Consequences of the Ukraine war: Özdemir expects higher food prices

Status: 06/24/2022 07:34 a.m

Federal Minister of Agriculture Özdemir expects food prices to continue to rise and is therefore calling for further relief. The increased costs as a result of the Ukraine war and impending gaps in the global supply situation are also topics in Berlin today.

According to Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir, the rise in food prices has not yet peaked. That is why the Greens politician pleaded in the “Tagesspiegel” for further relief – especially for low-income households.

Özdemir once again brought up the abolition of VAT on fruit and vegetables as a possible measure for such relief: “I think that would be good because consumer spending plays a major role, especially for the poor and because it would also contribute to healthy eating.”

The debate about eliminating VAT has been going on for weeks. Among other things, the social association VdK, the consumer center Federal Association (vzbv) and the German Diabetes Society have already spoken out in favor of temporarily suspending VAT on basic foods. These should include fruit, vegetables, milk and legumes.

Özdemir had already made his support for such a step clear several times. However, he doubted in the “Tagesspiegel” that the partners in the traffic light coalition could currently find the necessary majority to get a temporary phasing out of VAT.

Bundestag decides on financial aid for farmers

One reason for the rising prices is the higher financial burden for farmers, for example due to the more expensive fertilizer or higher energy prices. Some of these costs have to be passed on to consumers.

In order to counteract this, the Bundestag has regulated the legal basis for the crisis aid for farmers that has already been announced. 180 million euros are planned for this. Farms are to be supported with up to 15,000 euros each. The money should be paid out by the end of September at the latest. A third of the sum is provided by the EU, the rest comes from the federal government. However, the Federal Council still has to agree to the crisis aid.

Conference on Global Food Security

The problem of rising food prices is also the subject of today’s conference “Together for global food security” in Berlin. In addition to Özdemir, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Federal Development Minister Svenja Schulze are also to take part in the consultations with representatives from various countries and aid organizations. The central point is also the fight against famine and the supply situation in several countries, which has been aggravated by the war against Ukraine.

A core problem is the blocked grain exports from Ukraine. Özdemir warned that “durable and efficient alternatives” to exporting the grain via the Black Sea had to be found. As long as Russia acts as a “permanent aggressor,” “Ukraine cannot rely on being able to safely transport its grain across the Black Sea, even in the event of peace,” warned the agriculture minister. He described securing the export of grain from Ukraine as a “global task” for which the USA, the EU and the private sector would also have to be “brought on board”.

Higher wheat yield possible in the EU?

As a possible solution, Özdemir considered building a new broad-gauge rail link between Ukraine and the Baltic ports. Exports via the Danube may also be the most effective. But more needs to be done outside of Ukraine to strengthen the global supply of wheat. In the opinion of the Green politician, for example, the prescribed change in crop rotation could be dispensed with in the EU this year, in order to enable the repeated cultivation of wheat. According to scientific calculations, “up to 3.4 million additional tons of wheat could be produced in Germany alone,” says Özdemir.

The conference in Berlin is considered preparation for the G7 summit, which will take place in Elmau on Sunday. Concrete commitments or resolutions, for example on financial aid, are not to be expected today.

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