FOOD SECURITY SPECIAL SECTION
“The CAP cannot be replicated, of course, but its development over time can be a source of inspiration”
With food security fast becoming a global concern, it is useful to see what lessons can be learnt from Europe’s experience of its Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP was introduced 50 years ago with a credo of “no more hunger” and the aim of increasing agricultural production and investment in order to promote social stability and economic growth. By putting agriculture at the heart of European integration, the CAP enhanced food security to such an extent that high-quality, affordable food is now widely available across Europe. Agribusinesses are among the EU’s biggest employers, while agriculture as a sector contributes significantly to European GDP.
In other words, the CAP worked. It helped farmers to raise their productivity substantially, enabling agribusinesses to develop, which in turn supported wider economic growth. This is a strong argument in favour of others following Europe’s example. The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, for instance, already reflects CAP principles by focussing investment on rural infrastructure, regional market integration and agricultural research. The CAP cannot be replicated, of course, but its development over time can be a source of inspiration, encouraging other world regions to create a stable and competitive environment for both farmers and agribusiness.
This is not to say that Europe cannot learn lessons from developments elsewhere. Consecutive CAP reforms have shown that Europe can always do better. A modern agricultural policy, one that contributes to world food security, should strive towards openness and a level playing field, not protectionism. Global policymakers should also aim to make agriculture viable environmentally as well as economically and socially. Open markets, entrepreneurship and innovation are keys to achieving these goals. As the saying goes, we have to produce “more with less” by making sure that farming practises are highly productive, resource efficient and climate smart.
The EU and its member states will continue to step up to the challenge of feeding 9bn people by 2050. This will require more agricultural research, plus appropriate training and extension services for farmers. It will also need a business environment that promotes private investment, innovation and enterprise as well as resource efficiency. Above all, it will demand close co-operation between the public and the private sectors to unleash the market’s potential to strengthen farm production in a sustainable manner. When we do this, agriculture will become a vehicle for economic growth, enhanced food security and a green environment.
Hans Hoogeveen is the Director General, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation