EU Food Price Warning In Strasbourg

17 February 2011
SNP Member of the European Parliament and full member of the Parliament's Agriculture Committee, Alyn Smith has warned of the danger of complacency as the process of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy moves forward and reiterated its importance through its provision of a relatively stable, reliable food supply chain for European consumers.
The debate was tabled after the FAO World Food Price Index hit record highs in December 2010, alongside huge rises in input costs for farmers and with increased instability in the Middle East raising the prospect of petrochem-dependent agriculture seeing input costs rise massively as the year progresses.
Speaking in the debate, Smith said:

"Madam President, feeding our population has to be the highest duty of government, and indeed feeding our population is the primary objective of the common agricultural policy.

"Food security is our North Star and this is an EU success story. It is worth remembering there have been food riots on every continent but ours over the last year, and we are seeing governments fall on a virtually daily basis, it seems, across the rest of the world, while we have at least been able to provide a degree of a safe haven for our citizens so far.

"So, food security is our priority. You would not think it listening to some of the NGOs and lobbyists and, indeed, some of the politicians who have been involved in the debate about the reform of the common agricultural policy going forward.

"Food security must be our focus and must be our priority, and I would disagree on one point with colleagues. I do not believe that free trade is the answer. I do not believe that global food security is something that we can achieve or should strive for. Export bans caused by countries seeking to feed themselves are not, in themselves, unjustifiable, and I would quote the English President of the National Farmers Union, if you would forgive me briefly: ‘if we are talking about morality, a country seeking to feed itself is nothing compared to rich countries allowing their agriculture to decline and then expecting the rest of the world to feed them. We have a responsibility to lead the world in producing more, not less’.
Speaking after the debate, Smith said:
"The debate was pretty unsatisfactory, and I continue to be amazed at how people, some of the Labour MEPs being the most shining examples, have no interest in "Agriculture" but a million deeply held views about "Food". It was disappointing to see an English Labour MEP breeze in half way through the debate, waffle some nonsense about how outrageous the CAP is then leave before the debate's conclusion. Little surprise, but disappointing nonetheless.
"Still, it was a useful ventilation of the 'why' behind rising food costs, and interesting to see where some people are coming from. The French notion that everything can be blamed on speculators is as simplistic as the 'bash the banks' mantra we hear back home - if it were that simple it would be easy. Interesting also was the fact that a number of our colleagues did seem to take on board the primary importance of food security, and the corollary of food sovereignty, that other countries are entitled to food security too. Precious few people, from any point of the spectrum, suggested that total global free trade is the answer. Even the Tories limited themselves to easy and predictable speeches about GM and supermarkets.
"Those of us with a passion for food and farming will have our work cut out for us, but perhaps today indicates that people are starting to realise that bolting on ecological, social, economic or other objectives to the CAP is not the way to ensure we do not see food riots in our streets. CAP is about food production. All else is secondary."