Agricultural price volatility - Agricultural Policy – Food safety...
Paris, June 22, 2011
Q. – What are the aims of the G20 agriculture summit, which opens today?
THE MINISTER – The volatility of agricultural prices has become intolerable for everyone.
Farmers can no longer buy their seed at reasonable prices. Consumers are seeing sharp variations in their food prices from one month to the next. Developing countries are suffering. The aim was set out by President Sarkozy: to prevent the 21st century becoming the century of hunger. Let’s forget our national egoisms and adopt a concrete action plan.
Q. – What are you proposing?
THE MINISTER – First of all, increasing agricultural production, particularly in the developing countries, so they can be autonomous.
Secondly, more transparency about global food stocks and more cooperation between the G20 states. When one country decides to halt its wheat exports, there must be an opportunity for it to be discussed collectively. We’re proposing emergency reserves pre-positioned in the developing countries, to feed the people worst hit by famine. Finally, to fight speculation, we must better regulate the financial markets dealing in agricultural commodities. It’s not right, for example, that an investor can buy up a third of the cocoa produced without having to pay a single euro up front!
Q. – Isn’t Europe protecting its own interests, with the Common Agricultural Policy?
THE MINISTER – We’ll defend the Common Agricultural Policy tooth and nail – not just because it’s in our national interest, but also because everyone can see clearly that food security, food health and safety, is a crucial subject. You can’t reduce that budget at a time when food, climate and health crises are spreading across the planet.
Q. – Didn’t the cucumber crisis show the limits of that security?
THE MINISTER – It was an alarm bell that showed food always entails a risk. The health and safety chain is very efficient at national level; we saw it last week with the case of the minced beef. We were able to spot the epidemic very quickly, even though the cases were far apart, and find the source of the contaminated batches. By contrast, what works less well is the European mechanism for sharing information about the traceability of food on the one hand and the epidemiological risks on the other.
Q. – Are you worried about the rise in protectionism?
THE MINISTER – To try and escape the real world is tantamount to selling a lie to French people. But Europe must clearly defend its interests better. It can’t impose very strict environmental or health rules on its farmers and open its borders wide to produce that doesn’t comply with them. We must put a stop to this kind of naivety and apply the reciprocity principle to trade. (…) ./.