We take a look at the farming stories making the headlines around the globe.
Germany: Combined Federal and State bodies to Decide on GMOs
Since an EU law allowing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be grown in the EU was passed in March 2015, Germany has been in deadlock over how to handle the issue. Disagreement between federal and state governments over which body should decide on GMOs led to stalemate. Now draft legislation indicates that they will work together on a case-by-case basis, after Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt came out in favour of banning GMOs altogether but legal experts pointed out that this stance would be difficult to defend in court. Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in which power is divided between the Bundestag which is directly elected by the people, and the Bundesrat which represents regional governments. Reuters have the full story here.
Greece: Commissioner Phil Hogan Pledges EU Support for Greek Agriculture
EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan has reaffirmed EU commitment to Greece's strong agricultural tradition. Speaking in the Greek Parliament, Hogan said, "Your products, from olive oil to feta, fruits and vegetables, are known throughout the world. As European Commissioner I want to support this and invest in this.” He said Greek farmer stand to receive €15bn in direct subsidies between 2014 and 2020. "I see that new 'players' are emerging in Greece, who produce quality products which are friendlier to the environment, more innovative and export oriented. The challenge is to support the country's ambition and innovation with strong, targeted policies supporting investments," said Hogan. Tornos News has the story here.
Japan: Milk Revival Underway with Asia's Biggest Dairy Robot
Jin Kawaaguchiya once had a successful financial career, but now he is spearheading a revival of Japan's ailing dairy industry. Sixteen years ago he inherited a small farm with twenty cows. Now he milks 360 cows three times per day, using robot technology. He even uses their slurry to generate electricity. The number of dairy farms in Japan has fallen by 28% in the last eight years, but their scale is increasing and overall output in the first half of 2016 grew by 1.1% on the previous year, the second successive rise in productivity since slumping to 1984 levels in 2014. The Japan Times has the story here.
Ghana: Cheap Food Imports Destroying Indigenous Agriculture
The ruling NDC government has been accused by the Minority New Patriotic Party of destroying agriculture by allowing cheap food imports to flood the market. Since the NDC came into power in 2008 annual imports of rice, sugar, poultry, fish, wheat, vegetable oil, vegetables and salt have risen from $344m to $2.3bn. Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minority spokesperson on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, said, “These imports are competing directly with local production under trade conditions which are putting our local farmers, fishers and overall food security at risk.” Investment in agriculture has been slashed every year and the sector is suffering badly as a result, according to Akoto. Fresh Plaza has the story.
Kenya: State Pledges Youth Agriculture Investment
President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged Sh2 billion (€17.6m) to agricultural training for young Kenyans, in a bid to update Kenya's farming enterprises and modernise the industry. The program is intended to benefit up to 750,000 people in the next five years. Kenyatta said, “It will also be spent on new technology and management, so that through the entire agriculture value chain – from the farm to your plate – our youth have a chance to grow a business and to earn a living,” he said. “And we are in talks with our development partners to raise Sh7 billion over the next five years for the same end.” The Star has the full story.
US: California Droughts Affecting Farming Output
California's farms brought in cash receipts of $47.1bn in 2015, down from $56.6bn in 2014. Output grew continuously up to that point despite ongoing water shortages. Chronic water supply problems in recent years have affected agriculture, which accounts for 80% of California's water usage. Climate change has been blamed for major droughts, leading to shifting weather patterns, extended dry spells and most critically, the melting of the Sierra Nevada snowpack which used to act as the state's largest reservoir. Previous dry years did not affect production as farmers pumped more groundwater but salinity and access issues led to a reduction in area planted. Farmers planted 7% less irrigated land, or 522,000 acres, than the previous year. Bloomberg has a complete analysis here.
India: Agricultural Output expected to Rise Despite Rainfall Deficiency in 33% of Districts
Rating Agency Crisil has predicted that India's agricultural output will not be affected by droughts in up to a third of districts surveyed. This is because 67% of districts have reported normal or excess rainfall and half of those areas with rainfall deficiency have good irrigation cover. So even though 46% of rainfall deficient areas have no irrigation facilities and have thus been devastated, they account for just 7% of total sown area. Gujarat and Karnatak are the worst affected regions with many cotton farmers in Gujarat facing disaster. First Post has the story here.