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The new CAP should also be a pact with developing countries

Posted by Joaquin Munoz on 10 June 2010

As Europe prepares to negotiate a new common agricultural policy, we want to emphasize that in today’s world, it is impossible to consider the issue without also examining its inevitable corollaries, such as the quality of our diet, maintaining biodiversity, climate change, and the development of rural areas in emerging countries.

We must first reaffirm the urgent need for agricultural policies in both developed and developing countries. Agriculture is a unique sector of activity. It is the foundation of our diet and it has an impact on our environment, our economy, and our territories, all the while being subject to the vagaries of climate. It is both essential to life and constitutes a defining element that structures the identity of our societies. This is the reason why it must be guided by political will and not be buffeted by market forces. Post-war European leaders understood this on a profound level, which led them to the creation of the CAP.

However, the policy’s limitations started to be felt in the 1980s. Support through price control and export subsidies warped the original intent; leading to negative environmental consequences and the export of surplus products at below market cost to developing countries, which then jeopardized local, unsubsidized production.

European agriculture should not produce imbalances in developing countries

Despite successive reforms of the CAP, it is vital we guide European agriculture so that it does not produce imbalances in developing countries. While agricultural policies enabled the United States and Europe to protect and develop their agriculture, developing countries, forced by international institutions to open their borders and deregulate their markets, witnessed the disorganization and discouragement of their agricultural. Their food sovereignty was thus endangered.

Therefore, the new CAP must stop the antagonistic competition between farmers. If we maintain a CAP in Europe, we must also establish a genuine pact with developing countries.

This requires us to change our approach; we must move away from state led decisions to a true cooperative process within concerned sectors

Preserving family farmers

Worldwide, eight hundred million peasants are family farmers. This traditional production method plays a fundamental role in structuring societies. Wherever appropriate, it is crucial to preserve this model in order to avoid a mass exodus. We must strengthen the model, transforming it into a pillar of agriculture organization. To do so requires encouraging family farmers to consolidate into cooperatives, which may in turn develop into organized entities within the sector, first at the national then the sub-regional levels. These organizations can then take part in participatory processes to stimulate market regulations.

Fair trade markets are current examples that these regulations are possible. Within such a context, guaranteed minimum prices are determined after consultations with networks of producers and other economic players in the field.

Thus structured, players can acquire a real working knowledge of markets and related issues. It is indeed a necessary condition to maintain competitive balance; he who possesses information, possesses the power. The choice of products can thus be made consciously, in full awareness.

An agricultural pact between Europe and emerging countries must also include sustainable land management by local communities and a verifiable list of environmental specifications to promote environmentally sustainable production methods that preserve ecosystems.

In addition to the involvement of farmers in the different networks and channels, we must raise awareness amongst citizen-consumers concerning the conditions and stakes of production. Agricultural products should no longer be regarded as merely a flow of interchangeable products. Prices should also incorporate the producer’s survival and development costs as well as that of territorial management. These new prices must also take into account hidden costs such as pollution and the loss of biodiversity, which must no longer be shouldered by the taxpayers or future generations.

The lack of organized stakeholders in developing countries

These measures have already been successfully tested in the life-size laboratory embodied by the international label Fairtrade / Max Havelaar. They could inspire future agricultural policies for both developed and developing countries, particularly in the management of transnational, agricultural industries. This entails overcoming several obstacles. The first is the lack of organized stakeholders in developing countries; their emergence must be encouraged all the while dissipating problems linked to corruption. In many countries, this means strengthening the vigilance of non-governmental groups.

We must also utterly change paradigms by extracting agricultural commodities from a logic of total liberalization issued from WTO negotiations. Finally, we must invest to both improve yields within the framework of ecological sustainability and secondly to reinstate regulatory tools for agricultural raw materials.

Joaquin Muñoz

Directeur / Executive director

Max Havelaar France

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