THE first Irishman to lead COPA, the umbrella body for 12 million European farmers, has warned that the threat to global food security is very real.
Padraig Walshe, president of the Irish Farmers Association, was unanimously chosen for the two-year term of office at a meeting of what is the European Farmers Union in Brussels.
A dairy and beef farmer, he has already taken up the position, but will continue, to lead the IFA until his four year mandate expires next January.
He said he was very grateful for the confidence placed in him by COPA. It was a great honour for himself, his family and for the IFA.
Highly respected as a farm leader in Ireland and in Brussels, he assumes the leadership of COPA at a crucial period for European farming. “European agriculture is experiencing a major economic crisis. Since 2000, European agricultural revenue has fallen 12% per year.
“I will devote my work as the new president of COPA to ensuring the discussions on the CAP after 2013 open up some genuine future prospects for European farmers in terms of income, he said.
Mr Walshe, who heads the IFA negotiating team in the social partnership talks with the government, said a strong Common Agricultural Policy is critical to European farmers and consumers. Further globalisation of food trade through world trade agreements, coupled with unregulated dominance of the retail multiples, is putting the future of millions of European farm families at risk.
It is also ultimately threatening to destabilise the supply of high quality, safe food for Europe’s 500 million consumers. “Since its inception, the CAP has been of vital importance for producers and has provided consumers in the EU with food security and price stability.
“At a cost of about e100 per citizen per year, the CAP supports farmers to provide EU consumers with a plentiful supply of high quality food in an environmentally and animal welfare sustainable way,” he said.
Mr Walshe said at national level, since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, average household expenditure on food has fallen from 17% to 7% of disposable income.
However, he said a better job must be done in communicating the benefits of the CAP to consumers.
“The threat to global food security is very real with 2007 regarded as the first year when world food supply failed to meet demand. Between now and 2030, the world population will increase from 6.8 billion to over 8.3 billion.
“In addition to the rapidly growing population, the increasingly protein-based diet of developing countries is leading to increased food demand.
Given the limited resources available including land and water, energy supply and price and the effects of climate change, supply may not be sufficient to meet this demand,” he said.
Mr Walshe also warned about the need to regulate the dominant retail sector, which he described as another serious threat to European food supplies.
“Supermarkets must be held accountable and comply with proper trading standards in their relationship with primary producers,” he said.
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