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Favourable prospects for EU agricultural sectors

Favourable prospects for EU agricultural sectors © European Commission
© European Commission

 

The European Commission’s first 2021 edition of the short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets concludes that the EU agricultural sector showed resilience throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The sector did relatively well thanks to increased retail sales and home consumption. In addition, prospects are favourable with a dynamic global demand and the reopening of food services (restaurants, bars, cafés) expected once the vaccination campaign is sufficiently advanced.

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EU lays out roadmap to 25% organic farming

EU lays out roadmap to 25% organic farming
Photo: Retail Italy by Eurofresh Distribution

The European Commission has published the EU Organic Action Plan for 2021-2030. As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Action Plan aims to increase organic agriculture in the EU and to have at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030. To reach this objective, the European Commission aims to boost consumption of organic food in the EU and stimulate conversion to organic farming. The Action Plan is also intended to increase the contribution of organic farming to the sustainability of the European agriculture sector. Success of the Action Plan will depend on implementation at the Member State level and how the Member States encourage increased production and promotion of organic products as well as consumer willingness to buy organic.

 

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European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

Last week, the Commission presented an Action Plan for the development of organic production. Its overall aim is to boost the production and consumption of organic products, to reach 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, as well as to increase organic aquaculture significantly.

Organic production comes with a number of important benefits: organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically farmed animals enjoy a higher degree of animal welfare and take less antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they are getting thanks to the EU organic logo. The Action Plan is in line with the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

The Action Plan is designed to provide the already fast growing organic sector the right tools to achieve the 25% target. It puts forward 23 actions structured around 3 axes – boosting consumption, increasing production, and further improving the sustainability of the sector – to ensure a balanced growth of the sector.

The Commission encourages Member States to develop national organic action plans to increase their national share of organic farming. There are significant differences between Member States regarding the share of agricultural land currently under organic farming, ranging from 0.5% to over 25%. The national organic action plans will complement the national CAP strategic plans, by setting out measures that go beyond agriculture and what is offered under the CAP.

Promote consumption

Growing consumption of organic products will be crucial to encourage farmers to convert to organic farming and thus increase their profitability and resilience. To this end, the Action Plan puts forward several concrete actions aimed at boosting demand, maintaining consumer trust and bringing organic food closer to citizens. This includes: informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, stimulating a greater use of organics in public canteens through public procurement and increasing the distribution of organic products under the EU school scheme. Actions also aim, for example, at preventing fraud, increasing consumers’ trust and improving traceability of organic products. The private sector can also play a significant role by, for example, rewarding employees with ‘bio-cheques’ they can use to purchase organic food.

Increase production

Presently, about 8.5% of EU’s agricultural area is farmed organically, and the trends show that with the present growth rate, the EU will reach 15-18% by 2030. This Action Plan provides the toolkit to make an extra push and reach 25%. While the Action Plan largely focuses on the “pull effect” of the demand side, the Common Agricultural Policy will remain a key tool for supporting the conversion. Currently, around 1.8% (€7.5 billion) of CAP is used to support organic farming. The future CAP will include eco-schemes which will be backed by a budget of €38 – 58 billion, for the period 2023 – 2027, depending on the outcome of the CAP negotiations. The eco-schemes can be deployed to boost organic farming.

Beyond the CAP, key tools include organisation of information events and networking for sharing best practices, certification for groups of farmers rather than for individuals, research and innovation, use of blockchain and other technologies to improve traceability increasing market transparency, reinforcing local and small-scale processing, supporting the organisation of the food chain and improving animal nutrition.

To raise awareness on organic production, the Commission will organise an annual EU ‘Organic day’ as well as awards in the organic food chain, to recognise excellence at all steps of the organic food chain. The Commission will also encourage the development of organic tourism networks through ‘biodistricts’. ‘Biodistricts’ are areas where farmers, citizens, tourist operators, associations and public authorities work together towards the sustainable management of local resources, based on organic principles and practices.

The Action Plan also notes that organic aquaculture production remains a relatively new sector but has a significant potential for growth. The upcoming new EU guidelines on the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, will encourage Member States and stakeholders to support the increase in organic production in this sector.

Improve sustainability

Finally, it also aims to further improve organic farming’s performance in terms of sustainability. To achieve this, actions will focus on improving animal welfare, ensuring the availability of organic seeds, reducing the sector’s carbon footprint, and minimising the use of plastics, water and energy.

The Commission also intends to increase the share of research and innovation (R&I) and dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation actions in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector.

The Commission will closely monitor progress through a yearly follow-up with representatives of the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders, through bi-annual progress reports and a mid-term review.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and biodiversity loss is a major threat to agriculture. We urgently need to restore balance in our relationship with nature. This is not something farmers face alone, it involves the whole food chain. With this Action Plan, we aim to boost demand for organic farming, help consumers make informed choices, and support European farmers in their transition. The more land we dedicate to organic farming, the better the protection of biodiversity in that land and in surrounding areas.”

Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, said: “The organic sector is recognised for its sustainable practices and use of resources, giving its central role in achieving the Green Deal objectives. To achieve the 25% of organic farming target, we need to ensure that demand drives the growth of the sector while taking into account the significant differences between each Member State’s organic sectors. The organic Action Plan provides tools and ideas to accompany a balanced growth of the sector. The development will be supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, research and innovation as well as close cooperation with key actors at EU, national and local level.”

 

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EU allocates extra funds to promote fruit and vegetable consumption

EU allocates extra funds to promote fruit and vegetable consumption © MERCABARNA

© MERCABARNA

 

Spain’s exporters’ association FEPEX has announced it is pleased with the significant increase in the EU budget for promoting the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet, with the funds set aside rising from €8 million in the previous round to €19.1 million this time. The Commission has increased from €8 million to €10 million the budget for financing multiple programmes aimed at increasing the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, while also allocating €9.1 million to the co-financing of simple programmes with the same objective. 

The programmes will have a duration of between 1 and 3 years and will begin implementation in 2022.

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EU Commission sets out 2021 Work Programme to support European recovery including Green New Deal

EU Commission sets out 2021 Work Programme to support European recovery including Green New Deal

 

On October 20, 2020 the European Commission adopted its 2021Work Programme, which sets out the actions the Commission aims to take in 2021. The Work Programme lists policy objectives and new legislative proposals based on the six headline ambitions of President von der Leyen:

  • A European Green Deal

  • A Europe fit for the digital age

  • An economy that works for people

  • A stronger Europe in the world

  • Promoting our European way of life

  • A new push for European democracy

Maroš Šefčovič, Commission Vice-President in charge of Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, said, “The priorities set out in this work programme will not only help deliver Europe’s recovery but also our long-term resilience – through future-proof solutions across all policy areas. For that, we will make the best use of strategic foresight as well as our better law-making principles – evidence-based and transparent, efficient and fit for the future.”

The Commission states that it is committed to evidence-based policies that are easier to comply with and less likely to create unnecessary burden for business and people. To that end, the Work Program foresees the creation of the ‘Fit-for-Future’ platform, a high-level expert group that will support the Commission to identify simplification and burden reduction potential. The Commission also highlights the need for impact assessments, which take into account the views of all those impacted. Therefore, the Commission commits to make consultations more efficient and more accessible to facilitate stakeholders’ participation.

One of the priorities of the Commission this year is also to increase efforts to improve the effective application, implementation and enforcement of EU law. The Work Programme stresses that the Commission will work with Member States to ensure the swift and correct implementation of new and existing EU rules. The Commission clearly states that it will not hesitate to uphold EU law through infringement proceedings where needed.

As part of the Better Regulation process, the Commission will continue or launch new REFIT exercises for EU legislation. The Regulatory Fitness and Performance program (REFIT) is a programme designed to keep the entire stock of EU legislation under review and ensure that it is fit for purpose; that regulatory burdens are minimised; and that all simplification options are identified and applied.

The European Green Deal

After the publication of the EU Communication on the Green Deal in December 2019, the European Commission has published sectorial strategies over the course of 2020 including the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy. More information about the Green Deal initiatives can be found in GAIN Report ‘EU Green Deal – September 2020 Update’.

To achieve the Green Deal objective of climate neutrality by 2050, the Commission announced that it will table a “Fit for 55 package” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. This will cover wide-ranging policy areas including renewable energy, land use, effort sharing and emissions trading. The Commission will also publish a proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism on the risk of carbon leakage. In addition, the Commission will propose measures to implement Europe’s circular economy action plan, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy.  Among these measures are the action plan on organic production, the proposal to reduce the risk of products associated with deforestation on the EU market and the communication on rural areas.

Photo: European Commission

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AREFLH requests EU assistance for fresh produce sector

AREFLH_Logo

The Assembly of European Fruit, Vegetable and Horticultural Regions (AREFLH) has called on EU Commission President Von der Leyen to implement exceptional measures to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus health crisis.

Numerous member regions and their producer organisations met by videoconference on Wednesday 25 March to prepare a joint document to request the establishment of support measures for European producers of fruits and vegetables.

The situation is deeply worrying, particularly for certain productions that have already entered the harvest phase, while many regions have to face other difficulties, particularly with regard to the checks to be carried out with Producer Organisations (POs), made impossible because of confinement.

The priority actions and measures proposed by AREFLH relate to the following points:

The right to free movement of goods and workers in the EU: careful monitoring of disturbances in cross-border movements must be implemented as several restrictions persist between certain Member States, which leads to delays that have a negative impact on highly perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, closer cooperation between EU countries is required to allow the movement of seasonal workers and their safety at work.

Approval of exceptional derogations for the management of operational programmes by producer organizations (POs) in the fruit and vegetables sector for the year 2020: with exceptions for on-site checks, derogations on green harvesting and non-harvesting measures, as well as an increase in community co-financing from 50 to 70% for all interventions, with the exception of free distribution (already 100% co-financed).

The activation of exceptional measures provided for by regulation (EU) n ° 2013/1308 on the common market organization, with the triggering of articles 219 and 222 to allow the adoption of delegated acts in order to take the measures necessary to deal with the current market disruptions (as was done for the E. Coli and Russian embargo crises).

The AREFLH states that these proposals can be implemented swiftly and with minimum budgetary adjustments, while delivering much-needed assistance to EU fruit and vegetable producers.

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EU Commission “ready to continue supporting EU’s agri-food sector”

EU Commission “ready to continue supporting EU's agri-food sector”, © EU Agriculture
© EU Agriculture? (@EUAgri)

 

The EU Commission has announced its preparedness to back the region’s agri-food sector. In a statement, the commission said: “The EU’s agri-food sector has showed is showing its resilience and continues to provide Europeans with high quality and safe food. Nonetheless, farmers and producers are facing difficulties and increasing pressure. Ensuring food security and an effective food supply chain across the continent remains one of the Commission’s priorities.”

The Commission keeps monitoring closely all agricultural markets and trade of food products, with the EU market observatories being regularly updated. In a meeting to review the ongoing situation, commissioner Wojciechowski said: ”We are facing an unprecedented crisis and I am ever more grateful to our farmers and producers for their continuous hard work, despite the increasing difficulties and pressure. These challenging times have shown the resilience of our food supply chain. Today’s meeting allowed us to have an overview of this fast changing situation. I listened carefully and took good note of all the suggestions and requests that the Commission will now analyse and reply to. I will continue to follow the situation in close contact with Member States. We are ready to take further action when necessary.”

Since the beginning of the crisis the following measures have been adopted by the Commission to support the agri-food sector:

  • Extension of the deadline for CAP payment applications: The new deadline for applications will now be 15 June 2020, instead of 15 May, allowing more flexibility for farmers to fill in their applications in these difficult and unparalleled times. The extension has already been communicated for Italy and the Commission is working on the legal steps to implement it for all Member States.
  • Increased state aid: Under the newly adopted Temporary Framework for state aid, farmers can now benefit from a maximum aid of €100,000 per farm and food processing and marketing companies can benefit from a maximum of €800,000. This amount can be topped up by de minimis aid, a type of national support specific to the agricultural sector that can be granted without prior approval from the Commission. Recently the ceiling of this aid was increased to €20,000 (and up to €25,000 in specific cases). This means that the total national support that can be granted per farm adds up to €120,000 (or €125,000) under the temporary framework.
  • Continuous flow of food products across the EU: the Commission is coordinating closely with Member States to ensure a functioning single market for goods by creating “Green Lanes”. These green lanes, based on designated key border crossing-points, will have border crossing checks that will not exceed 15 minutes. Passage is now granted for all goods, including agri-food products.
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European Commission to invest over €200 million in promoting community’s agri-food

European Commission to invest over €200 million in promoting community’s agri-food

 

The European Commission has allocated €200.9 million in 2020 to fund promotional activities for EU agri-food products at home and abroad. The 2020 promotion policy work programme adopted by the Commission outlines the main priorities for support. EU policy on the promotion of agri-food products is designed to help the sector take advantage of the expanding and increasingly dynamic global agri-food market, raise awareness on quality schemes including organic produce and help producers should they face market disturbances.

Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “Europe’s reputation in the world for agri-food products is unparalleled. The EU is not the top world agri-food exporter by accident. Our promotion policy with an ever-increased budget supports EU producers in making their products known both in the EU and outside but also in facing market difficulties by raising more awareness on their produce. The trade agreements in place also create the conditions to increase their exports to high-growing markets. The recent conclusion of the EU-China bilateral agreement on geographical indications is yet another example of the Commission’s work to create opportunities for producers and high-quality EU products.”

In 2020, more than half of the budget (€118 million) will go towards campaigns pursuing markets outside the EU with high-growth potential, such as Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the United States. Eligible sectors include dairy and cheese, table olives and olive oil and wines. The selected campaigns are expected to enhance the competitiveness and consumption of EU agri-food products, raise their profile and increase their market share in these targeted countries.

Campaigns will also inform EU and global consumers of the various EU quality schemes and labels such as geographical indications or organic products. An additional focus of the campaigns will also be to highlight the high safety and quality standards, as well as the diversity and traditional aspects of EU agri-food products. Finally, within the EU, the focus will be on promoting healthy eating and increase, in the framework of balanced diets, the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The calls for proposals for the upcoming 2020 campaigns will be published in January 2020. A wide range of bodies, such as trade organisations, producer organisations and agri-food groups responsible for promotion activities are eligible to apply for funding and submit their proposals.

So-called ‘simple’ programmes can be submitted by one or more organisations from the same EU country; the ‘multi’ programmes come from at least two national organisations from at least two member states, or from one or more European organisations. For 2020, €100 million is allocated to simple programmes, while €91.4 million will go towards multi-programmes. An additional €9.5 million is set aside for the Commission’s own initiatives. Those include participation in fairs and communication campaigns, as well as diplomatic offensives led by the agriculture and rural development European Commissioner and accompanied by a business delegation. These initiatives will be further reinforced by an additional €17,2 million available from the 2019 multi-promotion programmes. This represents additional support for cheeses and butter, olive oil and table olives in a challenging global market.

 

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EU expands project to encourage schoolchildren to consumer fresh produce

EU expands project to encourage schoolchildren to consumer fresh produce

The European Commission’s project to ensure children have access to fresh fruits and vegetables continues to expand. In 2018/19, the Commission assigned €145.6 million for the scheme. In 2017/18, 20.2 million secondary, primary and pre-school children participated in the programme, which saw over 255 million kilos of fresh fruits and vegetables distributed to schools. Germany had the largest number of participants, followed by Poland, Romania and the UK. In Belgium and Germany, the scheme only involves fresh products, while in the other countries, a small percentage of products are also processed, including juices and soups.

Source: EU Commission