Date: 10 March 2001
AGRICULTURE IN CRISIS - EUROPEAN PRESS
Two items of european reports from the beeb:
BBC Online Media Reports Friday, 9 March, 2001, 14:56 GMT
European press says agriculture in crisis; Precautionary burning
of sheep in France; The spread of foot and mouth in Britain has been
followed with mounting anxiety in Europe, and the press there has been
prophesying radical change to current farming practices. There was
a time when "cows
would answer to their own names", France's Le Nouvel Observateur recalls. "There is no going back to the old days, but nor can we carry on along this road," the paper says. "It is common sense, not squeamishness, that demands that we change our eating habits and end... this war of
extermination that humanity has been waging against the animal kingdom for the past two centuries in the name of progress."
La Libre Belgique notes that Belgium has so far been spared foot and mouth disease, but warns that the country is not yet out of danger. It too blames "the development of intensive agriculture which reinforced the vulnerability of production procedures" and the free movement of goods and
people for the problem. For Germany's Die Zeit "the pictures of these funeral pyres have the effect on the public and on politicians of a symbol against industrialised agriculture". The paper sees Britain moving towards the less intensive methods Germany signalled its intention of adopting, following its own experience with mad cow disease. It quotes a British Agriculture Ministry official saying - after a meeting between British Minister Nick Brown and his German counterpart Renate Kuenast - that "our ministers are pulling in the same direction". A latent
crisis "These are unusual noises from a country which for long has prided itself on its intensive agriculture and looked down its nose at small-scale farmers in France and Bavarian hill farmers."
In the view of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , the
malaise in agriculture is symptomatic of "a latent crisis, which
has much deeper roots and goes back a long way". The paper says it
is scandalous that with its Common Agricultural Policy the EU "still
spends 50% of its budget
on the maintenance of ossified and unsustainable agrarian structures". It says some governments are hoping the crisis will pass without the need for fundamental change. "But they are fooling themselves. There is a wind of change in Europe. "This crisis is about more than just agriculture
and the management of animal epidemics. It is about a chance to launch a reform of the EU that goes much further."
Ireland, where agriculture accounts for 10% of the nation's
GDP against the 1% in the UK, continues to express the greatest fears
of a spread of the disease. The Irish Independent says that Finance
Minister Charlie McCreevy is being cautious over spending, in spite
of the relatively
healthy state of the country's finances. And it puts the caution down to fears over foot-and-mouth disease - FMD.
"Of any event that could dictate to Irish politics, there is none more dreaded just now than FMD," the paper says.
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. [Entered March 09, 2001]
BBC Online Business Friday, 9 March, 2001, 18:42 GMT
European farming under threat By the BBC's Rodney Smith
"European farming will have to change" shout the headlines, after the disasters of recent months. BSE, or mad cow disease, has spread across Europe, foot-and-mouth disease has hit Britain and is moving east.
And all because of intensive farming, some argue. But in the period immediately after World War Two, Europeans were starving. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), derided worldwide though it may be, has fed European consumers, and European farmers, for the last 50 years.
Changing it may be like trying to move the British Isles closer
to France - but it will have to be done if European farming is going
to avoid repeats of the horrors taking place now. Germany is
increasingly in the vanguard of this argument with Britain, an old enthusiast of CAP reform, a quiet supporter of the German position. Meat consumption fall
But what of the short-term future for European food? With mass slaughters seemingly happening on all sides, will there be a short-term shortage? Beef consumption is down 30-40% in France, Germany and Spain. Consumption of lamb or mutton and pork is falling fast as fear of foot-and-mouth disease spreads. And huge shifts of demand in Germany and France mean it could get worse, says food industry analyst David Lang at Investec stockbrokers in London.
There is another, more insidious danger. Grain production is also
under threat, if less dramatically than meat. The huge North
American grain market, which produces a large proportion of
wheat for bread world wide, uses genetically modified seed that is rejected by European consumers and not allowed to be planted in Europe. Weather threat
So the European Union may start to rely more on its own wheat resources - just at a time when in Western Europe, the weather has joined the mad maelstrom of mischance that is convincing farmers that the powers that be have it in for them.
Britain took the brunt of the adverse weather at the end of last
year and the start of this year but western France wasn't far behind.
The continuous and record-breaking rainfall of the pre-Christmas
months has been calculated by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA)
in London to have reduced the area of British arable land sown to
seed by 15% to 20%. British
wheat consumption is about 12.9 million tonnes a year but this year's harvest will be lucky to hit that mark. The effect, according to HGCA economist Gerald Mason, is that Britain may for the first time in 15 or 20 years not produce enough grain for its own consumption. Not by much,
but British farmers are used to producing an annual surplus of up to three million tonnes.
Mr Mason, a firm believer in the efficiency of the European farm produce market and its ability to meet deficits wherever they occur, thinks there will be little impact on consumers. Others, such as Investec's David Lang, are not so sure. He warns that the grain markets can be notoriously volatile when faced with sudden and unexpected shifts of supply and demand. He warns that the grain market could be a "tinderbox" if the British grain harvest fails to meet demand - with consequent effects on prices at market and, eventually, for consumers. Britain may not be alone. France has been badly affected by weather as well, and is also likely to produce less grain than usual. Dairy drought? And Mr Lang points to another, so far unseen, danger in another
area - dairy produce. Although the European food industry is, as he puts it, awash with dairy produce, that could change, especially in the British and western France markets, if wet weather inhibits the growth of new grazing, especially during the important spring period. European
farming will have to change. As may the eating habits of European consumers. This could be an interesting year for weight losers and slimmers