Better appreciation of the value of food!

Opening speech at the International Green Week

Ilse Aigner, Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection

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I. Partner country Poland

I am delighted to see many familiar faces again today. I travelled a lot last year. I visited most regions of Germany and of the European Union.
I held constructive talks on the future of the European agricultural policy with many of you. And, my dear Marek Sawicki, we also strengthened our ties to Poland. I am therefore particularly happy that Poland is our partner country at the IGW 2011. Poland has been a regular guest each year for twenty-five years without interruption. We appreciate this.

20 years ago, the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany concluded an agreement – on good partnership and friendly cooperation. At the time, the agreement existed only on paper. We are now breathing life into it. Neighbours have become partners and friends.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Germans will never forget: The1980s saw the emergence of a popular movement in Poland. It was peaceful, It was courageous, and it was strong. We are grateful for this.

Today, Poland is firmly anchored in the midst of the European Community. Poland will even be at the head of Europe in the second half of 2011 when it takes over the Presidency of the EU. We are also delighted about this.

Poland has our attention.For those who do not know where to find Poland: Hall 11, not far from Masurenallee or Masuria Avenue – where else would it be? Welcome, Poland!

II. The value of food

Ladies and Gentlemen, each year, the Green Week heralds the start of the year for the agricultural and food sectors. This year unfortunately started with a scandal. Dioxin was found in feed. We have all been hit very hard by this.

  • because consumer confidence in safe foods was shaken.
  • because farmers and businesses had relied on clean supplies in the production chain and have been deceived.
  • because even businesses that are not part of the production chain have been affected. They have been affected by the loss of consumer confidence and by consumer restraint.

It seems that the perpetrators acted from base motives and with great criminal energy. And they should therefore be severely punished! At the height of the crisis, 4,760 agricultural holdings had to be closed in Germany as a precautionary measure. Over 673 farms are still closed.

Farmers can be every bit as confident as consumers that this case will have repercussions! For the safety of our food concerns us all! Policy-makers and administration were quite right to accord top priority to preventive consumer protection and to investigation of the incident.

And my Action Plan was passed yesterday by the Cabinet of the Federal Government. This Action Plan examines the entire feed chain -
all the way from the feed to the stable! I am pleased that the Federal Government and federal states are in agreement: We need tighter controls and more transparency for consumers.

  • this is why we are introducing stricter authorisation requirements for feed companies;
  • this is why we are separating prodction flows;
  • this is why producers and laboratories will soon have to report results;
  • this is why we are making it compulsory for feed manufacturers to take out comprehensive liability insurance; and
  • this is why we are improving control practice on the ground.

This joint reaction by the Federal Government and the Länder was a sign of our determination and unity. We will quickly translate this programme into action! And we will support by our farmers; They fell victim to this scandal through no fault of their own. It is only by taking resolute action that we will be able to rebuild consumer confidence.

I have also agreed with the Gerd Sonnleitner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, that the Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank will offer loans at reduced rates. Farmers who suffer difficulties through no fault of their own can in this way bridge financial shortfalls.

Ladies and Gentlemen, safety and quality are cornerstones of the work in our agricultural and food industries. And for good reason:

  • Foodstuffs are not just commodities like any others.
  • Foodstuffs are a basic means of life.
  • And they therefore deserve our appreciation, day-in and day-out.
  • We must appreciate the value of food to a greater extent!

III. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Appreciating the value of food also means that we must be prepared to acknowledge the services that you as farmers perform. And I am also prepared to say this at a time of fierce price competition. Quality comes at a price! So that you as producers can conduct your business properly.

We are currently discussing how to shape the Common Agricultural Policy in the period up until 2020. Last November, Dacian Ciolos presented the EU Commission’s proposals on this subject. They are a good basis for discussion!

We are tackling this discussion head-on in Germany and are open for the future development of agricultural policy. Our position moving forward is good. For we will be able to enter a fair amount on the credit side in the run-up to 2013.

By then we will have uniform regional area payments in place. The rule that "the more farmers produced in the past the more they will automatically receive in the future" no longer applies in Germany. This has been included in the EU Commission’s proposal. And we support that.

In Germany, we have established close links between agriculture and the environment. A large proportion of agricultural support will go to grassland areas and agri-environmental measures in the period up until 2013. And this share should and will increase still further. We are in agreement in this regard." How we achieve this aim remains a matter for discussion. We want to farm with nature and not against nature! At the same time we are committed to European solidarity.

Dear Marek: We – that is, German policy-makers and German farmers. We are prepared to relinquish some of our current EU agricultural funds for the benefit of eastern European countries.

However, this should not end with Europe becoming too standardised! Europe is too diverse for this. The Member States are too different for this. But we do want to try to find common ground. Let us draw closer to one another! Step by step!

Ladies and Gentlemen, farmers and consumers are natural allies. This alliance should be revived, particularly at a time such as this. The agricultural sector needs to have consumers’ trust! With this in mind I have launched two initiatives.

Firstly: I have started a discussion process with the different social groups. The aim is to anchor the agricultural and food sectors in society.
The focus in on the major challenges of the future and the existing conflicts of interests:

  • on product quality
  • on food safety,
  • on food and energy production
  • on climate protection
  • on nature conservation and biodiversity.

We must reconcile all these different areas with one another. I would like to anchor the results of this discussion process in a Charter for Agriculture and Consumers!

And secondly: Consumers are increasingly keen on knowing where the products on their plates come from. I therefore want to have a regional label that is linked to clear criteria. Regions have become brands, both in Germany and beyond. I am consequently also supporting the strengthening of regional value-creation chains.

As this will enable us to place greater emphasis on the value of food and regain the trust of consumers.

IV. Global food security and price fluctuations

Ladies and Gentlemen, when I say that We should have greater appreciation for the value of food! - then this also means that
we should give greater recognition to the rights of those who have less than us!

Some 900 million people are suffering from hunger across the globe. The right to food is the most frequently violated human right!
This shows very clearly the true value of food. And it is those 900 million people that are likely to be most severely affected by extreme price fluctuations.

I am therefore concerned when I take a look at the agricultural commodity markets and the rising prices on the global market. While this is of concern to us in Germany, it is developing countries that rely on food imports that are hit the hardest.

We do not want to return to having huge stocks again. We do not want to return to State-controlled production in Europe. But what we do want to do is to make progress in the fight against hunger. Everyone producing for their own needs will not solve global food problems. What should we then say to the billions of people living in towns and cities? - Whatever country they live in.

We therefore need sustainable production, less loss during storage and transport and we need trade. We need a trading system that is based on rules and that has "guard rails". Yes, supply and demand control prices in a social market economy. But abuse or manipulation can distort this guidance. And that is what we want to prevent!

One thing is certain: in this day and age, it is no longer possible to separate agricultural markets from financial markets. Farmers use financial markets to cover their risks, and must be able to do this. And this is the very reason why this task can only be solved by the international community. We will speak about this at the Agriculture Ministers’ Summit with a large number of colleagues. And our partner France will address this subject in the G20 debate.

V. Acclaim for the IGW

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Green Week is a very special week. It can be compared to a marathon of superlatives.From Schleswig-Holstein via North Rhine-Westphalia to Bavaria - from Germany via Poland to Morocco and Afghanistan - we have a lot of ground to cover. An estimated 400,000 participants will be on the starting line. There are food stands to combat any signs of fatigue. These will provide a variety of German and international specialities.

Participants adopt different tactics to keep themselves going:

  • Some, my dear Klaus Wowereit, opt for Berlin-style knuckle of pork to try and get ahead.
  • Others, my dear Marek, go for pierogi and sauerkraut to build up their energy.
  • While others do without solid food altogether and have only liquids (this time I won’t mention any names)!

The regions attract visitors with their specialities. Swabian "Maultaschen", Westphalian smoked sausage or fish rolls from the far North -
A lot of regional products speak for themselves and for the region they come from.

I am delighted to once again be able to welcome many people who are showcasing their regional specialties with great commitment this year.

The go-ahead for the Green Week marathon will be given in just a moment. The Governing Mayor will of course take the lead, driven by the fear of being overtaken this year. But don’t worry: I’m more of a distance athlete than a sprinter.

I would like to wish everybody a delicious run at IGW 2011! I am delighted and honoured to declare (ask Minister Sawicki onto the stage, then together): The International Green Week 2011 open!


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