Price hikes and lower meat consumption highlight need for change in Germany’s farming sector
Clean Energy Wire
German agriculture is going through a transformation to make the sector more sustainable, putting companies under pressure to adapt to the changes, found the government’s Agricultural Policy Report. The report – published every four years – found that farmers in the country struggle with large fluctuations in income, which are linked to weather extremes fuelled by climate change. At the same time, the energy crisis has hiked the price of natural gas, which in turn has increased the cost of many chemical products, such as fertilisers and pesticides, in the past year. “The price rises are reflected in higher consumer prices. Organic products turned out to be more resilient to inflation,” the report found. “The report highlights the efforts made by each farmer for the country – despite the grave consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s attack on Ukraine or the climate crisis,” said agriculture minister Cem Özdemir from the Green Party.
About one million people are directly employed in the agricultural sector in Germany, producing goods with a value of about 50 billion euros per year. Including linked industries, such as retailing or agricultural equipment, employment in the sector rises to 4.4 million people and the production value increases to 218 billion euros. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of agricultural companies fell by 36,000, leaving a total of just under 263,000 at the end of the decade. The report found that this was especially due to a reduction in animal farming, as meat consumption, particularly of pigs, fell by more than a quarter in the past decade. Özdemir said the government acknowledged the trend away from meat-heavy diets. It will continue to advocate EU-wide standards for labelling products produced through animal husbandry and increasing the role of plant-based alternatives, he added.
The agriculture minister last year vowed end the current culture of ‘junk prices for food’ and to better protect animals and the climate in the context of food production. In 2021, a commission set up by the previous government published a far-reaching set of recommendations for making the agricultural sector more sustainable and climate-friendly. Greenhouse gas emissions from the sector fell by around one quarter between 1990 and 2020, in large part due to the decrease in livestock numbers after German reunification.