“The right to food security is a fundamental human right […] and continuing farming activity in the European Union is key in this regard.” These are the very terms included in the Report prepared by Daciana Octavia Sârbu, Socialist MEP from Romania, and adopted in plenary session on January 18, 2011. The text also includes various political approaches related to reforming the post-2013 CAP.
In fact, a wide-ranging public debate has been launched a few months ago––the Lyon Report in July 2010, followed by a European Commission communication in November, as well as the up-coming report assigned to MEP Albert Dess and the Commission’s first proposals to be presented in early summer 2011.
Ever since its first implementation in 1962, the CAP has always attempted to resolve the issues of the times. That has been its forte, its strength, its legitimacy, and has enabled Europe to guarantee some level of food security for its population for close to 50 years.
While the world is changing, issues remain the same. Members of the European Parliament recognize it and food security is still the issue, but so is market stability in an era of extreme volatility of agricultural commodity prices.
Consequently, by adopting the Sârbu report1, the MEPs recognize agriculture as a strategic sector in the context of food security, consequently advocate a strong and appropriate CAP and, lastly, aspire to fight agricultural price volatility.
Momagri Editorial Board
The strategic role of agriculture in the context of food security
The Sârbu report makes food security a “fundamental right for mankind.” Just as getting out of the economic and financial crisis, fighting hunger must therefore be a priority for the European Union, whether within its borders or in third countries.
The role of agriculture is thus reaffirmed. “We will need all forms of agriculture to feed Europe and third countries,” states the report.
While the international environment is becoming increasingly chaotic, MEPs are suggesting, among others, the implementation of a targeted and specialized system to manage food stocks to be used in case of emergency.
Let’s not forget that the EU is not spared from the risks of food insecurity as 79 million European citizens are currently living under the poverty line and do not have access to sufficient and nutritious food. Hence the requirement for a strong and appropriate Common Agricultural Policy.
A strong and appropriate CAP
According to the Sârbu report, the EU must have a strong agricultural policy to guarantee adequate food supply at affordable prices. “The European Parliament reaffirms its commitment to a strong agricultural and rural development policy which ensures food security for all […] and to play its part in meeting major global challenges.”
For MEPs in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Security, the future CAP must at the same time ensure suitable supply to all citizens, uphold the vitality of agricultural areas, guarantee agricultural production in all parts of the Union and safeguard a decent income for farmers.
Regarding this very topic, the report emphasizes the risks tied to “the deterioration of farming income in the European Union that impacts negatively on farmers’ ability to maintain production.”
The regulation of agricultural commodity markets
Lastly, the Sârbu report highlights the extreme volatility of agricultural commodity markets, whose consequences are harmful for both producers and consumers.
This is why the Parliament demands a revision of the existing legislation on financial instruments to provide for more transparency of exchanges. In fact, the MEPs believe that commodity derivatives are different from other financial derivatives and that the former “should be dealt with only by traders who have legitimate interests in protecting agricultural merchandise against risks.”
Noting that recent high volatility is “mainly caused by speculation”, MEPs approve both the findings by Olivier de Schutter, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and France’s recent initiatives in the framework of the G20 presidency.
Let’s not forget that Olivier de Schutter has recognized the role of speculative funds, pension funds and big investment banks in the fluctuations of commodity prices, and that Nicolas Sarkozy calls for the regulation of agricultural commodity markets.
This report deserves the credit for outlining the eminently strategic role of agriculture and of the CAP, which some are considering as belonging to the past. As it approaches its fiftieth birthday, the CAP has never really been as important because it is at the heart of Europe’s economic, political and societal issues. Let’s hope that in the framework of the scheduled reform of the CAP for 2013, European decision-makers will uphold this strategic vision of agriculture, a vision that can be observed in most of the world’s countries.
1 The report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament adopted on January 18, 2011 is available on: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2010-0376&language=EN