There are two problems with the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy as I see it. First, it eats up 40% of the EU’s budget, and I’m none too keen to subsidize farmers. But I could live with that if it was not for the second problem: the fact that CAP buggers up world trade in agricultural products. CAP means it’s still viable to grow sugar beet in Denmark rather than import sugar cane from sub-Saharan African countries.
France, together with others such as Finland and Ireland, have always sought to protect the CAP system. So what an irony today that French agricultural minister Michel Barnier (a former Commissioner in the Prodi Commission) stated that it’s necessary “to bring together the efforts of various member states to help developing countries rebuild their agriculture” and that “we cannot, and we must not leave food for people… to the mercy of the rule of the market alone and to international speculation.” See all the quotes in this BBC article.
Yes, unchecked market forces can lead to unintended consequences, but planned markets like that for agricultural products in the EU can have very dire consequences indeed, and the irony that France thinks it now help developing countries after CAP has screwed up their chances of exporting for decades?
[UPDATE – 23.4.08]
Leader in the Socialist Group in the EP, Martin Schulz, has taken a different line – blaming price increases on market speculation. Get a grip! There’s an elephant on the table when debating food price in the EU – it’s CAP. Plenty of politicians just seem to ignore its very existence. I suppose we should not expect any different from Schulz, a blunt, populist bully.