Berlin, 17 January, 2004— Germany‘s unique exhibition for agriculture, the food industry and horticulture, the International Green Week, opened in Berlin January 16. Recognised worldwide as a window for modern methods of agriculture, the ten-day fair provides an opportunity for the general public and potential trading partners to sample the best that the food industry has to offer.
The Green Week provides a platform for critical review of the activities of participants in the agricultural sector due to the comprehensive display of products and services by over 1,500 exhibitors from 56 countries on every continent of the world.
Africa is represented at this year‘s fair which runs from January 16th to 25th by the Republic of South Africa, Kenya, Tunisia, and the West African state of Guinea Bissau which is attending the event for the first time.
The opening ceremony of this year‘s event was dominated by the process of European Union expansion to 25 member states in just over 100 days. ‘‘With the participation of all the new member countries from Central and Eastern Europe, the Green Week 2004 underlines the role of Berlin and its trade fairs as a hub for East-West trade´´, said the Chief Executive of Messe Berlin, Raimund Hosch, in his welcome address.
The diversity of countries and products at this year‘s fair provided a foretaste of the largest single market in the western world, which will comprise some 450 million consumers.
Poland‘s Minister of Agriculture, Wojciech Olejniczak, drew attention to the environmentally correct production methods employed by his country‘s farmers.
In his speech, the EU Agricultural Commissioner, Franz Fischler, summarised the EU agricultural policy over the past ten years: The progress from a rigid, production-oriented policy characterised by subsidies to a market-oriented, environmentally friendly, performance-related system was necessary in order to avert a gradual loss of confidence on the part of consumers and tax-payers, and to create a European agriculture that would be able to face the future and compete effectively.
Fischler stressed that the developing countries must be offered fair market opportunities through the worldwide liberalization of trade and selective support for their efforts to meet international product standards.
Germany‘s Minister of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Renate Kuenast said the separation of direct payments from production from 2005 and the introduction of a uniform area premium for arable and grassland sites from 2012 were intended to create more equitable distribution of income payments as well as strengthen the position of rural areas.
Kuenast welcomed the introduction of the law on the labelling of genetically modified organisms, which takes effect in April this year, adding that ‘‘this represents the application of the consumer‘s right to freedom of choice´´.
The president of the German Farmer‘s Association, Gerd Sonnleithner, criticised the new law on genetic engineering, stressing that it leaves farmers to bear all the risks on their own and called on the Minister of Agriculture to provide a political environment that would ‘‘grant as much respect to our farmers‘ efforts to improve earnings and introduce innovations as it does to flora and fauna.´´
This year‘s Green Week, described as the pre-eminent international show for the food industry, agriculture and horticulture occupies a space of 114,000 square metres, the equivalent of 155 football fields, reflecting the vital importance of agriculture and the food industry against a background of a massive economic potential.
It is estimated that agribusinesses in Germany alone provides jobs for 4.3 million people, meaning one in nine jobs depends on the food industry and agriculture, including the sectors supplied by these industries and which they in turn supply. Of the 552.9 billion euros generated by this sector in 2003, 128 billion euros was accounted for by food production, Germany‘s largest industry.