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Freshfel Europe calls on EU and Japan to build fresh produce trade

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

Philippe Binard © Freshfel Europe

 

Freshfel Europe is calling on EU and Japanese authorities to build fresh produce trade on the outcome of the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The European Commission hosted an online seminar on 19-20 April between the EU and Japan to facilitate discussions on how to boost trade for EU agriculture products on the Japanese market. The new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is now fully in force and it is the right moment to evaluate the state-of-play and future outlook of the agreement. Freshfel Europe voiced the views and expectations of the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector on the many pending dossiers and on missed opportunities to grow business within the new agreement. 

Despite the coming into force of the new EU-Japan Economic Agreement and the positive outlook resulting from the visit of Commissioner Hogan in Tokyo in May 2019, no significant progress has been made to new market access to Japan for the export of high quality EU fresh fruit and vegetables to the high value Japanese market of 127 million inhabitants. This was the key message of Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard at the EU-Japan seminar entitled ‘How the EU ensures the highest quality for its agriculture export’. Binard said: “Despite all the efforts from the EU and more than 10 years of negotiations and clear interest for Japanese traders to import high quality, safe and sustainable fresh produce from the EU, too many applications for market access to the Japanese authorities have not been concluded yet.” 

Today EU exports of fresh produce to Japan total less than 10,000 tons, representing only a small percentage of the total 2.4m tons of imports into Japan from third countries. Binard said: “Multiple market access applications are pending ranging from Italian and Greek kiwifruit, Belgian pears and tomatoes, Portuguese and Hungarian cherries, and persimmons from Spain. Many other provisions of existing protocols also need to be revised to remove pre-clearance, broaden the scope of protocols to more varieties or substitute methyl-bromide treatment by more environmentally friendly systems approaches.” 

According to Freshfel, it is now time to deliver the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and speed up negotiations to open new market opportunities. EU fresh produce represents a seal of quality, reliability and diversity for Japanese consumers. On the occasion of the UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables 2021 authorities should prioritise fresh produce in their market access negotiations and urgently unlock pending hurdles. The EU fruit and vegetables sector exports to 140 destinations around the world based on international standards and strict EU regulatory environment. EU growers and exporters are demonstrating their expertise to handle high quality and safe produce, brining competitiveness and mastering logistic skills to access the most sophisticated markets. Binard concluded: “Under the new bilateral agreement, the momentum today should not be missed. The EU and Japan should work hard in the coming months to build trade on the new business environment of the Agreement and secure that Japanese trade and consumers can enjoy the high quality and safety of European fresh produce in their daily healthy diet.”

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Freshfel Europe welcomes UK announcement to postpone new import requirements for EU exports in response to sector’s request

Freshfel Europe welcomes UK announcement to postpone new import requirements for EU exports in response to sector’s request
PRESS RELEASE

Over the past months Freshfel Europe has been advocating in cooperation with its members for more flexibility from the UK when it comes to the obligation for EU fresh produce exports to the UK to carry phytosanitary certificates from 1 April. Today’s announcement by the UK government about the adjustment of the timelines in the introduction of controls for EU imports, made in a written statement by RT Hon Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, is therefore warmly welcomed by Freshfel Europe and the fruit and vegetables sector as a crucial relief to enable the sector to smoothly adapt to Brexit in the ever-challenging context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In today’s announcement, the UK agrees to postpone the introduction of phytosanitary certification obligations for most fresh produce, considered low risk plant products, until January 2022, when documentary checks will start to apply. Physical checks at Border Control Posts on fresh produce will only be applied from March 2022. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard emphasized that, “Freshfel Europe has been voicing strong concerns over the last months and we consider that this postponement is essential to ensure the supply of the UK market and the continuation of trade flows through the Channel, across which the EU27 exports over 3 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables a year”. Currently EU supply represents 40% of the UK’s internal demand for fresh produce.

Following this welcome news, the sector further calls EU and UK authorities to make the most of this extended 9- month transition to speed-up preparations to ensure the smooth running of operations in 2022. The challenge remains enormous – over 750,000 phytosanitary certificates will be required on an annual basis to sustain EU-UK trade in fresh produce, a substantial economic and administrative burden, and a threat to the capacity of the industry to continue ‘just in time’ operations if administrative procedures are not sped-up. Freshfel Europe Director for Trade and Market Access Natalia Santos-Garcia Bernabe, highlighted that, “In Freshfel Europe and FPC’s letter to the RT Hon Michael Gove, the sector reiterated the need for electronic certification transmission between the EU and the UK to be up and running before the end of the year through the e-Phyto hub”. The postponement will give more time on both side of the Channel to work on digitalization and the successful introduction of electronic certification in 2022.

 

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Freshfel and FPC urge UK government to extend derogations on phytosanitary certifications 

Effects of a no-deal Brexit?
Press Release

The impact of Brexit is a big challenge for businesses on both sides of the Channel with EU27 exports representing over 3 million tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK, 40% of the UK’s internal demand. The sector is already facing additional annual costs of at least €55 million as a result of the adaptation to new administration, customs and trading processes. From 1 April, the cost of official inspections and of the issuance of over 750,000 phytosanitary certificates  (PCs) will be added to this economic and administrative burden, a threat which may significantly hamper the capacity of the industry to continue ‘just in time’ operations of highly perishable produce. In this context, Freshfel Europe and FPC have addressed a letter to the RT Hon Michael Gove expressing the concerns of the sector about the introduction of a requirement for PCs from 1 April.

In their letter Freshfel Europe and FPC argue that this requirement will mean more than three quarters of EU fresh produce exports to the UK will require a phytosanitary certificate (approx. 2.5 million tons). This will be a herculean effort for both the sector and public administrations, as at least 750,000 PCs will have to be issued on an annual basis to support this trade. The reason is that whilst some bigger operators may issue a single PC per truck (e.g.  for  exports  of  big  categories  such  as  apples),  most  EU27-UK  trade  is  highly fragmented with consignments addressed to many small customers and wholesalers and often carrying over 10 PCs per truck. This requirement will therefore lead to significant delays in orders, to blockages both at departure and arrival, and generate losses of quality and food waste. This will also add costs to the already fatigued fresh fruit and vegetables businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic effects.

Freshfel Europe and FPC therefore urge the UK to introduce derogations to the almost systematic obligation of a PC for fresh produce trade across the English Channel taking into account the very limited risk of fresh fruit and vegetables trade across the Channel after 40 years of free flows. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard highlighted, “We ask the UK to consider a derogation to reflect the very limited phytosanitary risk of fresh fruit and vegetables exchanges across the Channel after over 40 years of free and safe flows, and the fact that EU and UK plant health legislation will remain, at least in the mid-term, almost identical. Postponing the introduction of the phyto requirement for EU imports until electronic certification is in place would facilitate trade on both sides of the Channel.  It’s the very least we need to help maintain supplies of fresh produce”, added Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium.

 

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EU fruit & vegetable e-Commerce market study shows promising future for online sales

EU fruit & vegetable e-Commerce market study shows promising future for online sales

 

Freshfel Europe and the Scheme for the Application of International Standards for Fruit and Vegetables of the OECD have published the first  ever  extensive  study  on  fresh  produce  e-Commerce with  the title “Online  Sales  of  Fruit  and Vegetables in Europe”. The study explores the structure and regulatory challenges of selling fruit and vegetables online and analyses the format of existing web shops specialised in online sales of fruit and vegetables, their delivery model as well as compliance with the current EU regulatory framework for (online) marketing standards with multifaceted results.

While a big share of European fruits and vegetables online sales are conducted by online pure players and retailers with roughly 51% of all findings, surprisingly the study illustrated the growing share of agricultural suppliers with direct marketing to consumers. Freshfel’s Director Trade Policy and Business Development and co-author of the study, Nelli Hajdu remarks, that this study marks only the beginning of understanding  the  complexity  of this uprising outlet:  “The structure  of  the  online  landscape  is characterized by national shopping ‘traditions’ and trends, a challenge for creating a favourable regulatory environment. However, the impact of COVID-19 on market structure and consumer uptake is still to be examined in detail.”

Recently, online sales have become an important outlet for food products and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. As little was known about the online sales and distribution system of fruits and vegetables, Freshfel Europe teamed up with the OECD to explore the structure and size of the European online fruit and vegetable market as well as its compliance with existing regulatory requirements. To quantify the size of the market, seven sample EU Member States have been selected, to compare their organisational features (online-pure players/retailers, agricultural suppliers) as well as their distribution system (delivery vs. click-and-collect). The study also examined the verification of compliance with labelling requirements of Marketing Standard Regulation EU 543/2011.

For the first time ever the ground breaking study gave an accurate picture of the size and structure of EU e- Commerce suppliers. The study found that while the overall structure of online fruit and vegetable sales can be defined by its characteristic business format, either as an online-pure player, retailer or agricultural supplier, as well as by its distribution structure, this varies strongly at national level. For example, the German online fruit and vegetable market is mainly shaped by agricultural suppliers selling directly to consumers, while in Spain smaller local ‘Fruteria’ shops have gone online to expand their customer base. France stood out with a strong and established coverage of click-and-collect opportunities. Regarding market size, the online market shows a high range of fragmentation, however this doesn’t exceed 100 to 150 web shops per country, and is depending on the maturity of the market development at national level. Regarding the compliance with labelling requirements in the context of the Marketing Standard Regulation EU 543/2011, the rate highly diverged by operator and organisational structure.

While revealing promising signs for the future of online sales, this first study also revealed key questions, which  will  require  further investigation.  This includes  understanding  the characteristics  of  successful business models for  fruit  and vegetable online sales,  trustworthiness  and verification  of  information provided on websites and the overall uptake by consumers. These key areas for further investigation have become even more relevant as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to accelerate overall online food availability, especially fruit and vegetable sales, with urgent need for quantification. 

 

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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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AREFLH and Freshfel Europe examine key challenges facing European fresh fruit and vegetable sector 

AREFLH and Freshfel Europe examine key challenges facing European fresh fruit and vegetable sector 
Photo: Freshfel Europe general delegate, Philippe Binard

 

AREFLH and Freshfel Europe held an online Joint 2020 Annual Event on 29 September 2020, when they examined the key challenges ahead for the European fresh fruit and vegetable sector amid this unprecedented period. The Joint 2020 Annual Event focused on the pertinent theme ‘The Road Ahead – A Sector Fit for Future Challenges’. Speakers from the European Commission, the European Parliament and specialist market analysis discussed the EU’s policy priorities and the current changing market conditions affecting the sector in the short and long term.

With the advent of the European Green Deal marking a new sustainable era for Europe, AREFLH and Freshfel Europe dedicated their Joint 2020 Annual Event to the EU’s new policy priorities. The new CAP, the Farm to Fork Strategy’s policy agenda for the agri-food sector, changing trade developments as well as shifting market trends resulting from the on-going COVID-19 pandemic were discussed. European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski opened the Annual Event addressing 150 AREFLH and Freshfel Europe members on the new elements specific for fresh fruit and vegetable production in the new CAP. During the Annual Event Members of the European Parliament Herbert Dorfmann and Paolo De Castro also featured as guest speakers, remarking on the EU’s new political priorities and their impact for the sector in relation to fresh fruit and vegetable production and supply chain actors. To conclude the Annual Event IGD provided an in-depth market analysis on the outlook for fresh produce market trends in a world post-COVID-19.

AREFLH president, Simona Caselli, said: “The fruit and vegetables sector will still be influenced in the coming months by the same topics experienced over the last months, including Brexit, the debate on the Farm to Fork Strategy’s proposals and COVID-19 implications. The Joint AREFLH Freshfel Europe- Annual Event was therefore a good opportunity to review these topics and brief the sector for future development in the coming period”.

Freshfel Europe general delegate, Philippe Binard, said: “Although taking place in unprecedented circumstances, the Joint 2020 Annual Event has successfully gathered leading stakeholders in the European fresh fruit and vegetable sector to examine current and upcoming challenges for the industry. In consideration of the on-going global pandemic and the commencement of new EU policy priorities, there still remains a need to ensure that continued policy coherence efforts are not lost in moving towards a sustainable diet and meeting the WHO’s consumption recommendation of at least 400g of fruit and vegetables per capita per day throughout Europe”.

The Joint 2020 Annual Event was held online to facilitate participation from AREFLH’s and Freshfel Europe members from across Europe and internationally who were unable to travel to the annual industry-wide meeting due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Europe readies itself for future food crises

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe
Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe’s general delegate

 

Over 200 representatives of Europe’s food industry and the public sector gathered for the ESSA (European Sprouted Seeds Association) and Freshfel Europe’s Food Crisis Management Event this week to study previous crises and prepare to respond to future hypothetical scenarios through closer cooperation. 

Freshfel Europe’s general delegate, Philippe Binard, said, “The fresh produce sector strives for good practices in production and trade. However, this is reliant on a high level of cooperation with authorities and other actors.” 

Attendees discussed how previous food crises were handled in terms of food hygiene and food fraud issues, as well as the nefarious impact of misinformation and the need for greater transparency. 

“Transparency plays a big role in crisis management. It is based on a long-term confidence between public and private stakeholders. During the crisis and recovery period, good and consistent communication is essential. All stakeholders involved in a crisis should set up communication tools among each other as well as to the public. European and national authorities play a big role in informing the public, as well as in restoring consumers’ confidence,” said Binard.

Similarly, ESSA’s secretary general, Eglė Baecke, stressed that cooperation must be a “continuous process and applied in practice, such as through crisis simulation exercises.”

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ESSA and Freshfel Europe’s Food Crisis Management Event

PRESS RELEASE

ESSA & Freshfel Europe join forces to kick start multi-level food crisis management collaboration & dialogue to learn from past experiences & prepare for future scenarios

On 2 September 2020, over 200 industry and public sector stakeholders from across Europe and beyond gathered at ESSA and Freshfel Europe’s Food Crisis Management Event to analyse former as well as hypothetical food crisis situations, the lessons learnt from them, and best crisis response approaches. Business operators, crisis management experts, national authorities and European Commission officials discussed the reputational damage and health hazards that food crises have represented. Participants were then challenged to react to two future scenarios, one of which inspired by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

As a multi-level and multi-sectorial event, the Food Crisis Management Event showcased ESSA and Freshfel Europe’s commitment to facilitate structures and coordination within and between private companies, sectorial associations and institutions dedicated to food crisis management. The long-term vision of the organisers is to foster cooperation between stakeholders to better manage potential future crises in the agri-food sector, with a view to further developing effective crisis strategies, and raising awareness of crisis management good practices. The meeting reviewed, with the support experts, the management of former food crisis situations, namely food hygiene and food fraud cases. The meeting also dedicated discussions to hypothetical future crisis scenarios and how they should be managed by actors across the supply chain in conjunction with national authorities and the European Commission. Inspired by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the last panel discussion focused on the role of misinformation in the management of food crises.

European Commission DG Santé Deputy Director-General Claire Bury opened the event and congratulated the initiative by underlying: “Managing food crises inevitably happens when dealing with food safety. The Commission is committed to working with stakeholders towards a better preparedness of all actors for the proper management of food crises”.
Eglė Baecke, ESSA Secretary General, affirmed that: “We hope that this event will encourage the private and public sectors to put a collaborative crisis management mechanism in place at national and European levels. Therefore, we invite private and public sectors to finds ways of cooperation. The importance of this has become evident based on the outcome of discussions during this event. The large number of participants at the event both from the industry as well as from national and European authorities across Europe demonstrates the high level of interest and importance of learning how to prevent crises and improve crisis management. The fresh produce industry hopes that this event serves to further reinforce good cooperation between business operators and authorities on crisis management. Cooperation must be a continuous process and applied in practice, e.g. through crisis simulation exercises.”

Following the event, Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard remarked that, “The fresh produce sector strives for good practices in production and trade. However, this is reliant on a high level of cooperation with authorities and other actors. Collectively we need to foster effective modes of collaboration to better manage potential future food crises.”

Summing up the debate, Philippe Binard concluded: “There is no such thing as zero risk. Priority should therefore be to work collectively towards the prevention of crises and be prepared to act if a crisis occurs. Transparency plays a big role in crisis management. It is based on a long-term confidence between public and private stakeholders. During the crisis and recovery period, good and consistent communication is essential. All stakeholders involved in a crisis should set up communication tools among each other as well as to the public. European and National Authorities play a big role in informing the public as well as in restoring consumers’ confidence. Open collaboration is therefore a key element of successful crisis management and prevention.”

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Freshfel demands concrete solutions

Freshfel demands concrete solutions, © Réussir Fruits et Légumes

© Réussir Fruits et Légumes

 

Association calls on agri-ministers to firm-up EU-wide solutions on free movement of goods and critical workers. As the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak continue to unfold across Europe, Freshfel Europe has said that it welcomed the discussions of yesterday’s Informal Agriculture and Fisheries Council on free movement of goods and critical workers.

The fresh produce association is now urging EU capitals to find EU-wide solutions to ensure the movement of goods and critical agricultural workers in the single market. According to Freshfel, only harmonised coordination across member states on these areas will enable the fresh fruit and vegetable sector to continue supplying high quality, safe and healthy produce to European consumers.

“Freshfel Europe strongly supports the consensus among member state ministries on the need to guarantee the integrity of the single market, which is a crucial issue for the fresh fruit and vegetables sector,” the association stated. “To translate this agreement into practice it is essential that EU capitals implement the European Commission practical guidance on the EU green lanes with a matter of urgency to ensure that highly perishable fresh produce crosses internal EU borders in a maximum timeframe of 15 minutes.”“Freshfel Europe would also like to highlight the discussion during the Informal Council meeting on the need for free movement of seasonal workers within the EU and also from neighbouring countries,” Freshfel continued. “This is a critical matter for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector’s immediate future.”

Member States were urged to take immediate action to secure the availability of professional workers for the upcoming harvests, with Freshfel highlighting the “urgent need” for workers for many vegetable products as well as for other highly demanded products such as asparagus and strawberries.

The fruit season is also beginning, which requires a complete seasonal workforce – an urgent matter to resolve as for some products the season is advanced by a number of weeks due to weather conditions over the past months.“Freshfel Europe urges EU capitals to continue to welcome seasonal workers from other EU and neighbouring countries on a formal manner. This critical staff is necessary to ensure food security in Europe during the Covid-19 outbreak. These measures should be accompanied by strong medical supervision of incoming workers, which should be harmonised across Europe. Furthermore, support from member state governments should be envisaged to secure safe transport, work and accommodation of these workers.”

The work done by the EC to guarantee the supply of fresh produce to EU citizens was praised by the association, which requested that any new measures, including on seasonal workers, were implemented with a pan-European approach that prevents distortion of competition between growers.

Freshfel also warned member states that the imposition of unilateral bans on the entry of professional seasonal workers from one or several member states to another would “deeply undermine” the ability of growers to harvest fresh produce, leading to significant food waste along the supply chain and putting supply to European supermarket shelves at risk.

“Moreover, the replacement of seasonal workers by volunteer staff should be cautiously considered and implemented,” Freshfel added. “Pickers should remain physically capable, trained, fully committed and incentivised to work throughout the season and not merely on a ‘one off’ basis. If this is not ensured huge uncertainty will be created around the capacity of the sector to continuously and uniformly supply fresh produce throughout the season.”

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Freshfel Europe calls for a fresh fruit and vegetable-in-all-policies approach

Freshfel Europe calls for a fresh fruit and vegetable-in-all-policies approach

On the 2nd of December, Freshfel Europe called for a fresh fruit and vegetables-in-all-policies approach in its presentation of its 2019-2024 priorities paper for the EU institutions ‘Fresh Fruit & Vegetables for Europe’s Future’ in the European Parliament. Freshfel Europe asked policy makers to help stimulate a higher level of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption as part of an integral shift to a low environmental impact plant-based diet to protect the planet and citizens’ health. Freshfel Europe indicated that this could only be achieved through increased support for the sector in the policy-making agenda over the next five years across Europe and at all levels of government in conjunction with sector initiatives.

During the evening reception Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard presented Freshfel Europe’s latest paper ‘Fresh Fruit & Vegetables for Europe’s Future: Freshfel Europe’s Priorities for the EU Institutions 2019-2024’ to Members of the European Parliament working on agricultural, environmental and trade issues and high-level European Commission officials. Mr Binard explained that “By helping better position the fresh fruit and vegetable sector policy makers will achieve forward-thinking coherent policy that will future-proof our planet and meet consumers’ expectations now and into 2030”. In his presentation Mr Binard also underlined that, “Fresh fruit and vegetables play a key role in Europe’s ambitions to protect the planet, provide healthy prosperous lifestyles to all and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The beginning of this path is an ambitious and effective European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy that incorporates a fresh fruit and vegetables-in-all-policies approach”.

MEP Herbert Dorfmann opened the cocktail reception in the European Parliament welcoming guests and describing the importance of sustainable production in a modern world with a fast changing climate. Freshfel Europe President Stephan Weist also addressed participants asserting that actors across the EU fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain will continue to collaborate to ensure that Europe reaches the WHO recommended consumption intake of 400g of fruit and vegetables per capita per day. Mr Weist pointed out that, “21 Member States are currently not reaching this with the average consumption at 348g per capita per day. The fresh fruit and vegetable sector must be prioritized in the policy-making agenda so that these nutritious products remain an essential part of European consumers’ sustainable diet”.

Freshfel Europe’s ‘Fresh Fruit & Vegetables for Europe’s Future’ paper outlines the role of the sector in significantly contributing to a low-environmental impact future for Europe and the good health of European consumers. The paper details specific policy areas to tackle over the next five years, covering the CAP, intra-EU and global trade, the supply chain, circular economy, plant health, food safety, digitalization and health policy, to ensure that Europe is a global leader achieving a triple-win for the environment, the economy and consumer health. Freshfel Europe’s full paper ‘Fresh Fruit & Vegetables for Europe’s Future’ can be downloaded from the Freshfel Europe website here.

 

PRESS RELEASE