German Farmers’ Association accused of hypocrisy

An intense focus on livestock has been cited as one of the many causes of the current crisis. A shift towards regional demand has been advocated. [Ming-yen Hsu/Flickr]

The German Farmers’ Association (DBV) has complained of the “drastic worsening” of conventional farming, attributing blame to non-German and non-EU causes. But Green and environmental organisations criticised the call for help as “hypocritical”. EURACTIV Germany reports.

German farmers are struggling to stay afloat. According to a DBV situation report, revenues are down 35% for the financial year. According to the Federation, which represents some 280,000 businesses, the situation is deteriorating rapidly.

The most significant reasons cited are a decrease in demand for agricultural products in Asian countries, as well as the Russian import ban. Producers of fruit, vegetables, grains and meat are all in trouble, said the Federation’s President, Joachim Rukwied.

>>Read: EU throws lifeline to farmers as protests bring Brussels to a standstill

Agricultural operating profits are down 22% and feed production for the milk industry brought in 44% less than last year. Hardest hit are fruit growers, who suffered a 50% drop-off. There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel either, with Rukwied saying that, “In the first half of 2016, there will be no recovery.”

Homemade problems

The federation cites the purchasing patterns of retailers as a major threat. They have led to increasing “anti-competitive price-fixing”, according to Rukwied.

Greenpeace said this “whining” was nothing short of “hypocritical”. One of its analysts, Martin Hofstetter, said that they had cut a rod for their own back, through the removal of the milk quotas and the Federation’s championing of intensive livestock rearing.

This focus on low production costs and exports came back to bite them more quickly than expected, said Hofstetter. “The world did not wait for German pork bellies and powdered milk,” he added.

>>Read: Milk crisis drives wedge between France and Germany

Even Anton Hofreiter (Greens) criticised the DBV for clouding the issue. “It is absurd to say that the Russian embargo has caused these fundamental problems with our agricultural sector. The focus on exports led our farmers into a perilous cul-de-sac,” said the parliamentary group’s chairman.

In order to create a more sustainable agriculture, with more incentives for ecological and regional farming, small and medium-sized enterprises need more support, said Hofreiter. “Farming associations should represent the interests of farmers, not agribusinesses,” he added.

Agriculture: a victim of the system’s failure

From the perspective of the Left Party (Die Linke), the insecure situation in which agriculturalists find themselves is the result of a failure of the system. Spokesperson Kirsten Tackmann singled out “those who produce increasing volumes for decreasing prices for the ever more-powerful dairies, slaughterhouses and retail groups”.

Tackmann explained that “even more exporting and trading of agricultural products would just be another dose of the wrong medicine, instead of actually treating the cause of the disease”. Focusing on regional demand could go a long way toward helping alleviate the effects of the problem, as well as helping the environment.

>>Read: Agricultural market volatility is ‘here to stay’

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