EU policy change could double crop prices, study

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

New pest management legislation in Europe could result in crop production shifting to other countries and prices for commodities shooting up, a study has warned.

Released by the European Centre for Agricultural, Regional and Environmental Policy Research (EuroCare) the new study says legislation currently being considered in Brussels to reduce the pest management options available to farmers would increase end prices by 20 to 100 per cent.

MEP Mairead McGuinness, who hosted the launch of the study, said: “It would be unwise and irresponsible for the EU to proceed down such a path without undertaking a thorough independent assessment of the proposed legislation.”

The legislation, which is set to replace Directive 91/414/EEC, would essentially remove a range of pest management tools currently used in agricultural production in Europe.

Price hikes

According to EuroCare, this could result in prices for all agricultural produce increasing “substantially”​ by 2013 as a result of yield losses.

“All crops need protection from disease and pests. If you remove the tools farmers use to protect their crops, yields will go down - and prices will go up,” ​commented Friedhelm Schmider, director general of the European Crop Protection Association.

A conservative product-loss scenario would result in price increases of at least 20 per cent for staples such as wheat and potatoes, said EuroCare. In the worst case scenario, prices for cereals and vegetables could rise by 73 and 104 per cent respectively.

“These increases are not surprising, given the current pressures on food prices and the importance of the EU to international markets. The price increases forecasted in the study are also in line with recent experience. In 2007, for example, world wheat supply was about 20 million tonnes lower than in 2005 and prices went up by more than 100 per cent,”​ said Dr Marcel Adenaeuer from EuroCare.

Production shift

Another impact of implementing the legislation would be a shift of agricultural production outside of Europe, where similar restrictions do not exist, predicts the report.

This would jeopardize the position of the European Union as a net exporter of key crops, and instead make it a net importer of crops, it said.

For example, wheat production would likely shift from Europe to the United States, Mexico, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, as well as South Africa, China or Australia.

Assessments needed

“EU policymakers haven’t yet considered the full impact of this legislation on the cost of our food. At a time of record food prices and heightened concern about economic stability with food riots in some parts of the world, not examining the consequences will result in policy disconnected from reality,” ​said Schmider.

McGuinness also stressed the importance of a comprehensive assessment of the legislation so that the final decision will be in the “best interests of EU consumers and food producers”.

The European Crop Protection Association said that further to the findings of the EuroCare study it is calling for the European Parliament and Commission to request an independent impact assessment from the European Foods Safety Authority (EFSA) on the proposed pest management restriction criteria.

“Banning the tools without proper scientific consideration is irresponsible and destabilizing,”​ said Schmider.

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