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"Covid-19 is a wake-up call"

June 24, 2020 8:00 AM, Der AUDITOR
Frank Nordmann, General Manager Key Accounts @GRIMME agricultural machineries
Frank Nordmann, General Manager Key Accounts @GRIMME agricultural machineries
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BERLIN. In a local call with the German Agriultural Society's department for Eastern Europe Frank Nordmann explains how the pandemic highlights flaws in the food system. Nordmann is a General Manager for Key Accounts and Sustainable Development at the GRIMME factory for agricltural machinery and Co-Chairman of the German Agribusiness Alliance.

Crisis, war and corruption: many companies associate Africa with these three issues. How do you view Europe's neighbouring continent as chairman of the German Agribusiness Alliance?
Even if a commitment in Africa is associated with numerous challenges, the risks are no greater than elsewhere. We regard Africa above all as an opportunity for German agribusiness! 60% of the world's unused farmland is located on the continent, yet Africa has to import a quarter of its food. We as the German Agribusiness Alliance are convinced that Africa's agriculture is the growth engine for the continent. With modern means of production, with adapted agricultural technology and adequate financing and training, Africa could even become a net exporter of food. Our objective is to develop the agricultural and food sector in a sustainable way in cooperation with our local partners and to improve the political and economic framework conditions on the ground. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how important the local agricultural sector is.

Speaking of Covid-19, many experts fear that Africa is slipping from a health crisis into a food crisis. What do you expect?
The number of infections in Africa is still low - but this is also due to the fact that there is extremely little testing. And yet, the impact on local agriculture is already perceptible today. Due to the lockdowns farmers are, for instance, no longer able to sell their goods. On top of this farmers also lack inputs and seeds for the coming harvest! In Ethiopia alone, it is estimate that yieds will range 8% lower in the new season. At the same time, states in East Africa have to fight a locust plague of enormous proportions that may trigger a loss exceeding eight billion US dollars in terms of crops and livestock. Instead of painting the devil on the wall, we should regard the current crisis as a wake-up call that is casting a light on the flaws in the food system. It is therefore important that policymakers work together with the private sector to strengthen local food production and maintain international value chains.

Is the current situation comparable to the global food crisis in 2007/2008?
No, while the 2007/2008 crisis was prompted a shortage of food on the world market, global production and stocks, in theory, suffice to supply everyone with food this year.

In addition to lockdowns, trade restrictions are one of the biggest causes of food shortages on the ground. When states in Southeast Asia, for instance, restrict rice exports, sub-Saharan Africa is hit particularly hard. The GAA is therefore particularly committed to maintaining international trade and improving the international framework for economic activity. In order to achieve our goals, we maintain a close dialogue with German decision-makers, international institutions and our partner countries.

You mentioned a "wake-up call". What contribution can the agricultural sector in Germany make to strengthen local food systems?
The German Agribusiness Alliance comprises around thirty associations, large companies and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector. We cover the agricultural value chain. Our member companies already engage in short-term aid deliveries to countries in Africa and are actively involved in projects that strengthen the local food sector. Our projects make a massive contribution to income and food security  and our local classrooms on seeds, crop protection products and agricultural machinery promote education and training in crop production. These projects can help to establish a modern agricultural sector based on regional private enterprise in the medium and long run, increase the prosperity of countries and societies and make them more resilient to future crises.

Sounds like charity!
The German Agribusiness Alliance is a private-sector initiative that works together with partner country governments and the German government to develop new approaches to support self-sufficiency and the export of agricultural products. We are convinced that the use of modern, efficient and safe technologies from Germany can make a significant contribution to increasing agricultural production while using existing resources. It is not state development aid, but rather economic cooperation at eye level that creates local jobs in the long run. The German Agribusiness Alliance is therefore in very close contact with German and international donors in order to make a sustainable contribution to self-sustaining economic development. In doing so, we pay particular attention to reconciling the business interests of our member companies with local value creation. As already mentioned, training and further education play a central role in this process - a feature that is unique to the German agricultural sector and unfortunately often presents a hurdle in international tenders.

But training is central to creating local prospects!
Correct. Problem, however, is that only the price and product-related financing conditions frequently play a rolebut in tenders often only the price and the financing conditions of a product play a role when tenders are issued. Suppliers in Germany are not competitive in these cases! As the German Agribusiness Alliance, we see it as our task to increasingly promote the aspects of quality, service and sustainability with our partners.

The question of adequate financing for the agricultural sector in Africa also plays a special role. While 70% of all jobs and over 40% of African GDP are related to the agricultural sector, less than 15% of creditors provide services for agricultural enterprises and small farmers in Africa.

You have been active in Africa youirself for many years. Why is it so important to get involved with the continent together with other companies?
In order to help shape political decision-making processes with regard to fundamental economic policy objectives, it is important that companies in the agricultural and food industry act together., especially in Africa. Only if we act together as agribusiness will we be able to minimise the risks in Africa and obtain political support for our concerns. Since not every company can be present at every meeting and every trip, a central task of our office is to accompany political appointments and coordinate the flow of information. Together we are strong!

 

Frank Nordmann is one of the three Co-Chairs of the German Agribusiness Alliance - in this function he is responsible for the regional focus on Africa and member of the board of the Afrika-Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft e.V.

The German Agribusiness Alliance (GAA)is an initiative of leading associations and companies in the agricultural and food industry, which serves as a platform for the exchange and pooling of economic interests in cooperation with transition, emerging and developing countries (partner countries) in the agricultural and food sector in Eastern Europe/Central Asia, Asia and Africa.
More information on the advantages of corporate membership in the German Agribusiness Alliance can be obtained from the management:
- Dr Per Brodersen (
p.brodersen@bdi.eu; +49 30/206167-124)
- Alina Gumpert (
a.gumpert@apa.bdi.eu; +49 30/2028-1549)

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