"We will only be able to prevent a meltdown of the global food system, if we join forces."

Address delivered by Cem Özdemir, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, at the G7 Agriculture Ministers' Conference 2022

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, the G7 Agriculture Ministers are meeting in person for the first time since 2017. And there is good reason for that. I have invited you here, to my home region, because the food systems and especially the farmers are facing enormous challenges all over the world. This is why we urgently need to cooperate even more closely. A glance at the current situation at the Horn of Africa demonstrates this all too clearly: According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the current drought in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya constitutes the most arid conditions in over 40 years. Within only a few months, millions of farm animals died there. Grain production has also declined drastically – in some cases by up to 70 percent.

The result:

  • More than 28 million people are facing an acute threat of famine
  • and since the beginning of the year, 450,000 people from Somalia alone have fled their home country.

This once again dramatically illustrates: We are already in the midst of the climate crisis. A crisis that our agricultural sector is contributing to and that, at the same time, severely affects our farmers. The climate crisis, but also the loss of biodiversity and the COVID-19 pandemic, already posed a major threat to global food security before Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine which violates international law. However, the war is now significantly aggravating the global food situation and is showing us once more how much of an influence conflicts have on global food security and nutrition. But more than anything else, the Russian war of aggression is inflicting immeasurable suffering on the people in Ukraine.

I am therefore delighted that we can welcome you, Mr Solskyij, among us today. I would like to express my solidarity and sympathy with you, your country and the people in Ukraine. We are on your side! Today, we are going to reopen discussions on how we can support your country and your agricultural sector. We already had an in-depth exchange with your predecessor at the virtual G7 meeting on 11 March. It is of inestimable value for me to receive information about the situation of the agricultural sector in your country from you – which makes it first-hand – today.

Germany stands with Ukraine and will continue and intensify its aid efforts. To date, we have successfully provided emergency supplies of food for the Ukrainian armed forces and seeds for spring sowing. We have initiated a coordination body that forwards food donations provided by the German industry to the Ukrainian partners in a targeted manner. This is just a small contribution in the face of the huge suffering that President Putin has brought upon your citizens. And in the face of the awe-inspiring bravery with which you, the Ukrainians, defend yourselves against the aggressor. Further aid measures to provide technical support as well as emergency supplies are currently being examined.

And the European Union is also actively involved. Germany supports the European Commission’s initiative of suspending all tariffs for imports from Ukraine into the EU. It is also important, however, to provide logistical support in resuming export activities. Because millions of tonnes of cereals cannot leave Ukraine – since Russia is blocking the ports, the Black Sea. The European Commission therefore published an action plan yesterday. This action plan provides for several measures aimed at exporting 20 million tonnes of cereals from Ukraine by land within the next three months. We need the cereals to supply the world market while Ukraine needs the silos to store the upcoming harvest. And I am delighted that our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, and her G7 colleagues intend to support these export efforts.

Never before have we been as much in agreement within the G7, across all government departments: the war against Ukraine also has serious consequences for global food security.

  • The European granary is in grave danger.
  • Wheat exports from Ukraine are either significantly impeded or rendered completely impossible.
  • Especially the prices for wheat, maize and oilseeds are rising.
  • Likewise the costs for animal feed, energy and fertilisers.

These repercussions most severely affect countries that are dependent on food imports. Those are often the countries of the global South that are already suffering tremendously from the impact of the climate crisis – as is currently the case in the Horn of Africa. In this context, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “Hurricane of Hunger” and a meltdown of the global food system.

I am convinced: we will only be able to prevent such a meltdown if we join forces. If we ensure that food gets where it is needed most. If we ensure that production is sustainable – in Ukraine, in our own countries, and especially anywhere the food is needed. Through our clear statements on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, we, the G7 Agriculture Ministers, are sending out a signal to the international community. Together, we want to implement the right to adequate and balanced nutrition on a global scale – because it is a fundamental human right. We must react without delay to cope with these challenges. This is why I invited the Agriculture Ministers of the G7 countries to attend a virtual extraordinary meeting in March. At this meeting, we agreed on specific measures which we would like to extend and deepen today. It is therefore good and important that in addition to you, Mr Solskyj, the representatives from the FAO and the OECD are also participating in this meeting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Whilst overcoming the current crisis, we must also continue to decisively tackle the other existing crises. Especially the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity require our commitment. We are therefore jointly facing the task of making the food systems more sustainable as part of an extensive transformation process. The objectives of sustainable development, as they have been agreed on in the Agenda 2030 and reaffirmed at the UN Food Systems Summit, are our parameters in this regard.

The following aspects are vital for Germany:

  • a reduced and more targeted use of pesticides and fertilisers,
  • expanding organic farming,
  • but also the reduction of food waste and post-harvest food losses.

In this context, I would also like to mention the so-called “silent pandemic”. This term refers to the increasing spread of antimicrobial resistance. We need to take countermeasures here. In the future, the Codex Alimentarius will provide a framework for the responsible use of antibiotics. It envisages intersectoral monitoring and surveillance systems for the use of antibiotics and the emergence of resistance – at national and international level. In Germany, we are already planning the first steps for implementation. What always matters to Germany in this respect is that the One Health approach is consistently applied. I am therefore delighted that, at international level too, coordinated action by the WHO, FAO, OIE and UNEP has now clearly been agreed on.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can only successfully master the long-term transformation of our food systems if we take into consideration the interests of all those who produce food. This is why we must shape this transformation process in such a way that it is both environmentally friendly and economically viable for farmers. We believe that we can only succeed in globally transforming the food systems if we involve multi-stakeholder fora. Germany therefore explicitly advocates a strengthening of the Committee on World Food Security - CFS. It is also essential in this regard to consider the tremendous importance of small-scale farming structures as well as of women in agriculture, and to counter all forms of discrimination.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
These current challenges are setting the pace for our meeting. Today, we will therefore solely focus on the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Functioning world trade is the basis for stable world market prices. Transparency of world markets is of great significance in this respect. Reports on investors using the current crisis for speculation are also confirming these beliefs. In order to stop this kind of abuse, we need information and transparency. The G20 Agricultural Market Information System – AMIS – is doing an excellent job in this regard. Germany financially supports AMIS and I am pleased to note that the G7 countries all agree on assisting the support of AMIS.

I find it most disconcerting that input prices, particularly for fertilisers, are currently soaring in the agricultural sector. We have therefore gladly taken up Canada’s suggestion of extending AMIS’ work to also cover the monitoring of input markets. Germany would be willing to double its contributions to AMIS for this purpose. I am delighted that we are in agreement on this matter. And I hope that our G20 colleagues will act on this suggestion and adopt an extension of AMIS’ activities to also cover input markets under the Indonesian Presidency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tomorrow, the urgently needed transformation of our food systems will be on the agenda. We have broken down this topic into two main specific fields of action. Firstly, the promotion of sustainable agricultural supply chains. Secondly, the promotion of carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector.

By promoting sustainable agricultural supply chains, we are placing an obligation on businesses. They should meet their duty of care along supply chains more effectively. This holds true for the protection of forests because sustainable supply chains do not require deforestation. But this is particularly true for possible human rights violations, for instance child labour. It is important in this regard that we engage in an exchange on the different rules and regulations in place in our countries. We will therefore commission a study by the OECD that will provide an overview of the regulations in our G7 countries. By doing so, we would like to lay the groundwork for greater coherence of regulations in our countries and thereby contribute to more sustainable supply chains.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector offers many advantages. Advantages for climate change mitigation, biodiversity and healthy soils. And also for the agricultural sector that can tap new sources of income through the compensation of greenhouse gas emissions. However, we also see some obvious risks here. Above all, it is important that long-term carbon sequestration will prove successful – only then will this help reduce CO2 in a sustainable manner. This is why common minimum criteria and coordinated certification procedures are so important. We will therefore inject momentum into the scientific discussion on this topic and start this process by holding an international scientific workshop.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In view of the multiple crises that are challenging all of us, I would like to emphasise one thing: we cannot solve one crisis by neglecting or even aggravating other crises. We are all well aware that: there is no respite from the climate crisis. A glance at the Horn of Africa demonstrates this. Consequently, it is important, especially in the face of these crises, that we stick to the sustainable development goals.

Because the two major challenges,

  • the current impact of the war on global food security
  • and the necessary long-term transformation of our food systems – on the production and the consumption side,

can only be tackled together.

So let us use these two days ahead to jointly develop sustainable solutions. Solutions that ensure global food security and provide a sustainable and economically viable basis for our farmers. Thank you all for coming to Stuttgart!

Released as speech

location: Stuttgart