What Causes Europe’s Food Crisis?


On February 10, the European Parliament’s Progressive Democratic Alliance hosted an event called “Feeding Europe in Times of Crisis” in Sofia, Bulgaria. Government officials from Bulgaria and Slovakia, the European Parliaments of Bulgaria, Romania and Spain, as well as Bulgarian and European representatives of public and industry bodies attended the event.

The main topic of discussion – the factors that led to the food crisis in Europe.

All reports list the war in Ukraine as one of the four most important causes. Almost all the speeches condemned the Russian aggression and expressed support for Ukraine, but in connection with lower prices for products produced by European farmers, tariff-free imports and questions about the quality of Ukrainian products, There was some criticism: European sanctions against Russia and, in retaliation, Russian sanctions against European farmers were also mentioned, resulting in a decline in food exports from the EU to Russia.

Three other reasons for the food crisis were the implementation of the European Green Deal, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inflation.

The pandemic and the global response are directly linked through lockdowns, heavy payments to support businesses that have closed, and direct payments to workers for lost income. The analysis of this issue is just beginning to be approached cautiously. Because it means opening a Pandora’s box and analyzing the wrong and harmful measures that governments around the world are taking.

Most of the criticism was directed at Europe’s Green Deal and its attempts to combat climate change. In particular, Deal’s “farm-to-table” program was mentioned. This includes the following goals:

  • 25% of EU agriculture will be organic by 2030.

  • Reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2030.

  • Reduce fertilizer use by 20% by 2030.

  • Reduces nutrient loss by at least 50%.

  • By 2030, reduce the use of antimicrobials in agriculture and the use of antimicrobials in aquaculture by 50%.

  • Create sustainable labeling of food.

  • Reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

  • Allocate €10 billion for research and innovation related to this programme.

Measures to reach these goals include a 20% reduction in meat consumption, a 6.3% reduction in milk consumption and zero soy imports.

In total, the event was attended by 22 speakers. Below are the key takeaways from the three panel discussions.

Panel 1: Impact of multiple crises: widening regional disparities

The EU recently approved the use of insect meal as a protein source instead of meat. But replacing cows with insects raises the question of where the milk comes from and what it replaces.

In addition, reduced supplies of meat and milk automatically increase their processing and price.

Likewise, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides reduces yields in crop production, again pushing up prices for feed, grain, bread, pasta, fruits and vegetables. In fact, food prices are expected to rise by an average of 16%. Low food prices and environmental protection are mutually exclusive.

Consumers are primarily concerned with price and food quality and safety rather than packaging, as rising prices will hit lower income segments of the population hardest, according to the report.

In addition, event participants pointed out that another problem with the From Farm to Fork program is that operating conditions for new EU farmers are uneven compared to farmers in other countries. Dutch farmers, for example, ostensibly operate on more favorable terms. European and non-European food producers have the same requirements in areas such as pesticide content.

The need for good high-speed internet coverage in rural areas was also mentioned to solve infrastructure problems. Currently only 40% of his rural areas are covered.

In addition, the EU’s energy strategy was criticized. The closure of nuclear power plants has accelerated the use of renewable energy sources and reliance on natural gas. By promoting the use of solar panels, the area under pastures, orchards and vineyards has decreased. The closure of nuclear and coal-fired power plants and the shift to natural gas have made Europe dependent on Russia.

The farm-to-table policy has diverted attention from agriculture to packaging and labeling. Farmers act like guinea pigs during this program. This is because there is virtually no research on the possible adverse effects of this policy.

Panel 2: Food and Health

Several key points were outlined in this panel discussion.

If agricultural production decreases by 30%, imports will increase. It will be difficult to reverse this situation. Declining agricultural production also means higher production in other countries, thus increasing the use of fertilizers and pesticides and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, defeating the whole idea. . Fighting global climate change.

  1. Reducing herds to 150 per farm in the EU means increased production costs due to scale. Such policies are economically irrational.

  2. African swine fever is putting pressure on the culling of sick animals. In addition to livestock, the health of pets (cats, dogs, etc.) is also important.

  3. By 2020, antibiotic use in veterinary medicine had fallen by 43% and by 97.7% since its first introduction. However, it is impossible to completely abandon antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

  4. Reducing the use of bonemeal as a protein source in feed increases the use of soy and increases greenhouse gas emissions.

  5. Attitudes towards GMOs need to be reassessed. Organic products will be unavailable to most people. We need to prevent the production and importation of low-quality products from increasing costs.

  6. Russia’s attack on Ukraine affects the whole world. Because these two countries provide her 30% of the world’s food needs.

  7. People do not accept food from insects, including without explanation from FAO.

  8. Politicians don’t listen to farmers.

Panel 3: Competition and Trade

There is no mention of competition in the Farm to Fork strategy. Moreover, no attention is paid to the issue of supply of inputs such as seeds.

In order to standardize the operation status, it is necessary to develop global standards including product safety and quality.

There are no internationally recognized Bulgarian cheese and yogurt brands. At the same time, average milk production per cow is more than double that in the EU (3.18 vs. 7.8 tons) and dairy consumption is one-and-a-half times lower (187 vs. 318 kg per person). ).

The European Green Deal was adopted by Brussels bureaucrats in peacetime and must be revised immediately in the context of the current crisis.

Much of the population (including the Brussels bureaucracy) does not know how food is produced. European policy is dictated by Greenpeace, the animal protection movement.

European poultry farms are not competitive with products from third countries in terms of price. Many aspects of the Farm to Fork program have a negative impact on the competitiveness of the European agricultural sector.

The largest exporters of poultry to the EU are Brazil and Ukraine. At the same time, the existing policy on imports from Ukraine should be revised.

80% of EU feed contains GMOs, which are allowed by European Directives. At the same time, the consumer is not concerned about the presence of GMOs in his feed. Not using GMOs puts the European livestock industry at a competitive disadvantage.


About the author: Iurii Mykhaylov is a Ukrainian agriculture journalist.

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