[12 October 2011] BRUSSELS – “The CAP is a 50 billion euro contradiction of the EU’s commitment to help put developing world agriculture back on its feet, and will remain so under today’s reform plans. Farm subsidies of this magnitude will always produce distortions,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, in response to today’s CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform proposals from the European Commission.
“The main victims are developing world farmers, who are crowded out of their own markets by subsidized western produce. The EU has opened its doors to developing world exports, but this is worth nothing if small-holders in the South cannot sell staple crops on their home markets,” Mr. De Schutter underlined.
The Special Rapporteur noted that in their attempts to ensure access to food for vulnerable population groups, low-income countries often look to cheap food imports from abroad. But this makes these countries very vulnerable to price shocks, and it represents a strong disincentive for local producers. “We must help them succeed in a transition that will reduce their dependency on food imports in the long-term by rebuilding their broken agricultural systems,” he said, “not feed them – but help them feed themselves.”
“Maintaining huge farm subsidies in the West cannot be justified by the objective of ‘feeding the world’. If increases in food production rise in tandem with further marginalization of small-scale farmers in developing countries, the battle against hunger and malnutrition will be lost.”
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the European Commission’s plans to cap payments to the EU’s biggest farms, and to make a portion of subsidies subject to a higher environmental baseline. “Redirecting money away from large, polluting farms, and towards those who really need it, is a step in the right direction,” De Schutter stated. “But green requirements should underpin every penny of the taxpayer’s money - not a meager 30 percent. CAP reform should also do more to cut the EU’s dependency on the burgeoning soya and maize imports which feed European livestock, and strain natural resources in the rest of the world.”
But he warned that the most worrying aspect is the CAP budget. “There is still too much public money being ploughed into making EU agriculture internationally competitive – money which cannot be matched in the developing world,” he said.
While the CAP budget will shrink in real terms, the Commission’s reform proposals effectively maintain direct payments at current levels by shifting other spending requirements into external budget lines. A €3.5 billion ‘emergency reserve’ will be established to finance market intervention tools such as export refunds.
“The CAP budget may look smaller, but this is a trick of the light. EU farming will continue to benefit from generous direct subsidies. Anything that facilitates food exports at artificially low prices is a form of dumping, and will influence poor farmers in the developing world.”.
“It is even more worrying that Brussels wishes to continue granting export refunds,” the independent expert said. “The EU should not wait for completion of the WTO’s Doha Round to phase out what are clearly trade-distorting tools.”
“Farmers need support,” the Special Rapporteur said, but “subsidies should not transform into dumping. The EU must stop asking developing countries to open their markets to its own highly subsidized food exports. It must also undertake detailed monitoring of the impacts of its farm exports on developing countries, consult developing world farmer organizations, and conduct a proper assessment of the impact of CAP reform on the right to food.”
The UN expert welcomed the European Parliament’s recent adoption of the Zimmer Report, which sounds a timely call for negative impacts of the CAP on developing world food markets to be assessed and tackled. De Schutter urged MEPs to use their powers of co-decision to bring the CAP reform proposals into line with food security objectives and with the so-called European “Policy Coherence for Development commitment,” which seems hardly integrated in the reform.
Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization. For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm or www.srfood.org
“The Common Agricultural Policy towards 2020: The role of the European Union in supporting the realization of the right to food,” by Olivier De Schutter http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/otherdocuments/20110617_cap-reform-comment.pdf