“The European Green Deal could see food become a luxury”
Will food become a luxury for the rich? This is the question that emerges from a review of the agricultural policies that Europe is seeking to adopt – policies that will have major implications for New Zealand food producers exporting to Europe.
With 800 million people going to bed hungry every night and an expected increase in the world population from 7.8 billion to 9.5 billion by 2050, food security must be at the heart of any policy agenda for agriculture. .
New Zealand exports over NZ$1.1 billion worth of horticultural products to mainland Europe, making it one of our main export markets. The ‘chemical strategy’ for sustainability – part of the farm to fork strategy of the EU Green Deal – risks the loss of tools to manage pests and diseases and does not take into account the importance of affordable and healthy food for human survival.
Europe will demand more regulation on all food, as imported food must meet the same environmental standards as food produced in Europe – meaning countries must “imitate” EU standards.
The agreement will affect our food exports, especially if phytosanitary products are banned from use on the continent due to rules preventing the manufacture and export of certain substances.
Products it bans cannot be used to grow food for the mainland due to a risk of “illegal” residues. This forces a change in the products that can be used for pest and disease management. It also forces exporters to either produce all food in the same way or face increasing complexities in exporting to the EU and other countries – as it is not always possible, or even possible, for a farmer to produce food differently for different markets.
The agreement sets a precedent for all countries, especially those dependent on exports to the continent, to follow suit. Many, especially developing countries, will not have access to the same means or tools to meet these standards, ultimately hampering food security and economic growth for those who need it most. Not all farmers are as heavily subsidized as their European counterparts.
Introducing more regulation is not warranted when existing rules already adhere to extremely high safety measures, far beyond anything that would pose a health risk. Any change in product use must be carefully assessed for its implications, and progress must be made slowly to ensure farmers can adapt, including having access to the same plant protection products as Europeans.
On a more positive note, the recent free trade agreement with the UK is a beacon for our primary industries, as all tariffs are being phased out of major export products. This is expected to increase New Zealand’s GDP by up to $1 billion.
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