Freshfel Headlines

Freshfel Europe Headlines – Edition 4, 2020 

Freshfel Europe positive but wary about Farm to Fork Strategy’s ambitions for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector

At the beginning of June Freshfel Europe published its preliminary reaction to the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy as part of the European Green Deal. Freshfel Europe welcomed the Farm to Fork Strategy, which will help facilitate the provision of nutritious, safe and affordable food to European citizens through measures in every step of the food supply chain from production to consumption. Nevertheless Freshfel Europe believes that the Strategy is very direct in its ambitions for the agri-food sector, with specific targets for increasing organic farming and reductions in pesticide and fertilizer use. While Freshfel Europe supports the ambitious nature of the initiatives, Freshfel Europe also holds reservations on the viability in practice of some of these measures over the long-term. Freshfel Europe firmly believes that maintaining the competitiveness of the fresh fruit and vegetable sector is key and to avoid market distortion and unfair competition production standards and rules must be taken into account in any proposals.

Nevertheless, Freshfel Europe noted that there were no concrete initiatives included in the Strategy to directly support the EU fresh fruit and vegetable sector. This is despite the Strategy’s reference to current insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables in the EU and that a diet with more fruits and vegetables will lead to improved health and will have a beneficial environmental impact. Freshfel Europe’s reaction to the Farm to Fork Strategy is available here along with the accompanying press release here.

Freshfel Europe is participating in all fora to discuss the Strategy with the European Commission services and stakeholders in the agri-food sector. On the 17 June 2020 Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe Sustainability Policy Advisor Nicola Pisano and Freshfel Europe Director Food Quality Egle Baecke attended the virtual Special Ad Hoc Meeting of the Advisory Group on the Food Chain Animal and Plant Health on the Farm to Fork Strategy. This meeting was dedicated to the presentation of the Strategy to stakeholders, along with its targets as well as the CAP’s contribution to the Green Deal and Farm to Fork objectives.

Freshfel Europe holds first Webinar Series for Members and Associated Members

Freshfel Europe is holding Webinar Series for its members and associated members in place of its normal working group meetings. This new online meeting format allows members to join webinars that are most relevant for their business from across Europe and abroad. In July Freshfel Europe held its first Webinar Series, which composed of the following webinars:

Webinar on digital trade including customs and commercial operations: Freshfel Europe held a briefing on the state of play of digitalization in the area of trade and customs as well as with regard to commercial ambitions in a webinar held by Freshfel Europe Director Trade Policy and Business Development Nelli Hajdu on the 13 July 2020. The webinar was dedicated to the complexity of electronic customs and certifications and an explanation of the complex network of different regulatory approaches affecting the current developments during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond towards electronic certification. The discussion touched on priorities with regard to the engagement of Freshfel Europe in the Industry Advisory Group to the IPPC ePhyto project, a hub transmission system for phytosanitary certificates as well as potential for electronic certification for the upcoming Brexit. The second part of the webinar was dedicated to an update on the state of play on e-commerce of fruit and vegetables, the current structure of the market as well as the new popularity of online-sales during the pandemic. Freshfel Europe will increase its efforts to further explore the regulatory pitfalls and economic potential of the current online sales trend throughout the second part of 2020.

Webinar on import tolerance MRLs and their function: Director Food quality Eglė Baecke gave a webinar to Freshfel Europe members on import tolerance (IT) maximum residue levels. The objective of the webinar was to provide an overview and clarifications on the European Union’s system for setting import tolerances and their functions for international trade as well as for the production within the European Union. The second part of the webinar was dedicated to an update on the political environment and the on-going discussions on the setting of import tolerance MRLs in the European Parliament. As the online event was well attended by members, the presentation followed with a discussion.

Webinar on Food safety and Quality Legislation: Director Food quality Eglė Baecke gave a webinar to Freshfel Europe members on food safety and quality legislation. The event was divided into two parts: EU Farm to Fork Strategy and impact on plant protection products and their maximum levels and REFIT evaluation of Regulations on plant protection products and MRLs. Each session was followed by a discussion, which allowed the Freshfel Europe secretariat to gain a lot of feedback from its members regarding main concerns of the sector as well as on the way forward in the policy of food safety.

Webinar on packaging legislation: On the 22 July 2020 Freshfel Europe Sustainability Policy Advisory Nicola Pisano gave a webinar to Freshfel Europe members on EU and Member State Packaging Legislation. Currently there are various changes occurring to regional, Member State and EU-level packaging legislation that will impact the fresh fruit and vegetable sector’s use of packaging throughout the supply chain and at retail for consumers. Well attended by Freshfel Europe members, this webinar gave an overview of significant developments in the legislative process for the drafting of the Single-use Plastics Directive Guidelines for Member States, the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, including the Directive’s Essential Requirements, as well as fresh fruit and vegetable sticker legislation. Freshfel Europe will be holding further webinars on this subject over the course of the year.

Freshfel Europe closely monitors EU promotion policy with its members alongside the European Commission

In the last two months Freshfel Europe has closely monitored with its members alongside the European Commission the different aspects of the EU promotion policy for agricultural products and specifically for fruit and vegetables. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to multiple uncertainties for the sector regarding the running of the European Commission promotion programmes, including the suspension or cancellation of activities planned for 2020 and the conditions for the prolongation of a Grant Agreement beyond the length of a programme if activities were totally suspended during the execution as a result of the pandemic. Freshfel Europe welcomed the launch of two exceptional calls for promotional activities under simple or multi programme to address the consequences of the pandemic both on the domestic markets and on international markets.

COVID-19 creates momentum for electronic certification and Freshfel Europe urges European Commission to streamline their endeavours

While apples and pears have been in in strong demand during the COVID-19 crisis, this sector continues to be confronted with several challenges. This motivated Freshfel Europe and its members in the apple and pear segment to review the state of play and its outlook in a position paper presented at the EU apple and pear Market Observatory on 15 May 2020. The overall decrease of fresh produce consumption, the increased competition for apples and pears among the fresh produce category with other products such as growing segments, such as berries and exotics, are points of concern for apple and pear growers. Besides this, EU production is confronted with severe up and down production output given climatic havocs, but the overall EU orchard potential is currently exceeding market demand. This situation is further aggravated by the ‘subsidized’ growth of production in the EU neighbourhood combined with the ongoing consequences of embargoes such as in Russia and Algeria and the slow opening of new markets which once open also require adaptations to offer and meet quality expectations of these new markets. Finally, the sector urgently needs to secure a comprehensive production toolbox to cope with climatic change and increase plant health pressures. More research and innovation is needed to address these challenges as well. Freshfel Europe calls for support of authorities to address the difficulties to better balance the market.

During the European Commission Market Observatory meeting, Freshfel Europe in cooperation with WAPA also presented the latest apple and pear market and stocks developments for the Northern Hemisphere. Freshfel Europe and WAPA also reflected on the Southern Hemisphere production and export trends for the 2020 season. The presentations made during the meetings are available here.

Freshfel Europe concerned over draft Single-Use Plastics Directive Guidelines for Members States

As per Article 12 of the Single-use Plastics Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/904) by 3 July the European Commission should have published guidelines in consultation with Member States to facilitate implementation of the Directive at national level. The adoption of these Guidelines through an Implementing Act has now been extended to November 2020. Following initial consultation with stakeholders in early April the European Commission is now in the drafting process of the Guidelines. While many of Freshfel Europe’s minor concerns regarding the Guidelines text have now been addressed as a result of extensive feedback provided by Freshfel Europe to the European Commission. Freshfel Europe continues to be concerned about new changes to the Guidelines text, which alter the intended scope of the Directive. Consequently, Freshfel Europe provided further comments and suggestions to the European Commission in advance of the Technical Advisory Committee meeting where the draft Guidelines are being discussed with Member States. Freshfel Europe has undertaken extensive consultation with its Members to ensure that the Guidelines reflect operating conditions and sector specifications to enhance the Guidelines’ interpretability.

Amid significant changes to the text, Freshfel Europe is disappointed that there has been no further consultation with stakeholders since April. With many stakeholders having common concerns about the drafting of the Guidelines, Freshfel Europe signed a Joint Statement initiated by Pack2Go, along with EuroCommerce, EuPC, Independent Retail Europe and Serving Europe in mid July. The Joint Statement calls for proper implementation of the Directive in the Guidelines and was sent to the European Commission and Permanent Representations in Brussels.

Freshfel Europe contributes to EU Trade and Investment Policy review together with its members

During the months of June and July Freshfel Europe, together with its members, prepared a comprehensive response to the EU public consultation on a Roadmap on the EU trade & investment policy review. The contribution was based on the discussions held between the Freshfel Europe Secretariat and members on 2 July 2020, where the main priorities for the sector on international trade were defined.  

Freshfel Europe’s position paper welcomed the EU’s plans to revise its Trade Strategy as an essential move to ensure the EU is ready to tackle the growing challenges impacting fresh fruit and vegetables trade, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. Freshfel Europe’s paper also urges the European Commission to enhance the assertiveness of its approach to trade policy, especially regarding tackling sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers, which are deeply impacting the ability of the sector to exploit its full potential to trade. Moreover, the new EU Trade Strategy should effectively assist key partners, particularly developing countries, to cope with EU legislation and standards to continue accessing the Single Market, especially when it comes to achieving environmental goals, ensuring a year-round supply of affordable, varied fresh fruit and vegetables to EU citizens. Last but not least, Freshfel Europe called the EU to translate its ambitions to become ‘fit for the digital age’ into concrete solutions that facilitate trade operations, notably implementing electronic transmission of import and export certification.

Freshfel Europe continues active participation in European Commission Market Access Working Group on SPS

Over the past months Freshfel Europe has continued its active participation and contribution to the EU Commission SPS Market Access Working Group (MAWG), which went digital in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Freshfel Europe took part in two meetings in June and July with a focus on market access and SPS barriers for EU exports to Asian markets and the Americas.

During the meeting focused on Asia, Freshfel Europe Trade Policy Advisor Natalia Santos delivered a presentation on the opportunities of the Vietnamese market for EU fresh produce exports, particularly in respect to the new EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which took effect on 1 August 2020. Ms. Santos highlighted that this deepened relationship between the two blocs should translate into facilitations in the realm of SPS and market access for EU fruit and vegetables, especially since this new agreement recognizes the concept of the EU Single Entity. This should ensure that any entry protocols agreed are swiftly negotiated and non-discriminatory, providing for similar requirements to tackle equivalent phytosanitary risks for all Member States. The need to speed up pending market access applications of fruit and vegetables to Japan, which remain blocked despite the sector and EU authorities efforts, was also highlighted by Freshfel Europe’s General Delegate in a statement.

In turn, the SMS MAWG focused on the Americas was an opportunity for Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard to stress the urgent need for the EU to push market access of fruit and vegetables to Mexico in light of the recently agreed modernized Free Trade Agreement.

Mid-term review of implementation of Official Control Reform: Freshfel Europe continues monitoring and reporting to European Commission

Freshfel Europe has been closely accompanying the introduction of the new Official Control Regulation 2017/625 and Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031 on the 14 December 2019, which brought significant changes for the Official Control operations when entering EU territory. Key elements of the changes include among others: 1) harmonization of controls in all member states, 2) better connectivity of the border control points to more quickly exchange information among Member States, 3) transition of trade administration into the TRACES/IMSOC system, and 4) greater transparency on Europhyt and RASFF reporting and monitoring. In continuous exchange with its members, Freshfel Europe has recognized and collected reappearing problems with the implementation of the new law such as different approaches to additional declarations in phytosanitary certificates as well as confusion on modalities for so-called ‘re-export’ procedures, which have been leading to distortions and differences in control operations from Member State to Member State. Also accessibility of interception information remains constrained, given the continuous development stage of the system. Freshfel Europe has been highlighting key elements of constraint via letter to DG Santé and has asked for increased attention, improved communication, guidance and training for Member State authorities, operators and inspectors to introduce the provisions in a harmonized manner.

Freshfel Europe attends virtual EU Platform for Food Loss and Food Waste meeting

Due to COVID-19 measures the mid-year European Commission EU Platform for Food Loss and Food Waste was held virtually. On the 15 June 2020 Freshfel Europe Sustainability Policy Advisor Nicola Pisano attended the virtual meeting, which was opened by the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides. As the first meeting after the launch of the European Commission’s new Farm to Fork Strategy, the meeting focused on the communication’s relevance for the work of the Platform. Food loss and waste is one of the Strategy’s key action strands. As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy the European Commission proposes to a) establish by 2023 binding EU-level targets for food waste reduction, based on the results of the first round of EU-wide monitoring using common methodology, b) revise EU rules on date marking by 2022 to improve consumer understanding and their use by all players, c) further investigate food losses at the production stage, and d) scale up action and mobilize key players across the EU. Additionally, the afternoon session of the meeting was dedicated to food loss and waste prevention initiatives in the context of COVID-19 as well as presentations from Italy and the Netherlands on their implementation of the Platform’s recommendations for action.

Follow me to be Healthy with Europe: the #400gChallenge turns one! 

The Follow me to be Healthy with Europe campaign has turned one year old. Launched by Freshfel Europe and Aprifel, as an EU-funded programme its aim is to encourage young Europeans to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables to a minimum of 400g a day, to improve and ultimately transform millennials’ dietary habits. A digital-first initiative, the Europe-wide campaign has generated over 32 million impressions on social media in its first twelve months.

Using the hashtag #400gChallenge, followers are ‘challenged’ to include more fruit and vegetables in their daily diet. These challenges are promoted by monthly infographics, tips, and videos, which showcase the health benefits of fruit and vegetables in an engaging and relatable format across the campaign’s six social media channels. You can join the #400gChallenge today by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and visiting the official website of the campaign. The full press on the campaign’s first birthday is available here.

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