Euro­file

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - FARMING - Richard Wright

EU food ex­ports are con­tin­u­ing to boom, with the lat­est re­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion say­ing that Oc­to­ber 2018 set a new record for agri­food trade.

Ex­ports were 13.1 bil­lion euro – al­most 3% higher than the past record month of March 2017.

The bal­ance of trade dif­fer­ence be­tween ex­ports and im­ports was 3bn euro, a 13% im­prove­ment on the same month in 2017.

This sug­gests the EU pol­icy of ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing global trade deals and a big fo­cus on com­mis­sion­er­sup­ported trade mis­sions is pay­ing div­i­dends.

Ex­port suc­cesses were evenly spread be­tween food and drink and in­cluded wheat ex­ports, which rose by 73 mil­lion euro.

De­spite the war of words be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Brus­sels, the US bi­lat­eral trade be­tween Europe and the US is now at record lev­els.

At 5.2 mil­lion tonnes in 2018, im­ports of Amer­i­can soya ac­counted for 75% of Euro­pean de­mand and now dwarf im­ports from Brazil, which once dom­i­nated the EU mar­ket. Other key ex­port mar­kets for the EU in­clude China and Rus­sia.

The Ir­ish Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (IFA) is wind­ing up pres­sure on their gov­ern­ment to se­cure an im­me­di­ate com­mit­ment from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion that it will pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for agri­cul­ture to off­set the im­pact of Brexit.

As a ma­jor sup­plier to the UK mar­ket, Ire­land is al­ready be­ing hit badly by the al­most 20% plunge in the value of ster­ling against the euro since the EU ref­er­en­dum in 2016 and is now fac­ing un­cer­tainty about the type of Brexit deal that will be in place af­ter March.

This has had an im­me­di­ate im­pact on cat­tle prices, with the IFA sug­gest­ing EU com­pen­sa­tion should be­gin at 20 euro a head for ev­ery five cent drop in cat­tle prices. It says Ir­ish farm­ers are fac­ing “Ar­maged­don from Brexit”.

Re­search car­ried out for the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion claims it is re­al­is­tic to think that agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion could be dou­bled in Europe by 2050 by mak­ing bet­ter use of science.

It sug­gests this could be achieved with­out GM tech­nol­ogy, but warns that for all science there needs to be a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship from the out­set with the gen­eral pub­lic.

It also sug­gests this is the les­son of con­flict in Europe over GM tech­niques.

This Crop­buster project re­search is led by Wa­genin­gen Uni­ver­sity in the Nether­lands, in as­so­ci­a­tion with teams in 18 other coun­tries.

The first stage is due to be com­pleted by 2021. The fo­cus is on ways to make bet­ter use of nat­u­ral pho­to­syn­the­sis and find­ing new tech­niques to op­ti­mise the use of min­er­als.

The re­search will also look at how wa­ter avail­abil­ity could be­come a fac­tor lim­it­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Mean­while in a ma­jor break­through, af­ter six years of stale­mate, China has opened its mar­ket to six ma­jor GM crop va­ri­eties from the US.

This could take China down the GM road, in the same way that the science de­vel­oped rapidly in Brazil for soya.

Im­ports of Amer­i­can soya ac­counted for 75% of Euro­pean de­mand in 2018 and now dwarfs im­ports from Brazil.

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