Food Notes & Tousim 04/07/2011

The G20 of ministers of agriculture? Ultraconservative policies prevail

Too much noise for nothing. No concrete help to strengthen the agricultural policies of poor countries have been included in the agenda. Therefore, the only hypothesis against the financial speculation on food, has regarded the definition of limits to trading positions. Contradictions of Europe, which fights hunger only with words

The meeting of G20 ministers of agriculture on food safety, which recently took place in Paris, was concluded with an agreement on five points:

1) more investments in research and development and intensification of knowledge transfer from the North to the South of the world, to increase the agricultural production and productiveness of the latter;

2) creation of an international database managed by FAO with the goal of increasing the transparence of information on production and consumption of stocks of agricultural raw materials;

3) better coordination at international level of food safety policies;

4) reduction of the effect of price volatility by means of the creation of emergency reserves and of a toolbox to facilitate the access to credit through the World Bank;

5) definition of quantitative limits to positions acquired on financial markets
Beyond the announcement of the deal, what is the concrete commitment of countries which were reunited in Paris? For sure, there is no help from developed countries to strengthen agricultural policies in poor countries, but there is only the commitment to transfer technologies introduced for the agricultures of rich or emerging countries. In addition, FAO will collect data on the production and consumptions of raw material, but there is no sanction for countries which will not give up this information.

There is no hint at the creation of a system of global governance of market policies, food safety and international cooperation. Though, the need for creating emergency reserves to face the effects of price volatility of agricultural raw materials is affirmed, but there is no reference to the progressive construction of a global common market. Last, the only hypothesis inherent to the limitation of financial speculation on food, which had been a key point for the French presidency of G20 prior to the meeting, consists in the definition of limits to trading positions.

Everybody has rejoiced for the “historic consensus” while the reality is that almost nothing has changed. And the next , conclusive, meeting of Cannes, scheduled for next Fall, will not bring much more to the table.
In the same days, the PAC reform was discussed by the European Parliament, with a resolution which guarantees that the Commission will maintain agricultural policies funding unaltered in the next future, too. Not a single euro is left to support the agricultural policies of poor countries. Still, founding fathers of agricultural European market were deeply persuaded that the food safety of the old continent needed a mechanism of redistributive balance. For this, they gave up national and protectionist policies and founded PAC.

Nowadays, on the other hand, the idea is to try to feed the poor of the world, while keeping public finance resources exclusively at the advantage of the agricultural systems of rich countries.

On the same day, the Italian Senate approved a bill presented by a group of Democratic PMs named “To build a global policy of food”, which constraints the government to be active in Europe and internationally on the following points:

a) to attribute new value and centrality to food, as an issue not only inherent to producers, but also to citizens and communities;

b) to build a global partnership on agriculture, food safety, nutrition, cooperation, beyond current divisions and superpositions;

c) to give new impulse to international institutions in order to prevent a return to protectionist policies;

d) to regulate financial markets and to protect food from speculations;

e) to set the international guidelines on rural development, to promote the diversification of economical activities and local welfare, and strategies to stabilize global food market and the extreme volatility of agricultural prices;

f) to coordinate incentives on different renewable energy sources in order to find the right compromise between the need for low cost energy of a recovering economy, the need for a sustainable development, to which agro-energies give an extraordinary contribution, and the demand for guaranteeing the right for food, which is put in danger by the subtraction of fertile lands used for agro-energetic purposes;

g) to take advantage of Expo 2015 in Milan, dedicated to the theme “Feed the planet, energy for life” not only to give visibility to the creativeness and innovative capabilities of single national food systems, but most of all to support the demands of world food governance.

This bill, which tackles very relevant issues, which were not seriously tackled in Paris neither in Strasbourg, was approved unanimously with other bills presented by other parties (Pdl, Lega Nord, Idv e Udc). Its contents, though, are not similar to the others. Most of all, Scarpa Bonazza’s proposal does not face at all the international problems about food, but is limited to the re-proposition of another PAC, as it is now.

Other than the proposers Bertuzzi and Di Giovan Paolo, other PMs who intervened in the debate were Giaretta, who emphasized that the use of raw materials for agro-energetic purposes should be discouraged and financial speculation controlled, and Tonini who stressed the contradiction of Europe, which on one hand wants to fight hunger, and on the other hand insists on antithetic agricultural policies, which do not favor international cooperation.

Why then did Democratic senators vote the other bills proposals, if they do not contain the same indications as their own? Why did the conservative wind coming from Paris and Strasbourg in those days, which saw the European governments and agricultural organizations unanimously supporting decisions taken at EU level, induce these senators to avoid to clearly support their difference stances and to express, once again, a very ambiguous position?

di Alfonso Pascale