07 Apr 2017

“Farmers need to have access to their markets to be sustainable”. WFO President’s speech at the workshop “Connecting World Farmers to the Value Chain”







On Friday April 7th, World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) and Agri-Cooperative Organisations (Copa-Cogeca) organised a workshop called “Connecting World Farmers to the Value Chain”, with the support of the European Commission and CEMA.

The event aimed at showing how digitalisation and the use of innovative technologies can represent great opportunities for farmers to improve their production, to produce more efficiently and to enjoy a more effective connection to the market, contributing to their empowerment.

The event was made up of 3 panels, focusing on the impact of knowledge economy in the new value chain approach, food security and climate change.

The event was opened by Mr. Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa and Cogeca, and William Rolleston, President of the WFO.


President Rolleston’s speech is shown below.


Secretary General Pesonen of COPA and COGECA;

Our honoured speaker Mr Margus Mägi, Digital Policy Coordinator of the Government Office of Republic of Estonia;

Fellow Farmers, Ladies and gentlemen

I would also like to join my colleague Secretary General Pesonen, in welcoming you all here today. The World Farmers Organisation is proud to be co-hosting this important event. I thank COPA-COGECA and I also thank our partners, CEMA and the European Commission, for their support.

In my mind it is important and relevant for several reasons. The first though is that its themes of value chain, food security and climate change align closely with our policy priorities. We – our team in Rome and our members - have been working hard over the past several months to revise policies in each of these areas to a point that they can be adopted at the General Assembly in Helsinki in June.

For those of you who have already registered or are looking to register for Helsinki please be aware that, like many UN agencies, our website has come under cyber-attack but with the help of our technical support we have restored normal function and integrity and the authorities are investigating.

The World Farmers Organisation represents a broad constituency from small subsistence farmers to commercial and family farmers, from developing and developed nations. Our opinions are diverse but that is our strength. Finding common and meaningful ground on any topic gives a robustness that is difficult to challenge with any credibility.

With that strength the World Farmers Organisation has been able to make its case in international discussion on behalf of its farmer members across the world. Discussions which talk a lot about farming and farmers, and whose outcomes influence our very lives, but which until now have had little, if no, representation from farmers themselves. We are changing that and it is making a difference. And here I would like to acknowledge the generous support of our colleagues at COPA and COGECA.

In Paris in 2015 the Climate Change Agreement emerged with a new additional goal of preserving food security and food production. This was a significant acknowledgement of the critical role we farmers have in providing the food which sustains all of our lives. We, the farmers of the world – the World Farmers Organisation, played a critical role through our interventions and our delegations. Our challenge now as farmers is to find a path which achieves climate mitigation and adaptation as well as food production. Our emerging policy revision on Climate Change does just that.

We are in the middle of the digital revolution and digital technology will pervade much of our conversation over the ensuing hours but we must also be conscious that we stand at the dawn of the genetic revolution which offers much promise at the small and large scale, at the local as well as the international level.

We must learn the lessons of the debate on genetic modification and, as we move to the more precise, more predictable and more accessible technology of gene editing, we must ensure that we take the public, who are our customers along with us.

Local attitudes and the regulation that flows have an influence on another nation’s freedom to operate. The opportunity to use a technology in a country for example is heavily influenced by local policy and attitudes in its markets. It is not right or wrong, simply an observation that our local actions and attitudes can have international consequences even though the contexts may be very different.

Trade policy is forever contentious and we live in uncertain times. But one constant stands – farmers need to have access to their markets to be sustainable - be that at the local or international level.

Penetrating the value chain is key if farmers are to realise their true potential. Access to technology and local infrastructure can and does present significant challenges particularly those in developing countries. Regulation increasingly constrains the developed world farmer.

Worldwide the aspirations of farmers are the same – a better life and opportunity for our next generation. Our level of opportunity may be different but fundamentally our challenges are the same – access to science, access to technology, access to capital and the markets - and at the heart of making progress is the opportunity to innovate.

I look forward to the discussions and trust that we will find common ground to make a difference for the farmers which we represent.

Thank you.