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European Commissioner Ciolos: EU under no food crisis threat

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos believes that a food crisis in the European Union (EU) is currently out of question.

'At European level we are not so poorly stocked and a food crisis triggered in the EU due to a shortage in market supplies is out of question. Stocks are being sold and replenished by purchase, but the EU has a real production potential. Things are not so bad and there is no reason for concern. We must see how this year's harvest will be,' Dacian Ciolos said on Friday. As for Romania's possibly slipping into a food crisis, as increasingly more voices have been sounding alarm in the last period, Commissioner Ciolos said that he cannot express a well-grounded opinion.

'I do not want to give advice, but I have said it before that the starting point is to have a direction defined for several years, stating what you want to do, in which sectors and regions, using a particular type of resources. This is a necessary but maybe not sufficient condition, but it is a starting point and only then you can proceed to specifically explain how you want to feed 30-40-50 million people. A lot of African countries have potential, but it should be capitalized on. Knowing how to capitalize on the country's resources by using EU funds, being aware of the prospects of the common market, but of the world prospects as well - these questions for Romania, not the Commissioner for Agriculture to answer. My response is through the CAP, which benefits Romania too, but its way of doing so depends on the country's authorities, and not just on the minister in charge, but also on how farmers get organized,' said the Commissioner.

According to him, the trend across Europe in the next period is for food prices to stay high due to increased volatility. 'We must combat volatility for producers to get a minimal perspective, a certain margin where the prices will be, to know how to plan their investments. Otherwise, this is a vicious circle. There is demand on the global food market, potential is there all right, but farmers do not invest because you need a minimum of a perspective for several years ahead to know how much you can recover. We are trying to identify tools [to control] the high volatility of prices,' said Ciolos.
European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was on an official visit to Romania (over March 3 - 4), and discussed with the authorities in Bucharest topical issues on both the agenda of the European Commission and of Romania.
EU far more restrictive on post-2014 farming subsidies
The European Union (EU) will be far more restrictive with the allocation of financial support for agriculture after 2014, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos told a press conference on Friday. 'EU envisages for beyond 2014 a far more restrictive approach of the use of EU funds allocated for the financial support of agriculture and directing them exclusively towards active farmers. It will no longer be sufficient to have agricultural land, cultivated or not, in order to receive financial support,' Ciolos said.

European regulations currently provide that all agricultural land plots that are cultivated or maintained under good agricultural and environmental conditions are eligible for subsidies. Ciolos also said that based on the checks performed, the Romanian authorities can decide whether the financial support can be disbursed or not.

'Stimulating land cultivation has to do with the national, rather than with the European agricultural policy, the major purpose of which is for you to know what tools to use in order to stimulate land cultivation,' said the European Commissioner. Minister of Agriculture Valeriu Tabara repeatedly said that a normative act was in works under which the Romanians who leave their land unfarmed shall pay a tax in an amount similar to the per hectare subsidy. At present, according to estimates, about half a million Romanian own over two million hectares of uncultivated land, that is 20 pct of Romania's total surface of arable land.
Food prices in Romania impacted by global situation and food chain organisation
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos thinks that the prices of food products in Romania are affected by the global situation, as well as by the organization of the domestic food chain. 'Food prices in Romania are influenced both by the global market situation and by the way the Romanian network is operating, by the organization of the food chain and by moves to make it more transparent,' said Dacian Ciolos on Friday.

According to him, what the local market needs are the elements in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice to get an insight into the breakdown of the value added throughout the way of the foods from the producer to the consumer, and into the products' price at the consumer.

'Romania has leeway as regards the agri-food marketing chain, market transparency and regarding the black market too. There are talks at European level with other commissioners on this area... but an essential move to be translated into the Common Agricultural Policy is the organization of agricultural producers. I think that one can squeeze a better price out of the producer by negotiation, which can be conducted in an easier way once you are organized. There are EU member states where 50 to 60 percent of the agricultural production is marketed by a cooperative system or by producers organizations and associations, whereas in Romania we still have leeway in this area too,' explained the European Commissioner.

Ciolos stressed that there is a structural increase in food prices, apart from the global influence upon them, because the offer surpasses demand. 'This is an issue that should be solved by increasing the agricultural production all over the world. There are also issues related to market information regarding the amounts of food, existing stocks, stocks' global distribution, but also to some decisions made by big exporters like Russia and Ukraine which halted cereal exports at a certain time. All this has an impact on food prices, because it stimulates transactions on the market and illicit trade with food,' added Ciolos.

According to Agerpres, the local producers warn that 2011 will be the year foodstuffs will grow more expensive, with prices for bread, milk and edible oil following an upward trend. Last month, food prices on the Romanian market advanced by an average seven percent, with meat ranking first by the price progression.