EU World’s Biggest Net Importer of Agricultural Produce While Neglecting Critical Investment in Agricultural Research

The EU Ranks as the World’s Biggest Net Importer of Agricultural Produce While Neglecting Critical Investment in Agricultural Research
Press Release
BERLIN, October 13, 2010 /PRNewswire/ —
International Competition for Agricultural Production Land is Rising Dramatically

The food situation in poor countries continues to deteriorate. On World Food Day, October 16th, the number of starving people worldwide will have reached a staggering 925 million.
“Even assuming the very best possible scenario, the poorest nations will fail by a wide margin to produce enough food to feed their own populations over the coming decades,” says Harald von Witzke, President of the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture. “This rapidly growing shortfall can only be met if richer nations are able to produce and export more food. So far, the EU has turned a blind eye to this looming crisis. Despite the urgent need for immediate action, this important issue has received little or no publicity.”

Von Witzke believes that the EU has neglected critical investment in agricultural research for far too long. In the meantime, it has become the world’s biggest net importer of agricultural produce. This means that in order to meet its own demand for food, natural fibres, bio-energy and other agricultural products, the EU uses a virtual land area in other countries of about 35 million hectares, equivalent to the size of Germany. The last ten years alone have seen net EU imports from virtual agricultural land increase by 10 million hectares.
“The EU has become a huge virtual land-user outside of its own territory,” says von Witzke. He points out that this expansion of land by the EU overseas is leading to deforestation and contributing to climate change.

“We must collectively demand that the EU fully commits to innovation and high productivity in agriculture. This is vital if we are to eradicate hunger, make a stand against climate change, and maintain natural habitats.”

About HFFA
The Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture is a leading Berlin-based think tank in global agriculture, bringing together a unique group of internationally recognised experts from science, civil society and industry. Its goal is to develop scientific-based policy recommendations for the future of global food and agriculture.
    Contact:
    Prof. h. c. Harald von Witzke
    Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture e. V.
    hvwitzke@agrar.hu-berlin.de
    Phone: +49-30-2093-6233
    Mobile: +49-177-400-1187

SOURCE Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture e. V.

UPDATE
Note from reader Andre at Biofortified
The underlying study is at
 http://www.opera-indicators.eu/assets/files/News/Final_Report_Humboldt_Opera.pdf

Easy to read 41 pages, large print and lots of tables.  Worth perusing.

David Tribe

Written by David Tribe

David Tribe’s research career in academia and industry has covered molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbial evolution and biotechnology. He has over 60 publications and patents. Dr. Tribe's recent activities focus on agricultural policy and food risk management. He teaches graduate programs in food science and risk management as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne.

4 comments

  1. This is one of the most misleading blurbs(it’s not really an article)I have read. The EU exports(often subsidized)food as well as importing it. The British import chicken from Brazil and France exports chicken to West Africa, for one example. Europe already has high productivity.
    What imported food is he talking about? Europe has plenty of food but farmers have trouble making a living because corporate supermarket chains refuse to pay a price that makes them viable. In France in the summer there were protests by dairy farmers who were forced to sell at a loss. Now there is the same thing with apples. Some farmers are forced to attract clients directly to their farms or go to farmers’ markets to make a go of it.
    The answer is hardly for Europe to expand exports. How are the Africans going to pay for it? The answer, and you will probably say GMO’s are part of it, is to make African agriculture viable–and by the way to allow European farmers to make a living.
    So, Europe uses virtual land use. The last I read, foreign countries, mostly from the far east and some arab countires have bought or leased 40 million hectares of land in Africa(I mentioned in a another thread). Korea not so long ago leased thousands of hectares in Madegascar. These farms bring very little employment.
    If we follow this good professor’s advice, we will make much of Africa a permanent basket-case.

  2. The headline left out the third leg of the tripod: Europe as the world’s leading exporter of legislation.
    Europe is so affluent that it can spend 60 percent of tax revenues on persons exhibiting farmer-like behaviors.
    Europe and its NGOs have been more effective in stifling agriculture in Africa and Asia than any region on Earth. Yes, they have money to spend on that effort, too — they do it by exporting regulations.
    Europe is pitifully dependent on food imports to keep itself viable. What it has done in return is to blackmail exporters into adopting Euro-style rules and laws.

  3. I have not found anything on the website of the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture… Does not augur well for their credibility. It is a shame since the call for investments in R&D is indeed vitally important.
    I’ll agree with Bernarda that this is a highly misleading blurb, but not for her reasons. One has to look at the detail to derive meaningful statements. Europe’s largest imports in value terms are soybeans and soymeal, coffee, banana, wine and cocoa beans (most recent summary at http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/publi/map/02_07.pdf). That identifies a gap in agricultural policy (which has a historical background) and in agro-climatic conditions.
    Europe is also one of the largest exporters. Whilst its largest exports in value terms are in processed food, its position on commodities is not insignificant. After all, why are other exporters hammering so hard on the subsidies argument?
    As regards subsidies, it begs reminding that they come essentially from the European Union budget, which represents something between 1.1 and 1.2 percent of Gross National Income. Roughly half of the budget goes to agriculture and rural development.

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