The international food and agriculture industries are showing restrained optimism ahead of the world's largest agricultural fair in Berlin. A special forum will concentrate on food supplies in a growing world.
Partner country Netherlands is presenting 'Quality from next door'
The International Green Week (IGW), the world's largest exhibition for the food industry, agriculture and horticulture, opens its doors on Friday, Jan. 16 in Berlin.
In light of the current economic climate, this year's IGW will be considered an indicator for investment and spending trends in the coming months.
The food and agriculture industries said they had mixed feelings going into the fair. Gerd Sonnleitner, head of the German Farmers' Union DBV, said the economic crisis was battering farmers.
"But we're producing food that is also needed in times of economic crisis," Sonnleitner said at the IGW opening press conference. The chances were good that farmers would continue their work successfully.
The head of the BVE Food Industry Federation Juergen Abraham said consumers would benefit from price pressures on the industry.
Green Week is about more than just culinary delights and cows
"The price increases in food appear to have ceased," Abraham told reporters.
Organic food sector untouched by crisis
One area that is not suffering at all from the economic downturn is the organic food sector.
"The financial crisis only has little direct impact on the organic food sector," said Thomas Dosch, head of Germany's largest organic farmers' association, Bioland. The organic sector continued to develop positively and "the interest of farmers to switch (to organics) is growing," he said.
In 2008, sales related to organic food were up by some 10 percent to 5.8 billion euros ($7.6 billion), the Federation of the Organic Food Sector BOLW said.
Despite higher prices, consumers did not want to do without organic food, BOLW said.
Forum offers platform for global dialogue
The International Green Week Forum (FIGW) is also taking place parallel to the trade fair. It will be offering conferences, workshops and discussions on major issues concerning world food supplies. This year's forum is focusing on global food security.
"Ensuring the food security of a growing world population in the face of limited natural resources is currently one of the key challenges of the future facing mankind," said Germany's Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner in a welcome address on the FIGW Web site.
Green Week has existed since 1926
"In the light of population growth and the fight against poverty, the challenge now is to raise the supply of agricultural products by increasing productivity in the farming sector," Aigner said.
Around 30 agriculture ministers are expected to attend the forum with leading representatives from the agriculture and food industries. These include Russia's Alexej Gordejev, Chinese Vice-minister for Agriculture Chen Xiao Hua, India's Sharad Pawar, Tefera Deribew of Ethiopia and Brazil's former Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues.
Messe Berlin, which organizes the trade fair, said this year's IGW was a milestone in the fair's history since its debut in 1926.
"Never before have the leading representatives of every stage in the value-added chain of agri-business been able to engage in such high level discussions and on such a global scale with agricultural policymakers on issues of vital importance to the future of humankind," said Christian Goeke, Messe Berlin's chief operating officer.
Russia is the largest exhibitor
Livestock and tractors will be among the products displayed from around the world by 1,600 exhibitors from 56 countries. Over 400,000 visitors are expected to attend. They will be able to view shows and presentations, featuring typical regional produce including more than 100,000 specialties from all over the world, around 10,000 pets and a sea of some 30,000 flowering plants.
The trade show lasts 10 days. Industry experts and professionals will be able to attend over 300 conferences, meetings and seminars. Some 150 leading national and international politicians have announced that they will be attending, along with their delegations.
Russia will be staging the largest display by any foreign country on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is planning to visit Green Week for the first time.