EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, and implications for Agriculture and Food Safety

Yesterday the EU Delegation to Georgia ran a half-day introductory workshop for Georgian industry, NGO’s and civil society on the implications of Georgia’s impending initialling of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, which will happen next month in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Presentations from the EU, from the Georgian National Food Authority, the Georgian Revenue Service (which operates a Sanitary and Phytosanitary Unit at Georgia’s land and sea border crossings) provided a basic framework for what farmers, traders and food processors must expect to implement over the next two years.

Eurasia Partnership Foundation, as recipient of an EU grant for engaging civil society in the process, presented their findings on challenges and risks associated with implementing tougher new regulations on food safety and traceability. The Georgian Farmers’ Association also announced the development of their own on-farm QA system, modelled on GlobalGAP but with less demanding standards.

Interesting discussions were held regarding private food safety laboratories being eligible to subcontract for the National Food Authority and the ability of Georgia to import and utilise genetically modified organisms.

The EU delegation announced that a series of seven very detailed seminars on specific issues will follow, every second month, over the next year. Food business operators and farmers interested in participating should refer their query to the relevant EU official, Mr Antonio LoParco, at







Crop protection products crucial for commercial viability, says Deloitte study | Food Magazine

The findings of this DeLoitte report on the Australian agricultural chemical industry, indicating that over two-thirds of farm output is attributable to chemical usage, would be mirrored in most parts of the world, including Georgia. Organic production is all very well is one has customers willing to pay double or triple the price of conventional product, but we cannot feed the world through Organic methodologies.

Crop protection products crucial for commercial viability, says Deloitte study | Food Magazine

A new study which was conducted by Deloitte and commissioned by CropLife Australia, states that without the use of approved crop protection products, crucial food crops including carrots, peanuts and even hops would be commercially unviable.

The report titled The Deloitte Access Economics report found that up to 68 percent – equating to $17.6b of Australian agricultural output, can be attributed to the use of crop protection products, and that the sector itself employs up to 9,250 full time equivalent jobs across the nation.

“Our report highlights the multiple contributions the crop protection industry makes to the economy in areas including employment, exports, manufacturing and trade,” said Deloitte Access Economics Partner Steve Brown.

CEO of CropLife Australia Matthew Cossey said that without the use of approved, modern agrichemicals, Australia would essentially be incapable of commercially producing beer, wine and an array of local produce.

“Our grocery bills would be almost twice as expensive and the variety of local food to which we’d have access would be alarmingly narrow,” Said Cossey.

“…This report demonstrates the relevance and importance of the initiatives set out in the Coalition’s current agriculture policy. It is absolutely vital that Australian farmers have access to the most up-to-date, sustainable agricultural chemical products for the sake of our farmers, our food supply and our economy.”

The study comes at a time when the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides – particularly in relation to genetically modified crops – have come under much debate.

via Crop protection products crucial for commercial viability, says Deloitte study | Food Magazine.

via Crop protection products crucial for commercial viability, says Deloitte study | Food Magazine.

Ethanol Investigation: The Secret, Dirty Cost Of Obama’s Green Power Push

Winding back US ethanol mandates will probably cause corn prices to soften, but eventually the international demand for corn for stockfeed should take up the slack. A good example of how state intervention in food markets causes environmental damage.

Arizona dust storm 2012

CORYDON, Iowa — CORYDON, Iowa (AP) — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America’s push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.

Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.

The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.

Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, and the effects are visible in places like south central Iowa.

The hilly, once-grassy landscape is made up of fragile soil that, unlike the earth in the rest of the state, is poorly suited for corn. Nevertheless, it has yielded to America’s demand for it.

For the complete article, read here at Ethanol Investigation: The Secret, Dirty Cost Of Obama’s Green Power Push.

From precision farming to autonomous farming: How commodity technologies enable revolutionary impact | Robohub

Our company already is selling GPS guidance systems for tractors, harvesters and spray rigs in the Georgian market, as well a variable-rate control systems for precision application of seed and chemical. Next year will see our new developments in robotic equipment, assembled in Georgia for European use.

The following article is worth reading to the end. All these techniques have been adopted already in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to reduce risk and cost of production, but are as yet unused here.


The popular conception of farming as low-tech is woefully out of date. Modern farmers are high-tech operators: They use GIS software to plan their fields, GPS to guide field operations, and auto-steer systems to make tractors follow that GPS guidance without human hands. Given this technology foundation, the transition to full autonomy is already in progress, leveraging commodity parts and advanced software to get there more quickly than is possible in many other domains.

Read more, and see the videos, here From precision farming to autonomous farming: How commodity technologies enable revolutionary impact | Robohub.

No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal.

A good review of the subject for lay people. Georgia has only one zero-till crop planter in the whole country. Given the huge fuel consumption of the elderly Belarus tractors in use in Georgia, the cost-effectiveness of no-till farming here is very attractive. Side benefits of improved soil water retention in dryland fields, better soil structure, increased soil organic matter, improved soil biology, and reduced soil erosion make it worthy of consideration. Given that many Georgian cereal cropping plots are long, narrow strips running up and down hillsides, rather than running along contours, zero-till farming may preserve valuable topsoil that would otherwise be washed away by runoff  after cultivation.

Here’s a fascinating trend in U.S. agriculture that’s been going on for the past few decades. It’s the dramatic rise … of no-till farming:

No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal.

“No-till farming” sounds pretty dull at first. The term basically describes ways to grow crops each year without disturbing the soil through tillage or plowing.

But it’s an important idea. Plowing and tillage are major sources of soil erosion around the world — they were key factors behind the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. What’s more, churning up all that soil can release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, helping to warm the planet. So, since the 1980s, more and more American farmers (and policymakers) have started taking no-till farming seriously.

In the United States, no-till farming is now growing at a pace of about 1.5 percent per year, according to the Department of Agriculture. In 2009, about 35.5 percent of the country’s cropland had at least some no-tillage operations — though only 10 percent were full-time no-till operations. (The rest involve a selective use of no-till or a mix of techniques.)

Why did no-till farming spread? This 2008 report (pdf) in Scientific American tells the broader back story. For most of human history, farmers plowed their soil to plant crops. The advent of tractors in the 20th century made it even easier to churn up fields. But as soil erosion became a massive environmental problem around the globe, that slowly changed.

For more detail, see here at No-till farming is on the rise. That’s actually a big deal..

There’s no global wine shortage | Felix Salmon

More scoffing from Reuters analysts about the impending wine drought….


There’s no global wine shortage | Felix Salmon


Have you heard about the global wine shortage? Of course you have: it’s been covered in pretty much every media outlet imaginable, but Roberto Ferdman’s piece for Quartz (“A global wine shortage could soon be upon us”) was one of the first, and also one of the most detailed. Still, it was the classic single-source article: it basically took one Morgan Stanley report, reproduced a bunch of the key charts, and added a clickbaity headline.

But if you look closely at the Morgan Stanley report, it starts to look less like a dispassionate analysis of supply and demand dynamics in the wine world, and more like an aggressively-argued attempt to put forward one particular investment thesis as strongly as possible. What’s more, the investment thesis is not, particularly, based on the existence of any present or future wine shortage; it’s simply trying to present the idea that demand for Australian wine exports is likely to rise, and to justify the fact that  a company called Treasury Wine Estates is the bank’s “top Australian consumer pick”. (The report was written by Morgan Stanley Australia.)

For more detail, click here There’s no global wine shortage | Felix Salmon.


Wine “Shortage” Is Bull: Here’s Why | Wine Industry Insight

A very interesting contrary position to that of the previous Morgan Stanley analysis cited on this blog.

Wine “Shortage” Is Bull: Here’s Why | Wine Industry Insight

The widely touted global wine “shortage” arises from naivety among Citi and Morgan Stanley analysts and their failure to assess the global industry as a whole — especially the agriculture and vineyard aspects (Reality Check: Global Wine Supply & Gullible Brokerage Analysts).

Analysts may also have been fed partial information by their sources as part of a spin campaign to prime the pump for Treasury Wine Estates to dump its U.S. assets — the former Beringer Wine company.

For more details and references, see here Wine “Shortage” Is Bull: Here’s Why | Wine Industry Insight.