Consumers notice it at the checkout: groceries are becoming more expensive. The agricultural sector points out that higher costs are having an impact across the board. The farmer’s day is also about other crisis concepts.
From the farmers’ point of view, no relaxation is to be expected for the time being with the increased food prices in the supermarket. “We farmers have massively increased costs,” said Farmer President Joachim Rukwied of the German Press Agency.
“We can’t just leave the car at the weekend like private individuals and say, I’m not going to make the trip now. We have to work our fields, so we don’t really have any savings potential.” Therefore, the farmers on the other hand need corresponding prices in order to be able to continue farming.
“We also expect further price increases because some of the cost increases have not yet been priced in,” said Rukwied. Higher prices in the supermarkets would also only partially reach the farmers. Many farms are struggling with significantly higher expenses for diesel, electricity, gas, feed and fertilizers. Price increases were in part exacerbated by the Russian war against Ukraine. The tense situation is a central topic at the German Farmers’ Day this Tuesday and Wednesday in Lübeck.
Climate protection and animal welfare despite the Ukraine war
Inflation in Germany has increased recently. According to preliminary data from the Federal Statistical Office, consumer prices in May were 7.9 percent above the level of the same month last year. Accordingly, 38.3 percent more had to be paid for energy than a year ago, food prices rose by 11.1 percent.
In the discussion about expanding production for food security due to the lack of grain exports from Ukraine, Rukwied said: “We are sticking to the transformation process for more climate protection, more animal welfare in the stables and improvements for biodiversity.” That means “a very clear no” to suspending these topics now. «On the other hand, in view of the global supply crisis in African countries, we have to ask ourselves the question: Where do we still have reserves that we can raise? As German farmers, we offer to use more land temporarily for growing food. We can, and I think we should do it ethically.”
The expected effect would be rather small, explained Rukwied. “We could perhaps produce an additional 1.4 million tons of grain. But they would help ease the burden. And if other regions in Europe and the world did that too, it would have an effect.” It is up to politicians to decide whether to get this going, said the farmer president. “As farmers, we need the decision in July in order to be able to plan accordingly.” The harvest volume in Germany is more than 40 million tons.
Among other things, Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir has already made it possible that this year grass and plants from certain “ecological priority areas” may be used as fodder. This should mitigate price increases. However, the Green politician is opposed to further calls from the federal states to be able to do everything again on fallow land and to grow grain there, for example.
Farmers need nitrogen fertilizers
Rukwied also emphasized: “It is crucial that we get a prioritization in the supply of natural gas, especially as far as fertilizer production is concerned.” Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for plants. “If we don’t have that available, in extreme cases the yields will collapse massively from one year to the next.” In order to take precautions, the association also calls for a fertilizer reserve. Yields can only be secured with sufficient nitrogen fertilizer. “This is my top priority in order to reduce risks to food security,” said the farmer’s president. Gas is also used in processing, for example in dairies.
The increase in the minimum wage is also driving farms, Rukwied made clear. «Concerns about the future are particularly great for fruit and vegetable companies. This raises the question for one or the other farm as to whether it will still be able to grow strawberries, asparagus or other vegetables on the same scale next year.” The minimum wage is currently €9.82. On July 1, it will rise to EUR 10.45 per hour, and then on October 1 to EUR 12 per hour.