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Food for thought against food security concerns

World food prices are on the rise again. In December 2010, they exceeded the dramatic peak they had reached during the global food crisis in 2007/08. Add to this threatening megatrends, such as population growth and climate change, and think of recent news about the severe drought in Russia or the once-in-a-century flooding in Australia, both major staple food exporters. Who wouldn’t get an uneasy feeling that the specter of famine might come to haunt Europe again?

The European Commission has concluded in its communication on the post-2013 CAP that the CAP must preserve the EU’s food production potential, ‘so as to guarantee long-term food security for European citizens’.… Read the rest

Franco-German position on future of the CAP

This week the governments of France and Germany have published a short document setting out their common position on the future of the common agricultural policy. It makes for fairly light reading though the following points are worth remarking on:

– The common position endorses further moves towards greater market orientation in the CAP but suggests countervailing measures are needed “to buffer devastating effects of growing price volatility and market crises”.

– There is nothing concrete on the future budget of the CAP and it is stressed that “a final decision on all questions relating to finances will be made when decisions are made on all policies and the entire EU financial framework”.… Read the rest

DG Agri study: Don’t be afraid of liberalization

Farm interests routinely threaten that any reduction in support will provoke a slump in production, endangering EU food security, and threatening massive land abandonment to the detriment of rural life and biodiversity. The findings of the Scenar 2020-II – Update of scenario study on agriculture and the rural world, commissioned by DG Agri, strongly contradict such panicmongering about the looming end of EU agriculture.

The study looks at three scenarios. The reference case assumes a 20% (nominal) CAP budget reduction, reduced intervention stocks, full decoupling, a 30% direct payment reduction, a 105% increase for the second pillar, and a moderate Doha agreement (based on the Falconer paper, including the elimination of export subsidies).… Read the rest

Lessons from the 2009 EU dairy market crisis

The EU dairy market is now recovering from the severe drop in milk prices in 2009. Perhaps the clearest sign of this recovery is the setting of export refunds on dairy products to zero since mid-November, as world market prices for dairy products have strengthened in recent months.

It is thus an opportune time to evaluate the EU’s response to the crisis, and to see what lessons might be drawn for how the Union can address similar problems in other farm sectors in the future. My view is that there is a lot to be learned from the dairy crisis, and that the outgoing Commissioner deserves credit for the way she handled it.… Read the rest

Comprehensive market price data from DG Agri

Following the recent interest in food price developments, DG AGRI has now released long-term monthly price data for a wide range of farm and first-stage processed products from its AGRIVIEW database. AGRIVIEW is a data warehouse providing a common repository for integrated data for DG AGRI which is normally only available to internal Commission analysts. For example, it includes financial information, market prices, tariff data, and data on export refunds. The market price data on a monthly basis from January 1997 until the most recent date, for both the EU on average and for individual member states, is now available for download as a 7MB Excel file from the DG AGRI website.… Read the rest

US farmers want out of conservation, environmentalists resist

The current high prices for arable crops mean that farmers in the US and Europe are reconsidering whether putting their land into government-financed conservation schemes is such a good idea financially. The EU is well on the way to releasing all its set aside land back into production, and in the US Congress is considering whether to allow farmers to leave long term conservation contracts without facing any penalties. … Read the rest

Farm land price boom

The cost of agricultural holdings across the EU has risen to record levels. However, this is not entirely good news for farmers. It makes it even harder for those who do not inherit to enter the industry, while only farmers wanting to retire can cash in. Tenant farmers face higher prices making life more difficult for them.… Read the rest

The mixed up world of US Senator Chuck Grassley

We all know that the legislators who write US farm policy are not the brightest bulbs in the box. Even so, Senator Chuck Grassley treated us to an unusual insight into his own very special, mixed-up world during a telephone press briefing last week, reported in the Des Moines Register. Asked about the contribution of the US Government’s massive food-to-fuel subsidies to rising world food prices and the resulting hunger, poverty and social unrest, Grassley denied there was any connection and suggested the responsibility lay with people in China eating too much meat.… Read the rest

World Bank weighs in to ‘food versus fuel’ debate

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has warned that high food prices are threatening to undo seven years of progress in global poverty reduction. Zoellick has encouraged donor countries to take immediate action to increase funding to the UN World Food Programme and coordinate a ‘New Deal on World Food Policy’. The World Bank has released a new analysis which points the finger squarely at biofuels as the prime cause of the recent surge in global commodity prices. … Read the rest