Emelina Dominguez, 42, takes care of her seedlings in the green house at COMUCAPs collective vegetable garden, Mescalito, Marcala, La Paz, Honduras. January, 2007. Credit: Gilvan Barreto/Oxfam
New aid is welcome but EU must address structural causes of the food crisis.

Oxfam response to EU decision on €1bn for world’s poorest farmers

“The fate of millions of poor people rests in Europe being a bold leader in international negotiations.”
Elise Ford
Published: 24 November 2008

Oxfam welcomes the EU’s €1bn for the world’s poorest farmers, finally agreed to after long negotiations. Almost two thirds of the money represents new money for developing countries and this could provide a vital boost to help those hit hardest by the food crisis.

Sadly, it has taken the EU five months of wrangling to agree a proposal that was meant to respond quickly to urgent needs. Since food prices started to rise, the number of people going hungry has risen to nearly one billion, almost one sixth of the world’s population. People in poor countries spend up to 80% of their income on food.

Member States were not willing to provide unspent agricultural money to support developing countries but managed to find largely additional resources elsewhere. The food facility will contribute to solve some short-term needs by providing agriculture inputs and strengthening safety nets. However, a new food crisis will be imminent unless Europe and other rich countries address the structural problems that fueled the food crisis: rigged trade rules, negligence of agriculture investment, wrong biofuels policies or climate change.

The big tests are already on the horizon. At the Doha Financing for Development Conference, the EU should urgently compromise on an increase aid in agriculture, much broader than a short term facility; in the climate change negotiations in Poznan in December, funding for adaptation must be secured. Once again all eyes will be on European leaders to see if they can live up to the EU’s reputation as the global leader on development.

Elise Ford, acting head of Oxfam’s EU office, said, "The fate of millions of poor people rests in Europe being a bold leader in international negotiations."

Notes to Editors

The EU’s €1 billion for developing country farmers will be financed from the following sources:

  • 420m from the Flexibility instrument; 100m from the existing Emergency Aid Reserve;
  • 240m top-up into Emergency Aid Reserve and
  • 240m from redeployed funds (mainly from the Instrument for Stability).

The agreement, which was reached by EU budget ministers and MEPs on 21 November will need the formal approval of the European Parliament at its plenary session on 16 December.

Originally the European Commission proposed to use some unspent money from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) fund to urgently address the food crisis. High food prices in Europe have meant fewer subsidies were needed for European farmers.

According to Oxfam's research, at least €38 billion annually, beyond existing aid, is needed just to cope with unavoidable climate-change impacts. Using EU auction revenues for adaptation is a win-win proposition. It is new money and the amounts raised should be big enough to match the scale of the need. It is also fair, since following the 'polluter pays' principle, the money comes from Europe's dirtiest industries. On 11 -12 December, the Council must earmark 100% of the ETS auctioning revenues of which half should be used for adaptation for developing countries.