Austrian farmers keep an eye on their German neighbors

The large-scale protests by farmers in Germany, France and other EU countries have not yet spread to Austria. But the government coalition in Vienna announced a future plan for agriculture last week. It contains many reassuring words for the agricultural sector, but few concrete measures. 

The turbulent developments in German agriculture in particular are being closely monitored by Austrian farmers. Germany is the largest market for Austrian food exports. If the rules of the game change in Germany, this will also have consequences for Austrian dairy producers. 

Supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl are increasingly refraining from purchasing food without quality marks. This currently mainly affects the German dairy industry. Because the Austrians have a better reputation than the Germans in the field of animal welfare, organic farming and quality labels, every fourth liter of milk produced in Austria now goes to Germany. 

In addition, the Austrian meat industry is benefiting from the consequences of African swine fever in eastern Germany. Last year, the number of pig farmers in Germany shrank by more than 15 percent. Ten percent less pork was produced in the country. 

Chancellor Karl Nehammer argues in 'Plan Austria' for more respect for Austrian farmers, as well as guaranteeing a safe food supply. Both Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig (ÕVP) and Chairman Strasser of the farmers' association welcomed the chancellor's soothing words. They mainly blame the EU's environmental criteria on agriculture.

When it comes to compliance with European animal welfare criteria, Austria has a better reputation than the Germans. In an international comparison, Austria leads the way when it comes to the balance between sustainability objectives. For example, agriculture, largely on small family farms, is already more than thirty percent organic, and is therefore far ahead of the rest of the EU countries.