In a November 17, 2011 communication1, the Senators sitting on the Committee on the Economy, Sustainable Development and Regional Planning reiterated the highly strategic importance of French agriculture, at a time when the challenges have never been so difficult.
With a trade surplus exceeding €9 billion in the first ten months of 2011, agriculture and agribusiness were among the rare economic sectors to provide a positive contribution to the French trade balance, which has been showing a structural deficit for several years.
In addition to directly and indirectly employing 15 percent of the French workforce––as underlined by Xavier Beulin, President of the French Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA)––agriculture represents a key economic segment in the fight against the rising unemployment caused by the international economic slump.
The quantitative and qualitative performance of French agriculture is also a significant factor in the fight against global food insecurity. Confronted with present and future demographic challenges––and the food needs they will trigger––all agricultural activities throughout the world will be called upon, particularly those playing a leadership role on international markets, as it is the case for French agriculture.
Consequently, is becomes absolutely crucial to implement the most pertinent policies at the regional and international levels, so all agricultural activities can achieve the ambitious objectives that have now been assigned to them.
As outlined in the Senate report, one of the main difficulties faced by the world’s different agricultures, and European agriculture in particular, remains the “structural” volatility of agricultural commodity prices, a volatility now “made worse by the liberalization […] and financialization of agricultural markets.”
This is one of the key issues in the current reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which spills over into most of the world’s other nations, such as the United States2, and into the G20 proposals. While the plans that are now proposed are sending out a positive signal of the decision-makers’ will to strengthen agricultural market regulation––the required condition to fight price volatility in a sustainable manner––they must be followed by concrete actions. The upcoming months will be of paramount importance. It would be a paradox if the European Union, whose agricultural production currently posts a significant deficit, keeps ignoring the issues of its own food security3.
2 Please see momagri November 14, 2011 article “Doing more with less: The challenge of the future Farm Bill”, http://www.momagri.org/UK/a-look-at-the-news/-Doing-more-with-less-the-challenge-of-the-future-Farm-Bill_1007.html
3 Please see the declaration by agricultural economist Anastassios Haniotis