FOOD SECURITY SPECIAL SECTION
“European politicians have to be bolder about reforming the Common Agricultural Policy”
European politicians will have to be bolder about reforming the Common Agricultural Policy if the EU is to contribute effectively to the long-term goal of global food security. That means asking serious questions about whether EU taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely. In my opinion it is not. European agriculture is capable of increasing production and productivity to meet rising demand for food worldwide, so it is the responsibility of EU policymakers to create the right environment for our farmers to help meet this demand in a sustainable and profitable manner.
Today it is abundantly clear that the world needs more food produced in a more sustainable way. The population is growing, with many poor people managing to escape poverty and hunger. Coupled with economic growth, especially in developing countries, this will have inevitable consequences on the volume of food consumed and the quality of the diet that more and more people will demand. With consumption of non-food biomass also projected to increase sharply, it is obvious that agricultural output must expand.
It is also clear that open markets for agricultural products will in the future play an even more important role in world food security. And since farming is also an essential component for global economic growth, not least in developing countries, it is no wonder that the need to increase agricultural productivity is high on today’s global political agenda.
In Europe, the on-going CAP reform and the renegotiation of the EU budget should address this challenge. Many member states are in serious economic difficulty and in such tough times, it is critical that policymakers make sure that Europe’s citizens are getting good value for money. I believe the EU can both cut and reallocate the CAP budget, and spend the money more wisely.
For one thing, there is a proposal to reintroduce ‘coupled’ payments in a new-style CAP. This would create market distortions and certainly be a step in the wrong direction. The EU is also failing to analyse the effectiveness of the CAP in improving the income of farmers. At the moment, decoupled income support – representing the bulk of CAP spending - is being capitalised in higher land prices, which is a serious obstacle to young farmers entering the industry. It also results in high input prices, which reduces profits, and creates a heavy administrative burden. I believe policymakers must consider ways of phasing out both coupled and decoupled payments, while allowing farmers to adapt to the new situation.
I want the EU to decide on a future CAP that will contribute to sustainable, long-term global food security and ensure the competitiveness and livelihoods of our farmers. That means farmers must be able to reap the benefits of higher food prices and young farmers must be able to establish their businesses. The EU must also promote research, development and innovations to increase agricultural productivity, as well as focusing its support on public goods and making sure that natural resources are used in a sustainable manner.
Eskil Erlandsson is the Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs