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IGW 2014 - Opening address delivered by Federal Minister Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich

Date:
16.01.14
Location:
Berlin
Speaker:
Federal Minister Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich

Speech delivered by the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, on the occasion of the opening of International Green Week (IGW) on 16 January 2014

Opening address (check against delivery)

Salutation,

I. Assumption of office

thank you very much for the warm welcome. Please allow me to begin by saying a few personal words: This event is a first for me. I have been in office for less than a month.

Am I nervous standing here in front of you all on this important occasion? Yes I am. But at the same time I am looking forward very much to what's ahead:

To the new task of being responsible for food from the farm to the fork and for making progress in this area at both domestic and international level. To the new task of supporting our farmers and the food industry to the best of my ability. And to the new task of making my ministry a Ministry of Economic Affairs for rural areas.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am looking forward to these important new duties and am raring to go!

The Green Week is the perfect start. What I see here is diversity and solidarity:

  • from fruit farmers on Lake Constance to grain farmers in Mecklenburg;
  • from dairy farmers in the Allgäu and Upper Franconia to vegetable farmers in the Rhineland;
  • from hop growers in Upper Bavaria to wine growers on the Rhine, Mosel and Saale.

They are all connected to our land and use it to create value. They do that via hard work. They can all be proud of what they achieve. There can be no doubt that they have earned our high regard!

II. Cultural ties with Estonia

My esteemed colleague Helir-Valdor Seeder, our partner country Estonia is also taking centre stage during the Green Week. And it is worth taking a very close look. Estonia is after all 16 hours away from Berlin by car. Despite this, we have much in common.

We have close historical ties: in the close links that existed through the Hanseatic League - the trading alliance and confederation of market towns. Tallinn was a hub in this tight-meshed network, a network which extended from Lübeck over the Baltic Sea and far beyond.

We also have close political ties: in our clear support for Europe and the Euro. Estonia said "yes" to our joint currency at the height of the economic and financial crisis. There can be no doubt that Estonia has cemented its place in the EU!

And finally, we also have close culinary ties. As a Franconian from Bavaria, I can say that with utter conviction as you offer the very things that make up the core of a good meal in my homeland: Roast pork and sauerkraut!

We are very close to Estonia in heart, head and stomach. I would like to say: A very warm welcome to the Green Week, Estonia! III. Performance: Appreciation of the agri-food sector

Ladies and Gentlemen, Performance, progress, solidarity. I think this triad runs through the entire Green Week.

The performance record of the agri-food sector in Germany is impressive. 750,000 enterprises, 4.5 million employees: It is the major job machine in rural areas and provides every ninth job in the country as a whole. President Rukwied, we are in agreement: These key achievers are an indispensable backbone of our countries as economic locations!

The sector provides every fifth traineeship (305,000) in our country: the door to working life for young people. It creates prospects for people, both economically and socially. This is most especially due to the contribution made by Green Jobs - thank you very much!

And the sector provides a superb supply of excellent foods. According to a current survey carried out by my ministry, 80 percent of consumers in Germany are happy with the quality of German food products. And the picture is much the same abroad. Made in Germany stands for high-quality products. we are the third-largest exporter on the global market, and every third Euro in your sector, Mr. Abraham, is now earned in external trade. If you carry on this way, you'll soon catch up with Mercedes Benz!

This is impressive evidence of the fact that the German agri-food industry is competitive. It contributes to the overall export strength of the German economy. And I would like to say to Brussels in this respect: These are grounds for celebration and not for punishment!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The farming industry is an industry. This is my understanding of the matter. And performance tips the scales in competition between suppliers. Performance should secure work, income and prosperity - with products that convince consumers due to their quality. This describes the current situation in the German agricultural sector, and what the future should hold.

Well-positioned family-owned farm enterprises which are able to operate successfully and sustainably, in the interests of both themselves and consumers - that is what I will support with all my strength and commitment!

And, ladies and gentlemen, I will also lend my full support to making further progress regarding the issues of healthy diet, President Scherb, and the supply of regional and domestic organic produce.

The agri-food industry has started 2014 with élan. And you can rest assured that I have taken office in order to ensure that our farming families and everyone who provides consumers with food, continue to be successful!

IV. Progress: Coalition agreement agenda

Ladies and Gentlemen, Our performance is good. But we cannot allow ourselves to slacken off. And this brings me to my second point: We are committed to progress. And it was therefore important first and foremost that the new Federal Government did not put a spoke in the wheel of the country's entrepreneurs.

Agricultural holdings need planning security. Our farmers need to generate income, invest in their holdings, and secure jobs and traineeships. And they must be able to hand on their holdings to the next generation. But one thing is for sure: There is no avoiding the need to protect ownership. There will be no tax - neither a capital tax nor a capital levy - on company assets!

Protecting ownership is a priority in forest policy as well. The Forest Strategy is based on the principle of "protection through use". The conservation of biological diversity requires a broad foundation. We will at any rate not achieve our goals via state intervention and set-asides.

No, we should not put a spoke in the wheel of our holdings. The German agricultural sector should instead be able to keep pace at international level as well. We want to make sure that we safeguard the conditions needed to make this possible.

The tax refund for agricultural diesel was a hotly disputed issue in the coalition negotiations. But we kept our word: No tax raises - that applies to our farmers as well!

We are tackling the national implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy quickly and determinedly. My predecessor Ilse Aigner spent many long nights of negotiations fighting for the interests of German farmers. And she was successful: The CAP has been wrapped up for the period up until 2020. Stable direct payments help to safeguard livelihoods.

We bolster holdings, particularly the small and medium-sized holdings, by offering financial support for the first hectares. And we strengthen all holdings, esteemed Commissioner Ciolos, in their work with nature and not against nature!

What other steps are enabling us to make progress?

Five goals - as pillars built on a guiding principle:

  • Firstly: Germany should be a country with high-quality and safe foods.
  • Secondly: Germany should be a country renowned for its regional foods.
  • Thirdly: Germany should be a country that offers farmers good business prospects.
  • Fourthly: Germany should be a country with a competitive agri-food sector.
  • And fifthly: Germany should be the country with the most sustainable agricultural production system (arable farming that is ecologically compatible, and animal husbandry that is in accordance with animal welfare requirements).

Ladies and Gentlemen, The goals have been set. Now we want to make progress - step by step. I would be delighted if you would accompany me on this journey!

V. Solidarity: fostering resilience with agriculture

Ladies and Gentlemen, This has brought me to the subject of solidarity. The Green Week is a huge shop window for the agri-food industry. The diversity of the goods on offer is held in high regard.

But I would also like to say that those of us who can enjoy this diversity are privileged. Because we look at the shop window, enter the shop and buy what we need.

Others do not have this luxury. They are always on the outside looking in. There are still more than 850 million people suffering from hunger, and two billion people suffering from malnutrition. This means that we have an enormous responsibility. It is therefore right and proper, Commissioner Ciolos, if all export refunds for agricultural products, including for exports to Africa, are set to zero. And it is therefore right and proper if new rules for financial markets in future help to avoid excessive commodity speculations on agricultural futures markets. Europe is now ready for this next step, and we are delighted about that!

It is only together - in solidarity - that the international community will be able to succeed in the fight against hunger and poverty. The success of the Bali World Trade Conference for global trade and in particular for the market access of the poorest countries demonstrated this. That is encouraging. It is in this spirit we are holding the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture during the Green Week. It is the largest meeting of agriculture ministers in the world.

The agriculture ministers of the world are coming to Berlin aware of the fact that agriculture is the key factor for ensuring a secure supply of food. I am confident that we will find answers to urgent questions:

Do we necessarily have to face a future with a few monocultures which have a negative impact on the environment? I say "no". We want to promote site-adapted, high-yielding diversity.

Will we necessarily, as a result of climate change, have to accept increasing losses of resources? I say "no". We want to adapt agriculture to climate change, manage resources better and become more sustainable.

And will we then necessarily, with a growing global population, have to accept a large number of people suffering from hunger? I say "no". Accepting this means giving up. Agriculture must increase production, but must do so sustainably and in a socially responsible manner - with the weakest also having a share!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The agriculture ministers of the world have come to Berlin to make agriculture more resilient. We accept this mission, for a secure supply of food!

VI. Conclusion: Declaring the Green Week open

Ladies and Gentlemen, Performance. Progress. Solidarity. This could be a formula for success for the food supply of the future: at regional level, in Germany and in the world.

I am looking forward to the days to come and hereby declare the International Green Week open!

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