Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Is the CAP fit for purpose?

50 NGOs have urged the European Commission to carry out a fitness check of the CAP: Fit for purpose?

They say that it needs to be assessed in terms of its effectiveness, efficiency, coherence with other EU policies and the advantages of an EU wide policy compared with national policies.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The EU referendum and the CAP

My latest contribution in terms of a briefing paper for the Birmingham Food Council: Referendum

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

An imperfect storm

A new book edited by Johann Swinnen entitled The Political Economy of the 2014-20 Common Agricultural Policy judges it to be an 'imperfect storm' compared with the 'perfect storm' of the Fischler reforms dealt with in an earlier book. The book has chapters written by leading experts on the CAP such as Alan Matthews, Tim Josling and Alan Swinbank.

The authors generally found the outcome of the 2013 decision to be disappointing. The policy changes were relatively minor and not always coherent. The term 'reform' is probably inappropriate.

In terms of explanation, the reform proposals presented by Commissioner Ciolos were not very ambitious to begin with, reflecting his inexperience and that of his cabinet. Another factor was the role of the European Parliament with COMAGRI able to control much of the decision-making with farm interests having more influence than environmental organisations. A final element was that the increase in global food prices pushed food security up the agenda.

The new CAP provides an unprecedented amount of flexibility for member states. However, flexibility may have been a rational choice by decision-makers to reach an agreement. It may become a permanent part of the CAP, reflecting the need to come to political decisions in an increasingly heterogeneous EU.

Alan Matthews suggests in his chapter that the reformist camp, always a minority among member states, seems to have lost much of its momentum and cohesion during the 2013 negotiations. The UK in particular was preoccupied with other issues.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Brexit a diversion from sustainability

The referendum on the UK’s European Union membership will have “momentous significance” for the country’s food system, according to a new briefing paper published by the Food Research Collaboration (FRC). The report – called Food, the UK and the EU: Brexit or Bremain? – argues the country must “wake up to the enormity of unravelling 43 years of co-negotiated food legislation”.

According to the authors – Professor Tim Lang, of City University London, and Dr Victoria Schoen, of the FRC – both consumers and businesses will be affected by a vote to leave the EU. This is a deviation from what the authors describe as the real task of getting the UK food system, from production to consumption, to be more sustainable. If the country decided to leave, food imports are predicted to become more expensive, prices would increase and there could be major disruptions to the finely tuned just-in-time supply chains on which the UK food system now depends.

With such prices increases for imported goods, it is suggested there could be consequences for the consumption of foods that the UK relies on EU nations to produce. For example, nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s total food supply of fruit and vegetables comes from the EU, and nearly 55 per cent of its supply of pigmeat.

The authors express concern about the health implications of Brexit, as diet now accounts for 10.8 per cent of the nation’s total disease burden (compared with 10.7 per cent for tobacco). According to the report, the UK is about 60 per cent food self-sufficient so should be wary of instant independence from the EU.

The authors also warn of a potential “food service and food factory crisis” if EU labour currently working in those industries lost their freedom of movement to be in the UK – figures show EU employees make up more than a quarter of the food manufacturing workforce (26.9%) and a tenth of workers in food and beverage services (11.3%). This compares with 6.1 per cent across the UK economy as a whole.

The paper can be accessed here: Brexit or Bremain