Opinion - EU agricultural sector must find a new stimulus to compete internationally

Gianni Fava, Agriculture Secretary of Lombardia, Italy.

Gianni Fava, Agriculture Secretary of Lombardia, Italy.


Brexit should inspire reflection. I will not discuss the decision taken by a sovereign nation, but still the most serious political error which Europe risks today is to become more stubbornly anchored to itself, or worse, criticising the decisions made by the UK.

My comments will be limited to a few observations related strictly to agriculture, a matter which was fundamental to the founding of Europe.

I believe we need more Europe, more dialogue and more unity.

Lombardia is the leading agricultural region in Italy, with more than 46,000 farms and more than 10 million inhabitants.

It is one of the leaders in Europe: gross saleable production is more than €7.3 billion (£6.1bn) and exports exceed €5.2bn (£4.9bn); value of food and agricultural market in Lombardia exceeds €38bn (£32bn). We could be considered an independent state.

We have to start with a conversation between the people outside and within the EU. It is the only way we can reignite the European project.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was founded in 1962 with a number of ambitious objectives: to help farmers produce enough food to meet the needs of Europe; to ensure food safety; to protect farmers from excessive price volatility and market crises; to help them invest in modernisation, etc.

What steps we have taken and what burdens has Europe put on farmers? The challenge facing the EU is how to reconsider the CAP, while still attempting to achieve the original objectives using the methods most appropriate to each geographic region and to each local community. How? By moving forward as homogeneous regions, by production vocations, by recognised systems. Of course, the regions will have to obtain the authorisation to create alliances, to negotiate and share a way forward to achieve more from Europe.

The food challenges we face are not insurmountable, provided there is wholehearted cooperation between the regions with the objectives of progress, innovation, and eliminating what has become an outdated, duplicated, useless bureaucracy. British farmers have made very clear they no longer want that.

The EU cannot continue to exclude segments which are becoming increasingly strategic, such as pig farming and poultry.

We cannot stand by and wait for other EU exits. The agriculture industry in Europe must find a new stimulus, to compete and measure up on an international scale.

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