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Greek agriculture and globalisation
greece / turkey / cyprus | miscellaneous | opinion / analysis Sunday May 22, 2005 14:33 by dmitri - personal capasity outetheos at yahoo dot com dot au
Trnaslation in English by dmitri
Is there a way out for the Greek farmers? 1. With the entry of Greece in the then EEC (European Economical Community) (in the beginning of 1980s) the Greek agriculture was determined by the Common Rural Policy (CAP) of the EEC. Until 1992 (1st CAP), the aims were: increase of productivity, cheap rural products and satisfactorily rural incomes. Each year the 60% of budget of Euopean Union (EU) (36 billions of Ecu) financed these aims.
The consequences were: • intensifying and intensity of methods of the production, specialisation of cultures-stockfarming, big exterior surges with excessive use of fertilizers-pesticide
• disproportionate mechanisation
• monocultures that were offered for intensifying such as the cotton growing, which however required excessive use of water resulting in the fall of the water carts because of the drillings
• production of big surpluses that most times led to the tips. For instance 50-60% the production of fruits destroyed or went for withdrawl
• disappearance of the unique Greek varieties in favor of the various hybrids of the almighty multinational companies • negative rural balance with the EU after Greece lost its self-sufficiency in a lot of products that before did not have problem, and meanwhile produced "useless" products
• big differences of prices between producer-consumer
• almost all cattle-breeders have huge debts in the banks something that led to accumulation of cultivated ground, disappearance of small ranches and shrinkage of rural population
• transaction of more and more rural work and operations from specialised industries and enterprises which do not belong in the original agricultural sector
• creation of a difference of incomes between the minority of landowners and the majority of small ones
• devalorisation of rural products because they are polluted with chemicals something that has direct and long-term repercussions in the health of consumers and after industrialsed them which led to the fall of quality and their nutritious faculty
• devalorisation and pollution of soil, pollution of the surface and underground water, pollution of atmosphere and overconsumption of not renewable sources of energy and resources
So, if in the social cost caused by the decline of the countryside and the reduction of rural population we add, from the one side, the incalculable cost in the public health (because the polluted with chemical agricultural products cause innumerable illnesses in the consumers) and from the other side, the enormous environmental cost, then the Greek agriculture (as European) is counterproductive (something that however does not appear after the above costs are not internalised and remain exterior).
2. After 1992 there was a revision of CAP with 2nd CAP. With this there was a change in the direction. The previous system of subsidies and protection was disputed and all the arrangement connected with the cultivated area and the type of cultivation as well as with the reduction of the density of animals per unit of pasture area. Simultaneously, it was adapted in the conditions of free trade according to the orders of the then GATT and later the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (the agreements on the free trade of agricultural products began materialised since 1995). This meant that the agricultural products enjoyed the same treatment from the states, independently from the country of production and their country of destination. Each type of protectionism (duties, subsidies, regulations, etc.) from the states had to be raised (progressively). In order to be in effect some metre, it had to have an effect everywhere, so that against any "illicit" competition. Thus a product could not be subsidised, for example the cotton in Greece, if was not subsidised lets say in Egypt. If therefore the cost of production in Greece leads to prices much bigger than the price of the Egyptian cotton, it is not allowed, in order to be competitive, the difference to be overwhelmed by the state in the cotton producers, so they can continue producing in Greece.
Therefore under these conditions of globalised market of agricultural products, the production (or plant or animal) in each country should be turned in products which by their way of production might be competitive internationally in terms of their prices. So, the farmers in each country, hence in Greece, will also produce basically for the internationalise-globalised market and no in order to satisfy the local needs or the needs of Europe (the EU is faced as a single market by the WTO). The regulations resulted in revealing clearly the problems of Greek agriculture, because all those who were pleased in the previous period, progressively ceased to be encouraged.
So the last 9 years were given to the Greek farmers 5 trillion drachmas as subsidies (totally during the 27 years of the integration were given 10 trillion drachmas), from which the 60% went just to 3 teams of producers: oil, cotton and tobacco. This means that almost the half agricultural income were subsidies (for investments were used only 500 billions drachmas). A vast wastefulness of subsidies becomes from mechanisms which supposedly aim at the "reformation" of the rural production).
Simultaneously, during the last 9 almost years, Greece lost its self-sufficiency in a lot of products (such as cereals, fruits and vegetables) and began the imports.
The traditional farmer disappeared himself and we have the businessman of rural sector who pre-occupies workers. The remaining traditional rural population is old aged and is considered as one of the number one problems. A second problem is considered the investments that continuously decreased (the subsidies go now to consuming goods). They follow the problem of water (that it is exhausted) and then the problem of education-information and quality. Regarding the quality there is an abundance of products with name of origin and geographic clue, but a very small percentage of biological and healthy products (was lost also almost the exclusivity of feta cheese and retsina wine).
Connected with the quality problem is also the question of control of foods. The Unified Institution of Foods (EFETv- a greek governmental body) created 5 years ago under the monitoring of Ministry of Agriculture, is not working well and it does not have nor enough neither suitable employees, neither also suitable laboratories. The organisation of such laboratories would require some billions, which the government is not allocated to give. Thus the alimentary crisis (eg "mad" cows, dioxins in the chickens and pork etc.) in Greece cannot be diagnosed and the government and the related institutions based themselves in the guided and checked information of Brussels (EU).
Another problem concerning the precedent are the genetic modified foods and organisms. It does not exist any infrastructure for their control although all the previous years was prohibited to be cultivated from the EU (then rather is raised the prohibition under the pressure of USA), finally the multinational companies which promote these products exceeded the reef (as it appearred with the Monsanto and the case of cotton) or asking the authorisation for experimental cultures from the Ministry of Environment Planning and Public Works, or polluting the imported seeds with genetically modified seeds.
3. Thus today and until to 2006 the 2nd CAP has been also differentiated. Greece’s fundamental objective is the reduction of farmers who produce products which "needed" and cannot be promoted in the globalised market. The government and the E.U. are aspiring to materialise this objective via 3 basic programs:
• Program of premature retirement of old farmers and those who cannot change the type of cultivation
• Program of new farmers (newcomers): these new farmers should invest in new "eligible" products which have not been satiated (e.g. ouzo, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, sultanas, Valentsia oranges etc). They should organise their new rural exploitations with the help of specialised advisers. (Who can however guarantee that in the future these "eligible" products will satiated in the internationalised market, as became also with the cotton?)
• Program of enterprising actions: investments again in "eligible" products and their treatment, but these products will have to ensure a high quality of production and their packing, improve the environment and decrease the surges and the use of energy. This program aims to transform all survived farmers in businessmen and of course through the centralisation of the farmlands in the agriculture industries. Here are included also the investments in biological products.
As we understand, there is an end in the monoculture of cotton (except probably the genetically modified), olivew, peaches or tobacco. Their production can be continued for some interval, as long as satisfies the specifications of EU. From this point and beyond and until to the complete release the farmers will participate in an international competition. Nor support neither subsidies neither also guarantee of prices.
Continue Under these conditions, the Greek rural production needs "re-formation". The government through the Ministry of Agriculture says also the same. It cannot however this "re-formation" support itself in the governmental mechanism, since its policy on thiw subject is the fundamental element of crisis and the whole problem.
The "re-formation" that they propose, at the expense and of the backs of the farmers in terms of the cost, is also conditioned by the logic of globalised market. This globalised market however changes the conditions from one moment to the other. What today is profitable, tomorrow it can be detrimental. What is cultivated today, tomorrow is likely to be changed. It is difficult for the majority of the Greek farmers to achieve such a flexibility. We can find such a solution only in the enterprisingly organised farmers who will allocate informative network capable to ensure them the knowledge of the fast alternate conditions in the international markets of agricultural products. If the farmers in Greece accept this "re- formation" they also give a full freedom to the agricultural industries and the enterprising groups of landowners (since the rural cooperatives have past away quite a time now).
Therefore most of the farmers react rightly. They resistance however based on their precedents data and their demands are moved in the field of continuation of cultures-stockfarming, as it was happening until now. They simply require a guarantee of their income. Their demands in one degree are turned adversely against the actual followed liberal policy of EU. The same is happening today when almost a year ago the governmental change with the right-wing party of New Democracy in the power.
On the other side, wanting to continue as they do until now, is like they want to intensify the results and the symptoms of which we talked above. The climate changes and the intense meteorological phenomena are not independent from what is going on in the agriculture. The global activities however lead regularly to the globalised market (except perhaps certain and provisional cases, or if the developed countries follow the logic of release of market of the other and no theirs, as happen finally with the market of steel), will be compelled therefore to suffer the consequences.
4. The exit (the way out, the solution): However there is a way out. It can be a "re-formation" but not with the terms and the directives of WTO and the industrialised agriculture. A possible way out can be an essential turn in the "rural" agriculture. In an agriculture which will support the principal and basic needs of the farmer themselves, and of course the needs of the community and the region and of neighbouring regions and country. An agriculture which will aim in the always bigger and bigger self-reliance of chain: farmer-community-region-country.
For the majority of Greek farmers this means that the next years they will have problem of existence and survival, that they firstly should produce their food and then for an income which will satisfy their other needs, and they have to support the needs of their region. And that’s why they do not need any mechanism of research of market. They all know the needs of their local society, their communities.
Before the industrial agriculture prevailed, that is to say the intensive chemical usage and the specialisation of the farmers (in Greece after 1950), the farmers applied the mixed-farming at the same time with the cattle-farming: depending on the season, they were seeding, repairing tools and stores, cutting timbers, putting their animals to eat the grass in innaccesible community areas, dealing with their vegetable gardens etc. They were doing many jobs from need. Now, if they cannot be evolved in businessmen with employees and computer or do not want to become rular workers or to leave they piece of land, but to remain with their family in his "household", they should, again from need, apply and accept this new regime in the agriculture. That is to say their activities must have lots of dimensions: economic, social, environmental. The approach of they profession from this viewpoint requires more general comprehension of developments (economic, social, ecological) and knowledge and experiences for they role in the countryside. Their action influence immediately the soil, the environment, the biodiversity, the maintenance of ecosystems and employment.
This simultaneously should be taken into consideration by the rest of the society and reward rightly their work, which will be still more multifaceted in the future with activities from which some are not profitable. This means guarantee of their basic income via the right prices of their production that allocate to a third person, through of course the rural policy. Until now the prices in world level are humiliated, and as a result the farmers are unsatisfied and the consumers are fed with downgraded contaminated or polluted products.
But even from what the consumer pays for the rural products, the bigger part does not goes to the farmer, but is used as a wage of the activities of third persons around the agricultural sector (mainly tradesmen in transformation-packing and distribution industries). This means that the farmers should avoid as long as they can the intermediaries and this will be possible when a farmer escapes from his mentality of what he produces, what he delivers in the tradesman or the industry and what he collects afterwards to be nourished by the supermarket.
It is required therefore a policy and demands which will be turned to the direction of the multiple functionalism with the significance that mainly the new farmers produce, create places of work, remake the products by themselves, protect the environment, acquire relations with the local society and become factors of life in the community, developing communal relations with the other people.
To a direction where "rural agriculture" - as it has been named - respects the producer, the people, the soil, the plants, the animals, the environment, keeps live in the region and does not only aim at the subsidies. (Because "multiple functionalism" begins and presented in the regulations of EU with the 3rd Community Frame, but functions only to the direction of acceptance and continuation of subsidies in the industrialised agriculture, giving in the society the impression that the authorities is dealing with the growth of the country side.
The "multiple functionalism" of the E.E.’s regulations aims also to function as a pretext, that exceeds the obstacles of WTO, so that they can be continued the subsidies of industrialised agriculture from the EU). Such a "rural agriculture" aims at not only the maintenance and the increase of the rural population, but also more generally at the organisation of provincial rural societies and the distribution of their rural products amongst them. There are already some certain elements to this new direction, mainly from farmers of "declining" regions. We have seen farmers differentiating their activities: become "hotel keepers", "cooks" (agricultural turism), tradesmen of local products or sell in their properties in direct relation with the consumer or in popular flee markets in the cities or in their small circles of customers, organise visits in the ranches, working as drivers from tourist groups or participate in educational seminars of schools (environmental education). These activities are developed because they correspond also in the increasing demands of residents of the local or the bigger cities who want a better quality of diet, a re-approachment of the nature or a knowledge of the human dimension in this re-approachment, acquiring relations with the men and the women who work in this.
Always more people of the cities see the impasse of life in them and currently the majority of them satisfy in the mass exodus durings the weekends and the feasts (religious and other big events, public holidays etc). Some of them exceed the mentality of being a tourist in the nature and loving the countryside, the rural social life, seek a visit, not of course in the industrial breeder etc, but in such a type of efforts. There is a current of consumers beginning that is turned to a such way of life. The next years many, we hope, will be those who will decide to leave behind them the miserable life of their "electronic" house in the cities and likely they will find exit in the communal life of rural agriculture, without of course this means that they cannot create social relations and in the neighborhoods of the cities. Somebody in the provincial cities remember already that they have a certain ranch from their parents in their near village and begin dealing with it during the weekends or in their free time.
Therefore from the time when the "multifunctional" farmer will start produce for himself, it is obvious that he will also enter in the logic of healthy food and then he will easily turned to bio-farming and cattle-farming, because he and his family will not want to eat the poisons that they easily used before, after they produced for the impersonal market and no for the neighbour or the local consumer.
He also more easily will re-organise his needs and escape from the consumerism and the exterior. He will be forced thus to come back in species and varieties that will not need chemical support, but that they will be tryed in the region, that is to say in the forgotten local varieties, and he will escape from the hybrids and the genetic modified species. So, he will also escape from the jurisdiction of CAP and from the reef of WTO. Moreover, the local market always appreciated the "local" product.
Following this direction (eco-agriculture, eco-cattle-farming) they will still more easily exceed the current importance of the term “farmer”, in order to develop themselves in eco-producers and eco-consumers with the ancient Greek importance and not only with the current running importance of the term. They will be in position to exceed even the particular market of ecological products, as it goes to be shaped today (with certification, particular higher prices, particular "elite" market etc). Creating local collectives of cultivators-consumer or better communities of exchanges and satisfaction of the needs, as cells of the future communities of a self-managed society, against the society of globalisation.
With this significance, it can be created a movement of farmers that will participate in the general social movement against the liberal globalisation and in the contestation of state, promoting local structures of direct democracy. A first step to this direction is the creation of Pan-Hellenic Network of Bio-farmers, Bio-producers and Bio-consumers, that it will help in the creation of local collectives of eco-producers and eco-consumers connected in a coherent network between them. In a more advanced form they can be also connected with other sectors of production as well as with the unemployed, so that the result can be the formation of "local communities of collaboration and exchanges".
* This article is a little reducement (and of cource translation) of a bigger article written by Giorgos Kolempas and published in “Eftopia” (which means a good place, a good locality) No 9, July 2002. The editorial group of this magazine is fighting for the libertarian confederalist communalism and the financial and the direct democracy. For contact with the editorial group of “Eftopia”, please write to: P.O. BOX 72086, Ilioupoli 16310, Athens, Greece. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun 26 May, 06:08
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