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Freshfel to celebrate its 20 years at 2021 Annual Event

Freshfel to celebrate its 20 years at 2021 Annual Event

Freshfel Europe’s Annual Event, to be held online on 4 June 2021, will also be the occasion for marking the organisation’s 20th anniversary, as well as the UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021. The exclusive event will be an opportunity for the European fresh produce sector to discuss policy in the EU arena. Four sessions will offer detailed insights into opportunities for the sector. Crucial market and EU policy opportunities will be examined, such as how to capitalise on the European Green Deals’ objectives and green, health conscious tech-savvy consumers.

Freshfel Europe general delegate Philippe Binard said: “2021 is a unique year for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector marking both the 20th anniversary of Freshfel Europe as the peak EU-level representative body for the fresh produce sector in Brussels as well as the UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. Without doubt 2021 is a key year for the sector in the public eye as an essential sector for a healthy and sustainable future for all citizens. In order to mark this special year the association is opening its doors for all operators and stakeholders in the fresh produce sector to join the celebrations at our Annual Event along with our members. This year should be celebrated by all actors across the supply chain as a milestone year for the fresh produce sector.”

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Freshfel Europe urges EU to adopt fully-fledged SPS Strategy to ensure reciprocity in trade 

Freshfel logo

In response to the new EU Trade Policy Review, Freshfel Europe is publishing a policy reflection paper, ‘SPS Export Protocols: towards greater reciprocity in fresh produce trade’. The paper summarises market access hurdles faced by the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector, which is confronted with the need to negotiate individual ‘SPS export protocols’ to start business with many trade partners, whereas similar specific protocols are not required for the majority of imports of fresh produce into the Union. This situation is leading to an appalling lack of reciprocity in SPS market access conditions that urgently needs to be addressed. In its paper, Freshfel Europe urges the European Commission to define with Member States a concrete EU SPS strategy to secure market diversification by easing market access conditions based on safe trade guaranteed by the EU regulatory environment.

SPS protocols to access third countries market are the main challenge for EU fresh fruit and vegetables exporters. Witnessing a significant lack of reciprocity in the implementation of plant health systems Freshfel Europe laments that this significant challenge is not featured in the new EU trade policy strategy ‘An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy’, published on 18 February. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard noted that, “The absence of any reference to the complex challenges of negotiating SPS protocols to export fresh produce to third countries markets and the lack of reciprocity resulting thereof in SPS barriers mentioned in the EU Trade Policy Review is worrying. It indirectly suggests business as usual, leaving exporters to negotiate their market access with third countries Member State by Member State and product by product. Our experience demonstrates that the negotiating process is lengthy, costly, non-transparent and often discriminatory, exposing our exporters to different conditions for the same pest. This contrasts with EU rules for imports which are transparent and immediately applicable to all suppliers concerned to mitigate identified pests not known to occur in the EU.”

Freshfel Europe’s reflection paper explores this lack of reciprocity in plant health and calls for a fully- fledged EU SPS strategy to coordinate market access and support European exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables to overcome SPS difficulties. Natalia Santos, Freshfel Europe’s Trade & Market Access Director clarified, “On the short-term, the EU should secure proportional, scientifically justified SPS conditions and obtain additional SPS simplifications through Free Trade Agreements. Proper enforcement of partners’ commitments and the maximisation of synergies among EU capitals should also contribute to alleviate the situation and facilitate trade. In the long-run, we urge the EU to raise the problems created by SPS export protocols at WTO level, as a major trade bloc which has managed to secure a trade -friendly, transparent and proportional plant health system”. The current discrepancies between open and closed SPS systems are neither sustainable nor leading to fair and reciprocal trade in fresh fruit and vegetables. This should be among the top priorities for the EU’s trade agenda for the competitiveness and livelihood of EU growers and for the development of mutually beneficial trade relationships with partners around the world operating under a trade environment that is as least distorting as possible.



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Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project

Freshfel Europe launches pan-European environmental footprint project © Freshfel Europe

© Freshfel Europe


Last week, Freshfel Europe reviewed the status of environmental footprint initiatives in the fresh produce industry with its members and decided to move forward towards a more collective approach for the sector. While the fresh produce sector’s sustainability journey began many years ago, there is still a lack of comparable data used in environmental footprints, which prevents consistency and accountability of the sector in responding to evolving legislative and customer requirements. Such an initiative will allow the supply chain to have its sustainability efforts better recognized in standards and in the Farm to Fork Strategy debate based on agreed Products Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PFEFCR).

Leading representatives of European production (Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain) as well as key traders and retailers from the Freshfel Europe membership met on 18 February in an interactive session to kick-start discussions on the next steps for the fresh produce supply chain on environmental footprint initiatives to respond to increasing demand for comparable data and a harmonized methodology to secure operators’ accountability regarding product environmental impact. Providing a more collaborative and collective response to this challenge is a must from a business perspective. It is also consistent with the European Commission’s European Green Deal priorities, where both the Farm to Fork Strategy and new Circular Economy Action Plan call for increased sustainability accountability to enable consumers to make sustainable food choices and reduce the risk of ‘green washing’. This entails the need for reliable, comparable and verifiable data.

Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard commented on the success of the meeting stating, “Freshfel Europe has an important role to play for the European fruit and vegetable sector in raising awareness about environmental footprint and acting as the catalyst for collective action. This will prevent the proliferation of solutions that will in the end lead to unnecessary costs and confusion”. Now more than ever retailers are requiring environmental performance information and the supply chain needs to provide this to respond to consumers’ awareness of sustainability aspects, which is increasingly driving purchase decisions. Investors are additionally increasingly eager to financially support companies with sustainability ambitions that can be clearly demonstrated.

Freshfel Europe members agreed on the urgency to move forward and collectively build a strategy for the sector that will tackle the different aspects of the often-complex environmental footprint matters. Building a harmonised methodology, collecting generic and secondary data for products, as well as establishing a user-friendly environmental footprint tool are key for companies to guarantee that their own calculations are comparable to others in the supply chain and that they can provide consistent data to business partners. Nicola Pisano, Freshfel Europe Sustainability and Health Director, highlighted the importance of this work commenting, “Progress in this dossier will help Freshfel Europe members to better respond to the ambitions of the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Circular Economy.

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Freshfel Europe calls for urgent need to ensure free movement of essential goods to and from the United Kingdom in crucial Christmas pre-Brexit period

Effects of a no-deal Brexit?


21 December 2020 – In response to the recent EU-UK border closures Freshfel Europe calls upon the EU27 and UK authorities to ensure free movement of goods to and from the United Kingdom in line with existing EU recommendations and guidelines, particularly regarding the implementation of EU Green Lanes and free movements of essential workers. This will guarantee that essential perishable goods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, can continue to cross the border, which will prevent distortions across the EU markets during the crucial Christmas period and ensure that sufficient supply of fresh produce can reach shelves in the UK.

Freshfel Europe is closely monitoring the situation at the EU-UK border since the announcement of border closures with the UK by an increasing number of EU Member States as a result of fears over a new COVID-19 strain. Port congestion in UK points of entry has already increased in the past few weeks due to the global trade slow-down resulting from the pandemic as well as the pre-Christmas period and no-deal Brexit fears. Freshfel Europe warns that the newly imposed border closures are further impacting the flow of goods through the Channel, with shortages of trucks and transport workers already being felt by the sector. This is a recurrent issue, which already strongly impacted the sector in March and April when the first COVID-9 wave hit Europe. This shortage has the potential to significantly distort the movement of European fresh produce to the UK at a crucial moment in the year. Freight between the EU27 and the UK follows a rotation system, so the blockage of EU-bound UK freight is affecting the rest of the chain and leading to higher costs for operators across the EU, as well as delays affecting the quality of perishable produce and order cancellations. The blockage at UK-EU borders may also impact the capacity for intra-EU27 movements.

Whilst the sector supports the need to prevent the potential spread of the new COVID-19 strain, Freshfel Europe urgently encourages EU Member States and UK authorities to follow existing EU guidelines and recommendations when implementing these new border closures and to follow a coordinated EU-wide approach. Freshfel Europe recalls the importance to ensure Green Lanes for the movements of essential goods within the Single Market (to which the UK is bound until 31 December) and to follow EU Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers as well as their welfare. Freshfel Europe recalls Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/1475 of 13 October 2020 on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which outlines that travellers with an essential function, such as transport workers, shall be enabled freedom of movement without undergoing quarantine while exercising this essential function. Freshfel Europe further encourages the EU27 and the UK to apply existing health protocols to guarantee the welfare of transport workers during the exercise of their duties when crossing the Channel. Additional measures to ensure their safety, such as the limitation of contacts during transit time, should also be swiftly implemented. Furthermore, EU and UK authorities should introduce urgent contingency measures to target the current bottleneck, such as additional ferry capacity, and increased speed for loading and unloading of freight in points of entry.

Commenting on the high urgency to ensure EU-UK flows, Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard highlighted that, “With the impending Brexit for businesses, it is of essence to limit disruptions across the Chanel by applying the tools and lessons learnt during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe. EU Green Lanes, together with current EU guidelines and recommendations should enable Europe to have a coordinated approach to keep borders open for freight between the EU27 and the UK, as well as to guarantee the protection of transport workers performing this essential duty for the supply of the UK market and the integrity of the Single Market.”

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Freshfel calls on EC for more financial support for marketing

Freshfel calls on EC for more financial support for marketing © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution


Freshfel Europe has pressed the European Commission to maintain a €200m promotional budget in its 2021 Annual Work Programme (AWP) and double the amount set aside for the fruit and vegetable sector to €16 million to promote European consumption.

Freshfel stressed the need to support the fruit and vegetable sector in times when it faced multiple challenges, such as Covid-19, Brexit, and intense competition on international markets. Freshfel Europe expressed strong concern about the European Commission’s initial budget allocation breakdown, noting that it included a highly disproportionate allocation of budget for organic and other EU quality schemes compared to their market shares. With EU consumption flat at around 345g per capita per day (below the WHO recommendation of at least 400g per day), Freshfel warned that the allocation breakdown would dangerously limit the capacity of general promotion activities to stimulate the consumption of fruit and vegetables. 

Freshfel Europe general delegate Philippe Binard, said, “Freshfel Europe strongly urges the European Commission to at least double the budget under Topic D for multi programmes on the internal market, focusing on increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables in the EU in the context of balanced and proper dietary practices. This higher budget would allow more EU promotion activities in the coming years to build on the momentum that the upcoming 2021 UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables will bring for the sector, and reinforce promotion activities promoting healthy sustainable diets.”

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Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

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 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 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.

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Citrus Summit South Africa: Freshfel Europe General Delegate presented global outlook for citrus

Citrus Summit South Africa: Freshfel Europe General Delegate presented global outlook for citrus

The third Citrus Summit organized by the Citrus Gowers Association of South Africa (CGA) took place in Port Elizabeth on 12-14 March 2019 and was attended by 600 delegates. The conference covered different issues including the evolving political, economic and business perspective from a South African perspective, ethical compliance, biosecurity issues, logistics developments as well as market development for the EU, the USA and Russia. On the occasion of the summit, Freshfel General Delegate Philippe Binard presented a global analysis of the citrus market, looking at trends for production, trade and consumption for the citrus category as a whole as well as for oranges, soft citrus, lemons and grapefruit. The growth of production, in particular for lemons and soft citrus, will require international partnership and cooperation to stimulate consumption around the world. 

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Freshfel Europe urges the sector to continue to stimulate consumption

Freshfel Europe urges the sector to continue to stimulate consumption

Despite high uncertainty in the fruit and vegetable business environment, Freshfel Europe urges the sector to continue to stimulate consumption for the benefit of European consumers. The current multiplicity of uncertainties, including Brexit, the on-going Russian embargo, the growing impact of increasing climatic events and other market access challenges, should serve to further stimulate the sector to boost current low consumption levels across Europe.

The European fresh fruit and vegetable sector is facing a tumultuous period that is challenging fresh produce production, trade and consumption. On the one hand the last two years have been noted for severe weather events, which have impacted produce quality, destabilized supply and demand and resulted in market instability in many regions. On the other hand, market uncertainties continue to cloud any transparency in the business environment. As we approach the 29 March 2019 deadline the outcome of Brexit still remains unknown, while at the same time the trade embargo in Russia as well as the Mediterranean basin and other SPS market access challenges have led to complexity in market diversification. A new wave of unilateralism and protectionism around the world are further contributing to an unpredictable trading environment that is increasingly complex to navigate for businesses.

Waiting for conditions to return to normal however can lead to missed opportunities. Despite this complex trading environment the sector still needs to stimulate consumption on the European market. European daily intake levels remain below the minimum level recommended by the World Health Organisation of 400g of fresh fruit and vegetables per day. Accordingly in 2018 Freshfel led a European Commission Thematic Network, creating a Joint Statement with other stakeholders comprising of 43 policy recommendations for all actors in society on how to stimulate consumption across Europe. Additionally this year in cooperation with Aprifel, Freshfel has embarked on a three year European Commission funded agricultural promotion programme entitled ‘FV for a Healthy EU’ to boost fruit and vegetable consumption by 18-30 year old Europeans, the consumer segment with one of the lowest levels of consumption.

Freshfel’s members will be discussing strategies for navigating this unpredictable business environment and promotion tools at Freshfel’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, which will take place on the 5-6 June 2019 in London, UK.

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Italy boosts its links with China

Freshfel Europe and CIQA workshop in Beijing with the participation of CSO ITALY, ASSOMELA, ORANFRIZER and FRUITIMPRESE for a common project for the development of trade relations between Italy and China

Excellent results for the workshop organized by Freshfel Europe and the China Entry & Exit Inspection and Quarantine Association (CIQA) in Beijing, aiming to create a shared knowledge base for future trade relations, to understand respective production systems, and above all to and explore the four basic pillars for trade between the two countries—market access, phytosanitary policies and requirements, food safety policies and requirements, and specific procedures for various products.

The format of the workshop, particularly effective and highly appreciated, focused on all the major themes regarding trade between Europe and China, with bilateral presentations followed by discussions, and with contributions from Woo Huao, director of the AQSIQ Biosecurity Division, Jerome Lepeintre, head of the Agricultural Section of the EU Delegation to China, and Ms Li Li, director of the Economic Crop Division of the Chinese Agricultural Ministry.

Italy presented an overview of the current situation for kiwifruit, apples, pears and citrus fruits as part of the Business Case session, dedicated to businesses and problems in trade relations.

“We had the opportunity,” declared Simona Rubbi, CSO ITALY’s officer for the opening of new markets, “to present a clear and analytical outline of the situation for exports of Italian produce to China, with the excellent performance of kiwifruit in general and the growth in particular of yellow kiwifruit, and the great potential for the development of the market for pears, apples and citrus fruits.”

“With regard to citrus fruits,” said Salvo Laudani, Oranfrizer’s Marketing Manager and president of Fruitimprese Sicilia, “we clearly described the current situation, asking for the agreement between China and Italy signed in January 2016 to be applied to the campaign now in progress, and for the agreement to be extended to include the possibility in future of transporting citrus fruits not only by sea but also by air or rail. This opening is vital to guarantee the arrival of products of excellent quality, and I’m convinced that the Beijing workshop offered us a great opportunity in this area.”

In the sector of apples and pears, it was highlighted that in March 2015, the Italian ministry sent an official communication to the Chinese authorities requesting the official opening of export negotiations, but that no reply has yet been received.

“We took the occasion of the workshop,” said Giulia Montanaro of Assomela, “to stress the desirability of starting joint negotiations for both apples and pears with the greatest urgency.”

The Italian delegation highly appreciated the presence and concrete support offered by First Secretary Enrico Berti and Raffaella Danielato of the Economic and Trade Department of the Italian Embassy in Beijing, and also of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies.

In addition, the representatives of the six countries participating in the mission clearly reiterated the need for EU-led negotiations, despite China maintaining once again that discussions must be pursued independently by each EU member state.

In overall terms, the Freshfel Europe workshop achieved its aims, highlighting the opportunities offered by an immense market, but above all the need to adopt an approach of constant discussion and exchange with the Chinese authorities to ensure an even fuller understanding of the production methods, plant defence techniques and transport and logistics systems of the Italian fruit and vegetable sector.


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How Brexit could disrupt the UK’s fresh produce trade

Ceasing to enjoy the benefits of the 36 free trade agreements signed by the EU with non-EU countries is among the consequences the UK – heavily reliant on external imports of fresh produce – could face it is exits the EU.

Ceasing to enjoy the benefits of the 36 free trade agreements signed by the EU with non-EU countries is among the consequences the UK – heavily reliant on external imports of fresh produce – could face it is exits the EU. This is one of the issues raised by Freshfel Europe, the European Fresh Produce Association, is the wake of the UK referendum result in favour of leaving.

In a press release on the potential impact of Brexit, the organisation said it is “severely concerned” by the economic consequence the outcome of the referendum may have on the fresh produce sector.

Short term consequences might be disruption of trading relations and insecurities based on a drop in the pound, while in the longer term, the UK’s departure would lead to an elimination of existing framework trade agreements, it said.

Higher fruit and veg prices

Elaborating on the potential short term impact for the fruit and vegetable sector, the group said the drop of the British pound is already causing insecurity among fresh produce business operators. Depending on the currency stated in contracts, the current drop is causing severe losses on one or the other side of business operations.

This price volatility will in the long run be passed on to consumers and could see higher fruit and vegetable prices in the UK as well as limiting supply given the loss of competitiveness of the British market. This will not only affect sourcing from the EU- 27, but from all non-EU countries.

Longer term impact: trade upheaval

On the longer term fallout, the group stressed that the UK, a significant importer of fresh produce from non-EU countries, currently enjoys the benefits of trade liberalisation conditions set by the existing 36 FTA’s that the EU signed on behalf of the 28 member states.

“Fresh produce trade was in this respect liberalised with many countries in the Mediterranean basins, with Southern Hemisphere countries, ACP countries and more and more countries in Southeast Asia.

“With the possible exit of the UK, the FTA’s negotiated by the EU will cease to apply for import into the U.K. The country will have to recreate its trade relationships with third countries, governed by the necessity, to renegotiate bilateral trade deals individually with each country. By experience, these negotiation processes are usually time consuming, lengthy and need to comply with complex legal requirements,” Freshfel Europe said.

Moreover, the departure could also trigger renegotiations of EU-FTA’s, initiated by non-EU partner countries claiming changes by the contracting parties.

There may also be an impact on the British labour market with regard to the residency rights of foreign workers.

Call for rapid clarification of political situation

Freshfel Europe called for prompt clarification of the political situation, to give business operators the opportunity to adapt to new market conditions.

It said it will closely follow coming political and economic developments, voicing the requirements of the fresh produce business.

In summary, the group said it will “continue to work closely with its members to monitor the specific aspects relating to fruit and vegetables, to minimise the impact for the fresh produce sector of this development.”

Snapshot of trade between the UK and the EU 27

The UK market is currently supplied with fresh produce originating from close to 120 countries.
In 2015, the UK received more than 5.6 million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables (worth €6.8 billion) from either the EU or other origins from around the world, of which 52% (2.9 million tons) originated in the EU.

The main fresh produce suppliers are:

  • Spain (1.4 million tons),
  • The Netherlands (700,000 tons – including some trans-shipments),
  • South Africa (350,000 tons),
  • Costa Rica and Colombia (300,000 tons each),
  • also the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Ireland (ca 200,000 tons each).

Products include:

  • bananas (1.1 million tons),
  • apples (450,000 tons),
  • soft citrus (300,000 tons),
  • oranges (280,000 tons),
  • table grapes (280,000 tons)

The UK also exports/re-exports up to 240,000 tons to EU-27 and non-EU countries, trade worth €240 million.
Ireland is the main destination, taking up close to 50% of this business.

Freshfel Europe represents the interests of the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chain in Europe and beyond. It has over 200 members, including companies and associations.
Read its full statement here:

Image: Brexit by Petr Kratochvil, License: Public Domain. Source: