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What can Asia Learn from the EU Farmer Protests?

What can Asia learn from the EU farmer protests?


Europe is experiencing a wave of protests from farmers displaying discontent with the status quo. For years, they have faced decreasing income and unfair competition from cheap imports and policies that favour big corporations – a scenario not limited to Europe. Farmers are also protesting the EU green regulations, which include pushing organic production and halving pesticide use by 2030.

 

farm truck on protest

Source: Telegraph; credit: JEANNE ACCORSINI/SIPA/SHUTTERSTOCK


It is not the regulations themselves that farmers are railing against but the distinct lack of support on offer to make the necessary changes. Enforcing these targets against the backdrop of challenging new legislation (think Germany cutting tax breaks on diesel usage and France imposing pesticide restrictions) while providing no help is rendering farming economically unviable.  

 

a line of farm trusk blocking the road

Source: BBC; Credit ERIC LALMAND/BELGA MAP/AFP


Conventional agriculture is currently heavily subsidized. Therefore, any mandated changes to the existing model would require financial support. Japan set an example for Asia by creating a list of environmental conditions for subsidy applicants, including appropriate use of pesticides, proper waste management, and biodiversity impact.

 


farm cart on a farm

Source: Nikkei Asia; Photo by Yuki Nakao


As well as financial support, new regulation must be supported by the necessary infrastructure and education. Take Hong Kong’s Municipal Waste Charging Scheme; the lack of recycling stations and communication about the initiative led to city-wide confusion and the scheme’s ultimate postponement, further delaying progress with the city’s environmental targets.

 

New green targets are necessary for nature-positive production, but governments must consider the stakeholders who rely on the current system and provide support to facilitate the transformation.

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