France to boost farm output amid record prices
Europe's biggest farming power launched a drive to ramp up the EU's agriculture output on Monday.14 April 2008
LUXEMBOURG - France, Europe's biggest farming power, on Monday launched a drive to ramp up the European Union's agriculture output in the face of dire warnings that soaring food prices threaten millions worldwide.
"In a world where it will be necessary to produce more and better to feed nine billion people, everyone has got to play a part, including Europe," French agriculture minister Michel Barnier told journalists.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with his EU counterparts, Barnier said Europe had to remain "a strong agricultural power" in the face of pressure to cut the bloc's huge farm spending budget.
France, the biggest recipient European farm hand-outs, has led a battle in recent years against growing calls to cut the EU's generous agriculture subsidies.
Outlining France's vision of the sector's future, he said that farmers should "produce first and foremost to feed," a veiled criticism of biofuels.
The use of biofuels has helped spark the recent spike in global food prices.
Barnier said the EU should also refocus its development aid on the agriculture sector in poor countries. "I've noticed that over the past 30 years this priority has fallen by the wayside."
"I'm going to propose that we combine our expertise and cooperation with the poorest countries to help them reconstruct their own production capacity (and) find some form of food sovereignty," he said.
Lastly, Barnier said that the current crisis should lead the EU not to back down in WTO trade negotiations, where the bloc is under pressure to lower its farm subsidies and tariff barriers.
"We have an additional reason with this crisis to be careful so as to prevent any unbalanced deal, the victims of which would be the poorest countries," he said.
[AFP / Expatica]