German agri minister: Sustainable farming key for independence from Russia

German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir has joined the European Commission in dubbing agriculture a security issue. Making agriculture more sustainable and resilient is an important step towards more independence from Russia, he said in an address to German lawmakers.

Özdemir presented the agriculture and food budget in the Bundestag on Thursday (24 March) after the government approved the 2022 federal budget at the end of last week.

On top of the regular budget, €180 million will go directly “to the farms” in response to the consequences of the war in Ukraine on the agricultural markets. It remains unclear how or for what purpose the funds are to be disbursed.

A third will come from EU funds, especially from the crisis reserve, with which the European Commission wants to support agriculture. The remainder is to be financed through the supplementary budget announced by the government in response to the Ukraine crisis.

The longer-term aim is to make agriculture more crisis-proof, Özdemir stressed during his speech.

Sustainable nutrition to secure independence

“We are currently experiencing this in a painful way: Food and agricultural policy is also security policy,” said the agriculture minister. “If we want to become independent of Putin, we need consistent steps towards a sustainable agriculture that is more robust in the face of crises,” he added.

When presenting the Commission’s plans to safeguard food security in the face of the Ukraine war at the start of last week, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski also stressed the increasingly strategic position of food policy for the EU.

Earlier this month, the German agriculture ministry launched the first package of measures to support agriculture, including the temporary use of ecological priority areas for fodder. However, this step would first require the approval of federal states, who are set to meet later this week for the conference of agriculture ministers.

The ministry criticised a proposal put forward by the European Commission, which allows the use of pesticides on the land, calling it counterproductive for the achievement of environmental goals.

The draft budget Özdemir presented to the MPs also features a financial increase in the National Protein Crop Strategy to increase the supply of regionally produced fodder.

The ministry also wants to invest in digital precision technologies that will enable farmers to apply fertiliser in a more targeted manner and thus save costs.

“In this budget, we will make adjustments that will help us move towards a less crisis-prone agriculture,” Özdemir said.

At a press briefing on 25 March, Joachim Rukwied, the president of the German Farmers’ Association (DBV), also expressed concern about the supply situation for fertilisers.

“I have great concern with regard to the next crop year and possible significant shortfalls in production,” said Rukwied. “The availability of gas reserves needed for the production of fertilisers is also crucial here,” he added.

Hoarding not necessary

Because of the price increases for fertilisers and energy, the DBV expects significantly increased production costs in agriculture, for example, an increase of more than one-third for wheat and maize. To ease the burden, the association is thus calling for a temporary suspension of the energy tax on fuels, among other things.

“For our country, for the Federal Republic of Germany, the supply is secure,” Ozdemir said in his speech. He called on the population to refrain from hoarding purchases, also in order not to drive up food prices even further.

Rukwied was of the same opinion. “From my perspective, hoarding is not only unnecessary, it makes no sense,” he said, referring to the stable supply situation in Germany.

According to Rukwied, the country’s food supply is secure until the first quarter of 2023.

Globally, however, the situation is much more critical, according to both Ozdemir and Ruckwied. “We assume that there will be supply bottlenecks, especially in North Africa, in the Arab region, but also in Asia,” said Rukwied.

Özdemir, therefore, announced his intention to provide more support to the United Nations World Food Programme and to promote sustainable food production in local countries through development policy partnerships.

“The world can rely on Germany,” he said.


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