STA, 24 August 2019 - The International Agriculture and Food Fair AGRA opened in Gornja Radgona on Saturday, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec saying that the event was of exceptional importance for Slovenia. He said that the issues in agriculture were solvable, but not overnight, adding that the sector must tackle new challenges.
Šarec noted in his opening address that he and Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, coming from the countryside, were well aware what rural areas and Slovenian warmers were.
But the prime minister added that agriculture must focus on tackling new challenges, and get oriented towards digitalisation, modernisation of farms and simplification of work processes.
Šarec added that the government would continue to cooperate well with the Trade Union of Farmers as experts. "And we will always work for the good of Slovenian farmers, because this is our task."
He said that "if there will be no Slovenian farmers, there will be no Slovenian food, and consequently there will be no health. And if there is no health, there will be no Slovenia eventually."
According to the prime minister, Slovenian farmers must be ready for dialogue with the state and be aware that the issues that have piled up in the last 25 years cannot be resolved overnight. "But we have the will and energy."
The opening of the fair was also addressed by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, who said that AGRA was a very important event, providing farmers with the opportunity to present their products.
He commended the cooperation in agriculture between Slovenia and the Austrian state of Styria as an excellent example and congratulated Slovenia on being awarded the title of the European Region of Gastronomy for 2021.
According to Hogan, more discussions should be held about incentives for young farmers, modernisation of the Common Agricultural Policy, new tools, modern technologies and digitalisation, in order to make agriculture attractive to young people.
Effort should be made to maintain the balance, to have farmers who are not only smart, but who will be able to survive, otherwise farmers could get into trouble, he said, adding that farmers should be given respect they deserved.
Minister Pivec meanwhile noted that there was a frequent conflict between urban and rural areas, adding that national politics had been neglecting the latter.
The countryside and forests represent more than three-quarters of the Slovenian territory, which is why the countryside should be treated as the key element for the country's development, she added.
"There is no Slovenia without the countryside. This is what the political and other public liked to forget about in in the last twenty years."
According to Pivec, one of the main tasks is to raise the reputation of farmers and agriculture and provide conditions for their further existence and development in the light of modern challenges.
Barbara Eibinger-Miedl, the regional minister for economy, tourism, Europe, science and research of Austria's Styria, commended the good cooperation between Slovenia and Austria, including successful projects co-funded by the EU.
Pivec and Hogan held a press conference after the opening of the fair, commending its organisers and assessing yesterday's meeting of agriculture ministry delegations in Ptuj as successful.
The Slovenian minister noted that delegations from 15 ministries from EU member states and candidate countries had discussed a very important topic, which was also the common thread of the fair.
"We signed a joint declaration which commits us to cooperating and working together in creating and transferring knowledge to practice, in modernisation and technological advancement of agriculture," she said.
According to the minister, AGRA is one of the most important events in Europe for the promotion and meetings of various stakeholders in the agricultural and food sector. She called for participation in the creation of a new strategy for Slovenian agriculture.
Hogan too believes that it is important to talk to all stakeholders, and especially lend an ear to farmers, who should be recognised with playing an important role in the production of safe food.
The commissioner said that rural development was also important for Slovenia, emphasising the concept of smart villages, where Slovenia has assumed a leading role with a conference in 2018 in Bled.
Running until 28 August, the AGRA Fair of Agriculture and Food 2019 will focus on digitalisation, automation, new technology in farming and the agro-food sector, as well as generational renewal.
The slogan of the 57th international trade show, featuring 1,850 exhibitors from 32 countries, is The Fair of the New Generation, with the main focus on the digitalisation in agriculture, local food, and youth in agriculture.
Austria's Styria will feature as a partner region, while presentations will also be organised of Hungary, Croatia, North Macedonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Vietnam.