Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

1- What is your assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the F&V sector? During the pandemic, fruit and vegetables were considered as essential goods, which has facilitate seeking solution for […]
Mon 20/07/2020

1- What is your assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the F&V sector?
During the pandemic, fruit and vegetables were considered as essential goods, which has facilitate seeking solution for border controls, and also seasonal workers. The increased F&V consumption observed since the Covid wave is demonstrating how strategic is our category, not only for our food supply but also for our health. The European consumers clearly understood they need to better feed themselves for a better health, and the F&V are contributing to it. In the peak of the pandemic, we estimate that the Covid impacted by more then €500 million per month the supply chain due to increased operational costs, more complex logistics operations, labor problems and added sanitary measures. The consumption and price levels increased, hopefully enough to off-set the increased costs and the loss of the food service demand. The seasonal spring campaigns like asparagus and berries were strongly affected, on a long run we hope the increased consumption will continue.

2- What is your position regarding the “Farm-to-Fork” program with the Commission?
Overall the Farm to Fork could move European citizens towards an healthier diet, which should be considered as a positive steps provided the right tools are put in place to reach this objective. In the farm to fork strategy there is however quiet a number of objective that will require careful attention to secure that they are feasible and coastwise realistic. Some targets, like a reduction of 50% in plant protection use and fertilizers, and a target of reaching 25% of organic agriculture farm land by 2030, might be difficult to reach. We see it as very ambitious and not closely enough related to the growth of demand for organic fresh produce. If the supply of EU organic produce goes far above the level of consumption it may lead to price drops, and the European producer will be the loser at the end. Our concept is to base the measures on the future of market demand, taken into account existing practice such as IPM rather then willing to impose a too ambitious sustainable policy.  

3- Which progresses regarding market access with non-EU countries this year?
A free-trade agreement with Vietnam just started from July 1rst but it is just a framework for more specific protocol agreements to be negotiated. The market is already opened for some varieties like citruses, apple, pears and potatoes. With Thailand various protocols were recently agreed for apple with several European countries. The EU is negotiating a free trade agreement with New Zealand and Australia, inclusive on customs duties, protections of origins and equivalences of the organic regulation, which could affect the F&V trade. With Japan no fruit shipments so far registered, due to a costly agreement for existing agreement such as Spanish citrus and French apples and many protocols are still pending and in negotiation for several years such as Italian kiwifruit.

4- Which next crop estimates from Northern or Southern Hemisphere?
We presented last May the predictions for the Southern Hemisphere citrus production while Northern Hemisphere citrus forecast will be relased by WCO (World Citrus Organization ) next October. In regard to apples and pears, this year Prognosfruit will be virtual and take place on 6th August (registration on prognosfruit.eu) for the Northern Hemisphere apple and pears estimates.

5- Which next step with the next reform of CMO related with F&V?
The existing program is postponed one more year until 2021, to give more time for the negotiations due to delays resulting from COVID and also the discussion on the Multi Financial Framework 2021-2027. The German presidency of the European Union will seek progress to accelerate the discussions and finalize concerted proposals by October of this year.