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The prospects of the European Sericulture within the frame of the EU Common Agricultural Policy

The prospects of the European Sericulture within the frame of the EU Common Agricultural Policy

 

Kipriotis Evripidis, M.Sc., Ph.D.

 

National Agricultural Research Foundation (N.AG.RE.F.), Komotini Agricultural Research Station Merarhias Serron 18, Komotini 69 100, Greece

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The European Union (EU) is characterised by a predominantly rural geography, influenced by human occupation and activity. The various rural areas show particular differences, since their natural environments have been affected by numerous schemes of farming and forestry and the associated with them crafts and industries. Agriculture and forestry in the EU represent the major land users, having in this way a dominant role in influencing the rural economies and the rural landscape as well.

Agriculture today may appear less important to the economies of rural areas, compared to past periods, but it still has a significant contribution to their economic growth and environmental sustainability.

EU agriculture is a multi-dimensional activity, involving many different functions, among them the majors being food and fibre production, countryside management, nature conservation, and tourism. Farming can thus be described as having mul­tiple functions.

The today’s EU farming sec­tor appears modern and competitive occupying a leading position on world markets, both as a major exporter and the world’s largest importer of food, mainly from developing countries. Besides that the sector targets to sustainability, efficiency, using safe, clean and environmentally friendly produc­tion methods. It simultaneously serves rural communities, taking in consideration their tradition and diversity and trying to guarantee the survival of the countryside as a place to live, work and visit.

Europe’s agricultural policy is determined as Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP), monitored by the governments of Member States and operat­ed by the Member States. It involves support to the farm­er’s income and also encourages the production of high quality products and the development of additional ways of improving the agricultural businesses.

 

The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The first ideas concerning a European CAP first appeared, among the western European countries, in early 1950s right after the heavy damages of the agriculture, caused by the war, and the need for guaranteed food sup­plies. This early CAP’s attempt was to encourage better productivity in the food chain and provide to the consumers a stable supply of affordable food, and also to ensure that Europe as a union could have a viable agricultural sector. This early CAP approached its goals by offering subsidies and guaranteed prices to farmers. Financial assistance was provided as well, for the restructuring of farming, aiding farm investments and aiming to ensure that farms will develop in size, management and techno­logy.

The adopted by the European countries CAP was very successful in meeting its objective of moving the newly established EU towards self-sufficiency. By the 1980s though, the EU faced almost per­manent surpluses of the major farm commodities, some of which were exported, mostly with the help of subsi­dies, and others had to be stored or disposed of within the EU. These necessary measures created a high budgetary cost and distorted some world markets. In this way they had become unpop­ular to consumers and taxpayers and did not always serve the best interests of farmers. At the same time society became increasingly concerned about the en­vironmental sustainability of agriculture.

 

The CAP of today

Since those first attempts many changes had been made to the CAP, the most important of them around the 1990s. Limits put on the production helped to reduce product surpluses and emphasis was placed on environmentally sound of farming. Farmers had to activate themselves more to the direction of market place, while receiving direct income aid by means of subsidies, and to respond in a better way to the public’s changing priorities.

This shift of emphasis included as major new element the rural development policy, encouraging farmers to diversify and improve their product marketing and to restructure their businesses.

In 2003 a further fundamental reform was agreed. From then on farmers are no longer paid just to produce food. Today’s CAP takes consumers’ and tax­payers’ concerns fully into account, while giving EU farmers the freedom to produce what the market wants. The concept of this reform is that in future, the vast majority of aid to farmers will be paid independently of what or how much they produce. In the past, the more farmers produced the more sub­sidy payments they received. Under the new system farmers will still receive direct income payments to maintain income stability, but the link to production has been set aside. In addition, farmers will have to respect standards concerning environment, food safety and animal wel­fare and farmers failing to do this will face reductions in their direct payments. Removing the link between sub­sidies and production, the so termed ‘decoupling’, is expected to make EU farmers more competitive and market-oriented. They will be free to produce according to what is most profitable for them while still obtaining a stability of income through the direct income payments.

The EU brought in policy during the 1980s and 1990s tried also to limit the production of surplus products. Several measures had been used in this direction, first voluntary and later compulsory, set-aside where farmers leave a percentage of their land uncultivated. Among the measures were fixed quotas on milk production and limits on the area of crops and numbers of animals for which a farmer could claim subsidies. Gradually these policies succeeded and surpluses were reduced. The CAP reforms in the 1990s, had also to take in consideration the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement of 1995 and reduce the capacity to use export subsidies. Due to its policy though EU has succeeded to reduce its use of export subsidies and at the same time main­tain and even increase its agricultural exports.

This proves that recently more and more consumers are prepared to pay for guaranteed quality products, deriving through special production processes promoted by the EU, like integrated and biological. Even in the EU sin­gle market of 450 million consumers, the CAP ensures that genuine products can be readily identified and that consumers are not misled by imitation products. In addition member States have the possibility to use policy meas­ures under the CAP, including incentive payments, to encourage farmers to participate voluntarily in EU or national schemes designed to improve and guarantee the quality of agricultural products.

Within these frames the exceptional nature and quality of some products derives from both their place of production and the methods used to make them. Both consumers and the food trade are increasingly interested in the geographical origin of products and other characteristics of them. The EU has developed to this direction three ‘quality logos’ connected to Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications (PDO and PGI). They both apply to agricultural products or foodstuffs with a strong link to a specific region or place. A product that carries the PGI logo has a specific characteristic or repu­tation associating it with a given area, and at least one stage in the production process is carried out in that area.

A product bearing the PDO logo has proven charac­teristics which can result solely from the terrain and abilities of producers in the region of production with which it is associated. PDO products, thus require all stages of the production process to be carried out in the area concerned.

The third logo is the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) logo, and is used for products with distinctive features and which either have traditional ingredients or are made using traditional methods.

 

Organic agriculture within the CAP

Organic farming is a production method that main­tains soil structure and fertility, promotes a high stan­dard of animal welfare, and avoids the use of synthet­ic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers, growth promoters such as hormones and antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms. Farmers use tech­niques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pol­lution. Only a very limited number of additives and processing aids can be used in organic farming. The EU rules guarantee the authenticity of organic farming products wherever they are produced and ensure that the labelling of organic products is accurate. By law the use of the word ‘organic’, and its equivalent in other languages, is reserved solely for products of organic farming. This gives guarantees to consumers about the quality and reliability of the organic produce they buy.

EU organic agriculture is one of the most dynamic sec­tors, accounting in 2002 for an estimated 4.4 million hectares (3.3 % of total agricultural area) on 150. 000 holdings. Many farmers have joined schemes to encourage them to convert farmland to organic pro­duction under EU rural development programmes.

 

Agri-environment measures within the CAP-rural development

Agri-environment schemes have been supported by the EU since they were introduced in 1992. They encourage farmers to provide environmental services which go beyond following good agricultural practice and basic legal standards. Aids may be paid to farmers who sign up voluntarily to agri-environment commit­ments for a minimum period of five years. Longer peri­ods may be set for certain types of commitment, depending on their environmental effects. It is obli­gatory for Member States to offer such agri-environ­ment schemes to farmers. This illustrates the political priority attached to these schemes.

Numerous opinion polls in both EU-15 and new Member States clearly demonstrate that a living and sustainable countryside matters to European citizens. Landscapes and the countryside are places where peo­ple live, work, and travel around and find essential resources such as water and soil in which to grow crops and feed livestock. Landscapes therefore reflect the activities of the people who live in them. Rural areas cover around 90 % of the EU territory and so rural development becomes a vitally important policy area. Farming and forestry are the main land uses in rural areas, and as such they should share more attention. The 2003 CAP reform involved a major strengthening of rural development policy by reducing direct pay­ments for bigger farms and transferring the funds into rural development measures, such as:

· Financial assistance to encourage change by, for example, reducing the numbers of animals per hectare of land, leaving field boundaries uncultivated, creating ponds or other features, or by planting trees and hedges and so going beyond conventional good farming methods.

· Helping with the cost of nature conservation, insisting that farmers must respect environmental laws and laws on public, animal and plant health, and look after their land properly if they wish to qualify for direct income payments.

 

Another important measure is the bottom-up approach of the public and private partnership initiative known as Leader+, whereby local rural development projects are funded by both the EU and national gov­ernments and private bodies. The main emphasis is on providing local communities with the possibility of selecting and funding projects which suit the local environment and can have long term benefits. In addi­tion, the Leader approach encourages the generation of novel ways to provide sustainable rural develop­ment which, through sharing with others across the EU, can go far beyond the initial project and can influ­ence and enhance rural development policy.

There are fewer farmers today than in the past, and they do not work alone. They need the services of all kinds of businesses to prepare their own produce and to transform and sell it. An additional source of income is often provided by farm holidays (farm cottages or bed-and-breakfast), or farm shops. These activities only work if farmers can make the surroundings attractive, maintaining and respecting the environment. Farming families and people living and working in the country­side are consumers too and they want the same bene­fits from the rural environment as society as a whole. For these reasons the scope of rural development pol­icy is much wider than traditional ‘agricultural’ activi­ties, including measures to protect and improve the environment, schemes to support rural communities and to develop the rural economy as a whole. The EU rural Development Policy is based on three main instuments:

The EU strategic guidelines for Rural Development

The Council Regulation on support for rural development by the new European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

 The Commission Implementing Regulation.EU

 

The EU strategic guidelines are

1. Improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sectors

2. Improving the environment and the countryside

3. Improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification

4. Building Local Capacity for Employment and Diversification

5. Translating priorities into programmes

6. Complementarity between Community Instruments

Sericulture in the EU today – future prospects

Silkworm rearing within the E.E.C. countries is practiced only in the southern part of Europe and more specifically in the Mediterranean and southern Balkan countries. Sericulture as an agricultural activity in the present time holds a minor share among the rest activities but it is considered as one of the protected and promoted ones, being subsidized by around Euro 132 per box of 20.000 eggs (EU Regulation 845/1972, Article 1).

This subsidy creates a considerably interesting income to the farmer involved to sericulture, added to the cocoon value, being though at the same time inseparable to the mulberry cultivation, which provides the sole food of the silkworm. Mulberry plantation compared to other traditional crops becomes very interesting taking in consideration the fact that according to the EU Regulation 1782/2003 (council 23-0-2003, EU Journal 21-10-2003) the yearly subsidies of the traditional crops will be restricted up to 2012 by the following scheme:

2005 -3%

2006 -4%

2007 -5%

2008 -5%

2009 -5%

2010 -5%

2011 -5%

2012 -5%

In addition to this article 53 of the same EU regulation involves obligation to cessation of cultivation of a certain percentage of the farmer’s total land, while article 54 provides a subsidizing to this cessation of cultivation. In the same time article 56 permits alternative uses of land during cessation of cultivation and leaves open the possibility of additional national subsidy, up to 50% of the costs for the establishment of perennial crops for biomass production onto lands under such treatment. The interesting point of this possibility is that mulberry tree is included in the perennial crops, being simultaneously considered as ‘’energy crop’’, for which article 88 provides an additional subsidy of 45 euro/ha/year.

All the above are far more strengthened by EU Regulation 1257/1999 whose paragraph 3 (articles 31 and 55) provide additional subsidy according the afforestated area of each country, giving to mulberry tree more opportunities for establishment. The above described advantages for mulberry field installation and further silkworm rearing can be additionally benefited by EU Regulation 1257/1999, (paragraph 3 article, 55), and EU Title II, (chapter V, articles 13 to 21), which both provide subsidies for disadvantageous areas according to their area. Such areas in the most of the cases are suitable for silkworm rearing.

 

Conclusions

The above facts considered in parallel with the continuously increasing demand for silk products within Europe and the entire world as well, predispose a promising future for sericulture in EU countries. This out coming conclusion is additionally strengthened by its complete coincidence to the main topics and targets of the new CAP, and more specifically:

  • Sericulture provides reasonable income to the farmer.
  • It can by it self very easily participate to the production of Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications (PDO and PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) products.
  • It certainly contributes, due to its nature to sustainability and efficiency of land and labour use.
  • It, by all means represents, a safe, clean and environmentally friendly produc­tion method.
  • It serves rural communities, taking in consideration their tradition and diversity, and contributes to all the above described EU strategic guidelines.
  • It definitely contributes to rural Development and guarantees the survival of the countryside as a place to live, work and visit.
  • It represents by itself an ideal form of organic farming.

 

References

1. Eugene Leguen de Lacroix: The Common Agricultural Policy Explained. European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture, October 2004, ISBN 92-894-8204-4.

2. Elena Seraceno: Leader+ Observatory point, April 2007, Brussels, Belgium.

3. Silk, a tradition with future: Trade Forum, Issue 1, 1999.

4. Kipriotis Evripidis: Sericultural industries in GreeceBack round – recent situation – aspects and prospects. Paper contributed to the “First International Workshop on Revival and Promotion of Sericultural Industries and Small Silk Enterprise Development in the Black & Caspian Seas Region”Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 11th – 15th April 2005, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

5. Kipriotis Evripidis:Follow – up activities of Tashkent Workshop and National strategy for sericulture revival and development in Greece. Paper contributed to the International Workshop on Silk Handcrafts Cottage Industries and Silk Enterprises Development in Africa, Central Asia, Europe and near East. Bursa, Turkey, 6-10 March 2006,Second Executive Meeting of Black, Caspian seas and Central Asia Silk Association (BACSA),Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

 

The prospects of the European Sericulture within the frame of the EU Common Agricultural Policy


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