My speech at the joint conference with AFRUIBANA on: "How can fair prices contribute to the sustainability of African agricultural products?"


Ladies and gentlemen, dear panellists!

Thank you for joining us wherever you are. It is my pleasure to open this parallel and virtual event on the margins of the 6th Summit between the African Union and the European Union.

The AU-EU Summit is an opportunity to set the course for a renewed and strengthened partnership in all areas, especially the one that interests us, agriculture. This summit will make it possible to address the challenges facing both continents in order to develop a common vision for a promising future, strengthening sustainable development and even prosperity for all.

I am pleased that this event will bring together experts in the field to take a critical look at the issues that concern us.

At a time when Europe is concerned about migration flows and the economic future of the continent, support for African agricultural products is essential to enable the development of rural areas and the emergence of the Africa of tomorrow. 

The tariff reductions granted to Latin American bananas, for example, successively through the World Trade Organisation (2009 Geneva Agreement) and then through the EU's bilateral agreements with South and Central American countries, have significantly reduced the tariff preferences of ACP producers. While progress has been made thanks to the European accompanying measures, African producers still have a competitive gap with their competitors, mainly due to the exceptional size and productivity of farms in the countries on the other side of the Atlantic. This situation has led to a significant increase in the volumes exported to Europe by Latin American producers. This abundance of Latin American fruit at very low prices destabilises the market and poses a serious threat to African producers.

This asymmetric competition and its consequences, rising costs, threaten the profitability and investment capacity of producers as well as the sustainability and resilience of the agricultural sector. 

Moreover, under the Green Pact, the EU is currently at a crucial stage for the future of its agri-food sector with its flagship food policy, the organic FarmtoFork (F2F) strategy. However, there are signs that the application of their standards could have inevitable consequences and indirectly exclude African agricultural products from the market.

We have to ask ourselves how we can integrate certain local methods, which at first sight seem traditional, and which have proven themselves in agricultural production and international trade.

African farmers fear that if they want to sell their products in Europe, the obligation to meet these targets could quickly become a major barrier to trade, as the ramifications of decisions taken at EU level do not stop at the EU's borders. The transition to organic farming and agroecology are important keys to transforming the bulk of agricultural products. However, such a conversion involves high initial costs and requires numerous adjustments that producers are not always able to make, as the areas under cultivation are smaller compared to Latin American countries.

The agricultural sector, especially the fruit and cocoa industries, is an important development factor. It provides a large number of jobs and enables Africa to meet its demographic challenge. It contributes to the overall increase in living standards and the Human Development Index and promotes food self-sufficiency in producing countries. The allocation of fair prices for African agricultural products not only achieves the sustainability of agricultural products, but above all effectively ensures the production of quality products. Agriculture is a sector that contributes to the fight against poverty, migratory movements and the effects of climate change, as we confirmed when we spoke to the First Lady of Côte d'Ivoire and the ministers who accompanied her an hour ago, in relation to cocoa. 

Today, African and European citizens share a common aspiration for products from responsible and sustainable agriculture. Nevertheless, the pressure exerted on African agricultural prices makes this social and environmental transition difficult. The challenge, then, is to create shared responsibility across the value chain so that each actor can play its part in this transition.

The expert panel will explore the crucial questions we are asking ourselves, including.

- Why must African agriculture and rural development be a priority for the EU and the AU?

- The threats posed by climate change. What policy and financial instruments are available to the EU to support the transition in African agriculture?

How can African producers achieve fair prices in a deregulated international market for agricultural products?

In conclusion

If we want to sustainably protect our environment and climate, improve our nutrition and transform the lives of farmers worldwide, it is time for rich countries and Europe to do their part and gradually shift the paradigm away from a logic that focuses exclusively on competition and lowest prices to an approach that incorporates all "externalities" through the notion of true price.

I encourage you to listen to our panellists and engage in dialogue with them.

I would like to thank the organisers of the 7th EABF EU-Africa Business Forum and Afruibana for inviting me to open this workshop. I wish you a constructive exchange.