Food Security "Never More Important" Says Smith

03 September 2010

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has  reacted with alarm to today's (Friday) confirmation that the Russian grain export ban will be continued for a further 12 months, sparking fears of a repeat of last year's food riots across the developing world with seven people killed overnight in food riots in Maputo, Mozambique in response to a government imposed 30% increase in the price of bread.

Smith has also expressed his unease about rocketing food prices throughout the Islamic world, partly brought about by the traditional Ramadan price hikes, but on a scale never seen before and necessitating more aggressive government intervention than has ever been necessary.  There are reports of 35% price increases in Jordan, 30% in Bangladesh and some prices in Algeria and Saudi Arabia doubling.

The European parliament's Agriculture Committee held an initial exchange of views on Monday on a report dealing specifically with the issue of food security, which will be drafted by Romanian Social Democrat MEP Daciana Octavia SÂRBU,  with Smith as "Shadow Rapporteur" on the dossier. Smith is concerned that the primacy of domestic and European food security is being lost in future reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy, and will be working closely to highlight the issue.

Smith said:

"Food security has to be seen as every bit as important as our national security, and the states of the EU spend enough money on guns and tanks and bombs.

 "Food riots are not a distant hypothetical fear, they are happening now and we live in a globally interconnected market, where the poorest will suffer, at home and abroad, if we do not get our policies right.

 "I have said time and again that the primary purpose of the Common Agriculture Policy has to be the production of food, and the maintenance of a food production infrastructure.  All else: the agri environment schemes, the birds, the wetlands, the hedges, the diversification and all the rest of it, is secondary.  If the net effect of our European policies is that people walk away from farming and productive land goes to waste then we are failing in our duty, and we need to rework our policies.

 "I'm concerned to increasingly hear a, to my mind, intellectually lazy and ideologically driven assumption in future reforms that we do not need to be worried should we scale back our domestic production because the global market will provide, while we enjoy bird-watching and quad-biking on land that could be producing our food.  This rests on two massive assumptions.  Firstly that the global food supply chain will function, and surely ash clouds, rising energy prices and political instability should make us cautious on that one.  It also assumes that people will want to and be able to sell to us, and with climate change and rising populations worldwide we cannot take that for granted either.

"There is a lot at stake in these discussions, and they are too important to be hijacked by vested interests, however well meaning.  I hope that global events will make us focus on the core issues, even if the peripheral ones do presently get most of the attention."