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Saturday, 01 August 2015

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis delivered a keynote address to the open a high level conference in the EU Pavilion at EXPO Milan on food safety and nutrition in 2050. The first results of a two-phase foresight project were announced and they provided insight and guidance on future policymaking to preserve high standards of safe, nutritious, high quality and affordable food for EU consumers in the face of emerging challenges. The study identified the critical challenges to the EU food legislation and gave broad indications of potential impacts on food safety and nutrition policy areas towards 2050. It was underlined that the future of the global food chain will be largely determined by five major drivers: (i) population growth, demography, (ii)  availability and management of resources and the environment, (iii) innovation & technology, (iv) social attitudes and (v) public policy.

Monday, 20 July 2015

On the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development – on 14th July, from 13:15 – 14:45, in the Jupiter Hotel Conference Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – CTA co-organised the  “Financing Investments and Agribusiness for Food and Nutrition Security: Public and Private Sector Coordination” high-level panel with the ACP and UNFAO.  The panel discussed the importance of private and public sector investments in the agrifood sector, which benefit small-scale farmers, SMEs and value chain actors. The high-level speakers addressed various approaches on the topic of financing investments and agribusiness, ranging from policy support at country level; the operationalization of the policy framework for enhanced and structured engagement of aid programs with the private sector; the need to leverage private finance in development, the mechanisms in place to support SMEs in the agrifood sector, and the urgency to support inclusive and profitable value chains.

In a recent visit to South America, Pope Francis denounced a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs, called for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labour, lodging and land, and urged for the onset world economic order. The Pope asked for forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church vis-à-vis native Americans during the conquest of America and underlined that poor countries today should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries. He denounced what he called, “the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” as he called for real structural change from an intolerable system. In his words,  “This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable …”

The Third Meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-European Union (EU) Council under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is taking place in Guyana. It is the first political engagement, between CARIFORUM and the EU, on the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Five Year Review of the EPA. The Meeting is being held under the chairmanship of Hon. Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development, Planning, Trade, Cooperatives and International Business of Grenada and several Cariforum states are represented at the Ministerial level. The EU is represented by Mr. Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg representing the Council of the European Union, and Mrs. Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade, European Commission. In her opening speech, Commissioner Malmström underlined the importance of meeting in the historically important destination of Georgetown where the ACP was born through the Georgetown Agreement 40years ago.

Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s  foreign affairs minister is one of the EU’s longest serving politicians. As Luxembourg takes the Presidency of the EU, he is well prepared (having already been in office at the point of Luxembourg’s last presidency) to drive forward the strategic objectives. Asselborn explains,  “The Luxembourg presidency's overarching foreign policy priority will be to further strengthen the European Union's presence on the global stage. In order to achieve this, we will first of all be committed to deepening existing relations with the EU's external partners (…) ; [an] ambitious agenda and pursuing ongoing negotiations on a bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level. (…) In terms of multilateral negotiations, the main objectives of the Luxembourg presidency are to prepare the 10th ministerial meeting of the world trade organisation and to conclude the plurilateral environment goods agreement."

At the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development, the EU announced €80-million package of funds to support disaster risk management across Sub-Saharan Africa that will be financed as part of the EU-ACP cooperation. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction congratulated the project and expressed UNISDRs excitement to partner with African governments to implement the programmes. She explained, “This is a strategic long-term investment in building resilience in Africa. It will help to reduce mortality and economic losses by improving preparedness, early warning systems and putting in place systems for understanding how disaster losses are generated in order to avoid them in the future.”

African Development Bank Group and Netherlands based Centre for Promotion of Exports from Developing Countries (CBI) said that viable markets for agricultural produce is the key to diversifying the livelihood of farmers’ as well as exporters. The Bank also recognises the catalytic role of  technology to maximize productivity in order to engage youths in agribusiness in Africa. Both groups agreed on the importance on sequencing the projects in relation to resources required and sensitising Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs), to be involved in the pilot project. Chiji Ojukwu, the African Development Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-Industry Director, summed up the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-Industry Strategy, emphasizes the key areas of rural infrastructure, agribusiness innovation and resilience building and natural resource management.

The European Union has recently lifted its reinforced inspections on 10% of all types of beans from Kenya, including green beans and sugar snaps. Eunice Mwongera, director of Hillside Green Growers, explained, "They will still be testing some percentage, it won’t be on every shipment, so growers, exporters and everybody in the chain will benefit from this (…) 17% of the country’s beans go to Britain alone, so you can imagine that for Europe as a whole it’s a bigger volume. Export volumes will go up and there will be more involvement from the farming community in rural areas. I also see perhaps even more exporters coming on board. Incomes and job creation should be good.” She also noted the important work of the government to ensure that exporters do not slip back in terms of quality and control, especially with regard to rules and improved traceability.

Recent data shows that there has been a rise in feed and food of non-animal origin, which is in breach of EU legislation. One breach related to the import of groundnuts from Sudan, which contained aflatoxins. This data is based on notifications from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, reposrt and information from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), scientific opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as well as information from relevant and competent third countries competent authorities.

EU agriculture ministers called the European Commission’s proposal to allow each EU member state to regulate their own market concerning the use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in human and animal food as incomplete, impractical, or unnecessary. There were many concerns that the deal would create more problems as opposed to solutions and that it could not work in practice without violating EU internal market rules.  Currently, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can only be imported into the EU market if they have an EU-wide stamp approving their circulation in the internal market. The Eurpean Commission grants the permits based on a scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EfSA), and a vote by member states.