"We must make it clear that agriculture is a strong and important sector"
- Federal Minister Christian Schmidt
Speech by Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, at the inauguration of the International Green Week
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Bearing global responsibility for sustainable agriculture
"End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture." This was the ambitious goal that the international community set itself in New York last September. By 2030 we want to end hunger in the world. That is our field which we need to till in order to be able to bring in the harvest.
Yes, the goal is attainable. We can achieve it if we all join forces. The 81st Green Week, which we are inaugurating today, shows what is possible, and how we can sustainably feed the world population . It shows the achievements and pride of the agricultural and food industries; it shows responsibility and sustainability in practice; and it shows our green professions' way of life and joie de vivre.
Justus von Liebig once said that "unfortunately, the true beauty of agriculture, the fact that it has a cerebral element and a the same time a soul, is hardly ever recognised." The opposite is the case at the Green Week.
Here we can feel agriculture's soul.
With respect and gratitude, I would like to greet all farmers, rural women, rural youth and above all our international guests, particular from Morocco, which is our partner country for 2016 and the IGW's first non-European partner country ever. Your Majesty, esteemed colleague Akhannouch, thank you for your impressive presentation on your country's culture and agricultural and food industries! With this presentation, you have sent a clear signal about the cooperation that is needed between Europe and Africa - to create the living conditions for a united world without hunger!
We will not be able to achieve this ambitious goal of having a world without hunger without good and modern agriculture. Both our countries traditionally cooperate closely in the agricultural sector; in 2014 we celebrated a further milestone in our joint efforts with the opening of the German-Moroccan Centre of Excellence for Agriculture in Sidi Slimane. I would also like to compliment you on your "Maroc vert" initiative, which you are using to promote sustainability in the development of your country's agricultural sector!
We must also stand together when dealing with the current refugee crisis. Hunger and a lack of prospects in rural areas are often causes of destabilisation and migration. This is where we must take action! We must strengthen sustainable and site-adapted agriculture to support people's efforts to feed themselves and to create a viable future for themselves in their homelands.
The current "Bread for the World" slogan hits the nail on the head: "Food is good, seed is better". I want to use this strategy and play my part, at international level and in cooperation with strategic partners such as FAO, in promoting food security and stability. Looking at it in this light, food policy is also security policy! And agriculture is, and will always remain, essential for providing food and nutrition! Agriculture therefore deserves a place at the centre of society: throughout the world, both in the countryside and in urban conurbations.
In his video message for the GFFA - the Berlin world food conference - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon emphasised that "by the middle of this century, three out of every four people will be living in urban areas. Ensuring that everyone in the growing urban conurbations has access to nutritious food is crucial to achieving the goal of ending hunger!" Urbanisation is the "megatrend" of our time; it cannot be stopped. But successful urbanisation needs sustainably efficient agriculture. This year's Agriculture Ministers' Summit and GFFA therefore chose the title of: "How to feed our cities? I am proud to say that our Berlin world food conference has established itself firmly as the largest conference of agriculture ministers in the world. Let us seize the opportunity to cooperate in setting the future course of global food security. Feeding humanity remains agriculture's principal task!
The Paris Climate Change Agreement underlines that climate change mitigation must not threaten food production. Regarding the UN Sustainability Goals of Climate Action and Zero Hunger, it must not, and cannot, be a matter of either-or. We must achieve both! For if agriculture falls victim to climate change, the fight against hunger will be lost as well! Agriculture is therefore shouldering its share of the responsibility for achieving the sustainability goals. We will work together to make our agriculture more sustainable and at the same time more efficient and productive. Setting the right course will continue to be the linchpin of my agricultural policy.
Viable and sustainable agriculture needs a reliable basis
Esteemed farmers, you have already achieved a huge amount.
We can tell people with confidence today to take a look at how green our agriculture is, how many intermediate crops cover the winter soil, and how many hedges and flower strips provide a home to our birdlife. This is what agriculture in Germany is like! You have every right to be proud! At the Green Week we can see that today's farmers are IT specialists, landscape conservationists, nature conservationists, animal welfarists, food and-nutrition experts and entrepreneurs in one. You are performing marvels, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for that! And this, despite market winds having often blown a fierce gale in your faces over the last year. There is no way to put a positive spin on it: income losses averaged 32 percent over the previous year. That is not an easy pill to swallow.
Sustainable agriculture, esteemed farmers, also means competitive agriculture. We need to work together to improve competitive capacity. In the short term, I have launched the liquidity aid programme with EU funds totalling 69 million Euros. This programme has been very well received! The payments will begin in the coming week. Looking ahead, I can state quite categorically that our agricultural sector is not in poor health! It does not need any drastic remedy! What our farmers need is reliability, fair market conditions and good prospects. We now have a year's experience of the new Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP. Rather than frantically changing direction, we must instead take a thorough look to see whether we are on the right course! Let us assess our new experiences and at the same time simplify the system, as CAP must not become an site for social experimentation!
We are of course already thinking about how we should proceed after 2020. I can tell you that strengthening efficient, market-orientated agriculture and attractive rural areas remains right at the top of the agenda. But what we particularly need in future is a better way of safeguarding farmers against risks from weather and the markets. And the Common Agricultural Policy must continue to set the pace: for environmental conservation, climate change mitigation and animal welfare - working with agriculture and not against it!
Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to offer the agricultural and food sectors good prospects for the future, we are now going on the attack: for more value generation, greater competitive capacity and more fairness in food chains! The sector must take advantage of its opportunities, both across the board and in specific lines of business, both on weekly markets and on the global market. We want to use our high-quality agricultural goods to win over customers, including international customers with high spending power. To this end we need fair rules for the global market that all countries can benefit from. The WHO ministerial conference in Nairobi provided crucial impetus in this respect. The German food and agricultural sector must participate in fair international trade and yes, it should also profit from it. Those are the principles I stand for! And I also offer my ministry's convincing export strategy for this purpose.
But the German market also offers potential that must not be neglected. Specialities, regional products and in particular products that meet animal-welfare requirements are in great demand among consumers. Germans are ready to pay more for these products. We must use this market potential to ensure more animal welfare in animal stalls and to improve income for farmers. Agriculture is a strong and important sector which we cannot do without. I must make this clear.
This is why I have taken action: yesterday, I gathered the stakeholders from the "Wir haben es satt" alliance and the "Wir machen satt" initiative round a table at my ministry - as part of a broad-based discussion process. My aim is to talk with each other rather than pass judgement on each other. And - to return to the quotation from Liebig - I want to make agriculture's soul visible in this dialogue.
In autumn, my green Paper on food and agriculture will follow - as the foundation of my policy. My aim is to establish agriculture at the centre of society and to ensure it receives the respect it deserves.
I look forward to exchanging ideas and views with you, with farmers, with people from the many green professions, with representatives from forestry and horticulture, with rural women, rural youth and many stakeholders from our vibrant rural areas.
My wish is that this IGW should also play a part in increasing the appreciation of our foods, as this is the ideal place to find out just how much work goes into making our foods ! This knowledge can no longer be regarded as a matter of course, particularly among the younger generation.
I will therefore continue to expand my ministry's educational and informational initiatives. And I call for basic knowledge about food and nutrition to be taught in schools once again - if possible as an independent subject on the curriculum!
Let us all also take this opportunity to debate with consumers. What occasion could provide a better chance of success in this regard than here? After all, the Green Week is the second-best ambassador for the agricultural and food industries. However, it is you, ladies and gentlemen, who provide our daily bread by the toil of your hands, who are and remain the best ambassadors of all! You are the best ambassadors for having agriculture at the centre of society!
Thank you very much!