Declaration of the Territorial Working Group on the COVID 19 crisis
The current situation has shown that the German economy, and the European economy in general, is highly dependent on international value chains. At the same time, it has demonstrated the fragility of our food production system and its direct relationship to the development of plagues that are transmitted from animals to humans. The current model of the agricultural sector exposes animal species and the environment to enormous production stress, which, combined with poor housing conditions in big cities, are the breeding ground for possible pandemics.
As the coordination of Via Campesina Europe says: “The current globalised system has caused great dependence and fragility. After years of austerity measures and cuts, we see more than ever the need for stronger public services, especially within health care and other vital areas, so that they can deal with the serious difficulties that are occurring. Similarly, we also see that it is essential to have a secure, safe and sufficient supply of healthy and local food for the entire population.”
We see how border closures are affecting agricultural production in the country, mostly in areas near to large cities, especially Berlin and its surroundings. Nevertheless, what we don’t see is the relationship between work in the countryside and labour rights. A large part of the production is sustained by migrant workers, who perform their tasks on a seasonal basis. Not only the fields have been left without workers, these have also been left without income, without any work in their countries of origin, mostly Eastern Europe, and without German health insurence. Income which, on the other hand, is normally low and in precarious conditions. It is also essential to point out that the current crisis is not only affecting production, due to a lack of labour, but also sales, since the usual markets and places of distribution have been closed.
The crisis of Covid-19 shows us that we cannot stop ignoring the countryside, its situation and the demands of the farmers. It is important to emphasize, that after this pandemic things cannot continue as they have been so far. The food of the people cannot be part of market speculation, just as public health cannot be in the hands of big companies that produce medicines or provide medical services. In this sense, we believe that it is necessary to consolidate and prioritize local production and distribution chains, as well as to restructure international chains fairly and democratically.
Citing the statement of La Vía Campesina in Europe puts it, it is time to highlight the central role of farmer in the production of the food we consume daily: «In 2016, 95.2% of farms in the EU were classified as family farms. In other European countries, the percentage is even higher. In other words, Europe is full of small-scale food producers who offer a ready-made solution to the problems that worry the whole world: having healthy, local food that does not depend on the long supply chains that risk being hit so drastically by this pandemic.» Their existence, however, is threatened by the agreement, currently under discussion, between the Mercosur countries – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – and the EU.
This agreement, which has been negotiated for more than 20 years, not only threats small-scale farmers, but also endangers the territory itself, ecosystems and natural resources, as the experience of the last 30 years in Latin America teaches us. The agreement, in a few words, means a deepening of the privatization of land and all its consequences: logics of exploitation and plundering of land in search of maximum profitability, no care for the territory, the environment and the food itself -felling of forests, use of pesticides, etc.-, the accumulation of natural resources in the hands of a few and the greater precariousness of the conditions of the workers, the model of transgenic plantations, the massive use of pesticides and the production for export of commodities (the Monsanto model) has generated, since its application in Latin America, with special focus on the Southern Cone, the gradual disappearance of the local productive farmers network. This has led to an unprecedented loss of food sovereignty and security. This is the model that the large corporations of the food industry and the governments want to implement as the agrarian model of the 21st century for Europe and the whole planet.
In consecuence, this all will go in depth of the already difficult production conditions of farmers through Europe and Latin America. In the same time, it will destroy the industry in South American countries. The way out of the humanitarian and economic crisis that Covid-19 is triggering cannot be, in any way, a further deepening of the neoliberal recipes that impose more public adjustment, increased free trade and cuts in labour rights. The free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur is going to go in depth the reasons – exacerbated by the critical situation of the current pandemic – that led us to this situation in the first place.
It is time to find collective solutions to the social, political, economic and environmental crisis that the Covid-19 has made more visible. The way in which we produce and live, has been showing its limits for a long time, so today more than ever it is urgent to find new ways. For that, we must take into consideration the counterhegemonic production models that already exist in several regions of the world, but which are systematically hidden, manipulated and disabled by free trade agreements. Food production in harmony with both social and environmental surroundings is possible, because it is already the basis of our daily diet. Now we have to make the forward leap to make this model of production the centre of a new, more humane, sustainable and socialised model of production.