Today Freshfel Europe and Copa-Cogeca jointly held an online public event, ‘Bringing fresh eyes to the promotion of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products’, to put a spotlight on the upcoming reform of the European Commission promotion policy for agricultural products. The joint event highlighted the need for a strong, efficient and effective European promotion policy that is reinforced and adjusted to provide EU added value to agricultural products. 200 participants joined the high-level event from the European Commission, European Parliament, Member State representations in charge of promotion, associations and beneficiaries of programmes from across Europe, agencies, and producers and traders.
European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski made a keynote address at the joint event, emphasising the importance of the European promotion policy for stimulating demand for environmentally, socially and economically sustainable EU food and beverage products as well as their cultural heritage. Commissioner Wojciechowski affirmed that under the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy and now the EU Climate Law, the EU promotion policy was vital in “supporting the transition towards more sustainable production and consumption in Europe”, but at the same maintaining Europe’s competitiveness on international markets. MEPs Paolo De Castro and Irène Tolleret echoed the Commissioners’ comments, adding that the most sustainable production processes should be supported based on science-based evidence and a high profile should be given to EU producers to help them face increasing global competition on internal and international markets. Increased budget should be made available for this important pillar, combining both agriculture and trade policy. MEP Paolo De Castro stated that, “The AGRI Committee will never accept to exclude any sector from the promotion policy”, while MEP Irène Tolleret affirmed that, “In the current economic situation, where some quality products have been hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and taking into account the growing market volatility, promotion should be maintained and even reinforced”.
Simona Rubbi (CSO, Freshfel Europe & Chair of the European CDG on Promotion & Quality) chairing the event welcomed that the event was such a unique opportunity for all stakeholders, public and private, to join forces to secure a reinforced and adjusted promotion policy. She explained, “Through six concrete examples shown during the meeting, it is very clear that the programme has a significant outreach and has a clear EU added value”. She added, “The upcoming reform is providing an opportunity for additional direction in the promotion policy to encourage sustainable production as well as a more sustainable and healthier diet for European consumers”.
Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard highlighted that, “There is today a unique opportunity to stimulate fruit and vegetable consumption and reach a level of at least 400g per day for all EU citizens. This will be a win-win solution considering the undisputed health benefits for consumers and environmental benefits for the planet”. He also added that, “The promotion policy should not be a niche policy and should equally highlight all the methods of production as well as quality of European fruit and vegetables and other EU agricultural products”.
Looking at the way forward for the future promotion policy beyond 2024, Claire Martin, Vice Chairwoman of the European CDG on Promotion and Quality and representing La Cooperation Agricole from France stated, “While competitiveness, the original and main objective of the promotion policy, needs to be kept given its successful implementation, new objective such as those of the Farm to Fork Strategy should be introduce based on some principles to enhance and further stimulate sustainable production and consumption. To be successful and at the level of the ambition needed after Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and intense international competition, it is important that the policy is supported by a very ambitious budget”.
Bruno Menne underlined for COPA COGECA that, “The promotion policy is the best tool to value the EU high standards of agricultural products. None of the products should be left behind to avoid sustainability leakage”. He added, “The promotion policy could soon become a catalyst to improve sustainability and really act as an incentive to encourage farmers and cooperatives in their efforts for more sustainability regardless of the type of sustainable agricultural practices they implement”. He concluded by saying that, “The policy should be an all encompassing one and not based on the exclusion of any agriculture products including meat and wine”.
Concluding this successful event, it was reminded by the European Commission and by the organisers of the event of the importance for stakeholders to contribute to the public consultation on the upcoming reform of the promotion policy before 23 June 2021.