply of basic necessities such as food, energy and medical resources is too dependent on the global market. The EU also recognizes the importance of greater strategic autonomy. The EU is self-sufficient in basic foods such as cereals, dairy products and vegetables, but this is certainly not the case for vegetable proteins and oils. Therefore, EU import duties on soybean and palm oil are necessary to enable cost-effective cultivation.
Food sovereignty must become normative in future trade and agricultural policy. Regions like the EU, but also countries in the global south, are given the right to feed their own people and protect their farmers from unfair competition from the world market.
In addition, cost-effective minimum prices and production management in arable and livestock farms must be introduced. Adjust supply every year to demand, especially from the EU. This also prevents, as far as possible, the sale of profits at too low prices in the global south. Farmers in these countries therefore get reasonable prices and can invest in their own food supply in the long run.
Keeping limited strategic stocks allows us to absorb short-term effects of too much or too little production, which can also dampen large price movements through speculation.
Extra green services
And if European farmers get stable, cost-effective prices, they can meet higher social requirements and no longer need state aid. The bulk of the CAP budget can then be used to pay farmers who want to provide additional green services to society.
Food thus becomes more expensive, but this can be partially offset by holding trade and retail to account. A reformed competition policy can significantly reduce the difference between farmers’ and consumer prices.
In addition, the Dutch pay on average only 11 percent of their income on food, so a slightly higher food price is affordable for most people. However, for minimum incomes, additional social policies are needed so that they can also continue to meet their basic needs.
Agricultural Coalition for Fair Trade: Guus Geurts (coordinator), Hans Geurts (Dutch Dairy Association), Keimpe van der Heide (Dutch Agricultural Association), Maria Inckman van Gaalen (BD-Foreningen), Sieta van Keimpema (Dutch Dairy Council). ), Bart Kemp (Agricultural Holland)
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