Freshfel Headlines

Freshfel Europe Headlines – Edition 4, 2021 

Freshfel Europe voices momentum for moving towards plant-based diet calling decision-makers not to miss opportunities to change policy mindset

On the occasion of the two-day conference of the European Commission on the Agri-food promotion policy review (12-13 July 2021), Freshfel Europe called upon European authorities to build on the momentum of the policy developments emerging from the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and the EU Beating Cancer Plan to promote fresh fruit and vegetables as part of the solution to climatic and health challenges. The aim of this call is to shape an even stronger, more efficient, and better-funded policy to support European fresh fruit and vegetables to boost fresh fruit and vegetables consumption over the minimum WHO threshold of 400g per capita per day while also improving the competitiveness of EU fresh produce for exports to third-country markets. The International Year of Fruit and Vegetables currently taking place in 2021 as well the new healthier eating habits of consumers reshaped during the COVID-19 pandemic are also favourable elements that can contribute to this desired boost. The upcoming reform of the EU School Scheme could also drive the process to best educate the youngest to the taste, texture and flavour of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Decision makers have an important role to play in driving the process in line with the strategies of the new policies. Decision-makers must be coherent with the objectives and fully understand the well-demonstrated health benefits for consumers of fresh produce, which is highly positive among all the categories and very low environmental impact for the planet and climate in perspective of other food options of fresh fruit and vegetables. The Freshfel Europe call can be viewed here.

Towards a new promotion policy & an adapted Annual Work Programme 2022 for promotion of fruit & vegetables

In June and July Freshfel Europe structured its position on the EU promotion policy, responding to the consultation on the reform of the policy and contributing as well to the call for input regarding the priorities for the Annual Work Programme 2022. During this process Freshfel Europe undertook extensive consultation with its members but also, and importantly, with other European Associations coordinating a position to keep a strong, well-funded and efficient policy with a clear EU added value. While specifically calling for maintaining and even further boosting the dedicated line from fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, Freshfel Europe joined forces with their other agriculture sector colleagues in the advocacy for a robust policy to cope with local and international challenges, contributing to the competitiveness of the sector but also contributing within the Farm to Fork Strategy to outline the steps of growers and traders alike towards a more sustainable food production system and sustainable food consumption. Together with the group of agri-food sector colleagues, Freshfel Europe met with the Heads of Cabinets of the Trade and Agriculture Commissioners. Freshfel Europe’s 10-page response to the consultation on the impact assessment on promotion policy is available here.

Review of pear consumption trends at Interpera

Organized online this year by AREFLH, Interpera is the gathering place for the leading pear producing countries to exchange on matters of common concerns for the industry, next to some initial forecasts for EU production and trade as well as consumption trends. During the event, Freshfel Europe General Delegate (also Secretary General of WAPA) Philippe Binard provided to the delegates an overview of the consumption trends for pears. Pears consumption is on average around 4kg per capita gross per year, pushed by a steady and much stronger consumption in Members States such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Belgium, but still pushed down by low consumption levels in most of the Eastern EU Members States including Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland. Monthly sales of pears across the EU amount to 150.000 T. After the data released by Prognosfruit and the severe drop of production in Italy but also in Belgium and The Netherlands, consumption which is supply driven is due to drop during the 2021/2022 campaign.

Jose Antonio Garcia

Adapting environmental action of operational programmes of producers’ organisations  to cope with Farm to Fork Strategy objectives

As the new CAP is being agreed and the impact of the Farm to Fork Strategy becomes more and more visible in policy instruments, Freshfel Europe facilitated an exchange of experiences for its members based in the leading EU countries with producer’s organizations with operational programmes. The meeting was a unique opportunity for producers organizations from Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Hungary to exchange about how to best adapt the environmental measures within their operational programmes to meet the environmental objectives of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. Today out of the €1,7 billion of the operational programmes’ value more than €250 million is spent annually for environmental measures. Those investments relate to IPM (>€90 million), investments (> €60 million), biodiversity (>€30 million) and soil protection (>€20 million). Among the conclusions of the exchange, it appears that through national strategies there is increasing fragmentation of the CAP and measures across the EU are therefore increasing local despite remaining within broad priorities for both CAP pillars. There is also significant on-going concern by producers’ organisations regarding the interpretations made by auditors during controls about the eligible environmental measures, potentially affecting the legitimate expectation of the measure. Freshfel Europe will work closely with its members to best position the producers groups into this new business environment influenced by the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy and convert them into opportunities.

Freshfel Europe signs EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Business & Marketing Practices

Since December 2020 Freshfel Europe has been participating in the development of the European Commission initiative ‘Code of Conduct for Responsible Business and Marketing Practices’ under the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. The Code of Conduct aims to improve the sustainability performance of middle of the supply chain actors in the food industry, specifically to increase the availability and affordability of healthy, sustainable food options that also help reduce overall environmental footprint. The Code of Conduct comprises of a set of seven aspirational objectives as voluntary commitments for action together with a monitoring and evaluation framework to measure progress. The Code of Conduct entered into force on 5 July 2021 and Freshfel Europe was one of the first association signatories.

Over the course of the first half of 2021 Freshfel Europe supported the drafting of the Code of Conduct, represented by Director Sustainability and Health Nicola Pisano, along with other prominent EU-level agri-food stakeholders. Ms Pisano participated at the European Commission general stakeholder meetings as well as those for the Thematic Session on sustainable and healthy diets to which Freshfel Europe was an appointed member. All information about the Code of Conduct is available here.

Freshfel Europe responds to review of EU school fruit, vegetables & milk roadmap consultation

Freshfel Europe responded to the proposed roadmap for the review of the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme, which was open from June 29 to July 27. The EU school scheme supports the supply of fruit, vegetables, milk and certain milk products to children together with educational activities teaching them about agriculture and developing healthy eating habits. This review will contribute to promoting sustainable food consumption, in line with the Farm to Fork Strategy. The next step is the public consultation, which will open in the first quarter of 2022. Freshfel Europe strongly advocates for increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, which is part of the ambitious objectives of the EU to move towards a more sustainable and plant-based diet under the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy as well as the EU Beating Cancer Plan.

In its response, Freshfel Europe welcomed the proposed roadmap of the review and its focus on the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence, and EU added value of the EU school scheme in the assessment of the programme, in addition to the identification of any unnecessary administrative burden linked to the design or implementation of the EU scheme and the scope for simplification. Freshfel Europe also argued that it is crucial for the budget of the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme to be reflective of the scheme’s ambitious targets as well as its proven capabilities for long-term consumption stimulation, and consequently be appropriately revised to ensure this crucial diet objective is achieved among EU schoolchildren and maintained throughout their lifetime.

Freshfel Europe organises webinar to facilitate members’ engagement with DG SANTE on impact of Farm to Fork Strategy on plant protection products & MRL policy 

On 6 July more than 50 members attended Freshfel Europe’s webinar on the impact of the Farm to Fork Strategy one year after its adoption, particularly in relation to plant protection products and the EU MRL and Import Tolerance policy. The webinar touched upon the EU’s ambitions to reduce pesticide usage by 50% by 2030 as well as to promote the registration and use of biological substances and the sustainable use of pesticides. The meeting was opened by Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe General Delegate, who set the scene and called for policy coherence in the EU’s work on the Farm to Fork Strategy implementation. During the meeting, participants listened to three comprehensive presentations from DG SANTE experts on the EU’s plans to attain the 50% plant protection products reduction targets, the EU’s approach towards the future setting of Import Tolerances in relation to environmental concerns, the EU’s new methodology to facilitate the registration of biological substances, and the revision of the EU’s Sustainable Use Directive.

Freshfel Europe holds last Environmental Footprint Working Group before summer break

In 2021 Freshfel Europe established a new dedicated Working Group on Environmental Footprint. The objective of the Working Group is to act as a platform for Freshfel Europe’s members to discuss on a permanent and regular basis own initiatives and sector and global developments on environmental footprint as well as to facilitate increased cooperation and engagement between members on this topic. Since its establishment the Working Group has held monthly meetings under the Chair of Freshfel Europe Director Sustainability & Health Nicola Pisano. Recently the Working Group held it last meeting before the summer break, with guest speakers from WWF and the University of Oxford on the development of the HESTIA Platform.

Freshfel Europe coordination of EU response to Australia notification of additional requirements for Italian & French kiwifruit to undergo pre-export methyl bromide fumigation

On 2 July Australia notified to WTO a new requirement for Italian and French kiwifruit to undergo pre-export methyl bromide fumigation. The new measures apply as of 12 July and threaten the access of European produce to the Australian market, given the EU ban on this ozone-depleting substance. In reaction, on 7 July Freshfel Europe hosted a coordination videoconference between its members concerned and the National Plant Protection Organisations from France and Italy to better analyse the challenge and coordinate the European response to the Australian notification. During the meeting, Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe General Delegate, reviewed with the participants the concerns related to the pests at stake, biodiversity, remedy measures in place and possible alternatives to avoid the closure of this market whilst answering to Australia’s biosecurity concerns. Freshfel Europe is also keeping close contact with DG TRADE on this dossier.

Freshfel Europe takes position on the use of additives in fresh produce in light of on-going EU discussions

In the midst of the on-going debate at EU level on the use of additives for fresh produce and the future EU regulatory approach, Freshfel Europre prepared a common position paper based on feedback and discussions with its members. The paper was shared with the European Commission to feed EU Member States’ discussions in the additives working group. In the document, Freshfel Europe calls for a balanced, non-discriminatory approach, which should allow the use of safe coatings in fresh produce, provided that they bring added benefits for the quality and taste of fresh fruits and vegetables and that transparency is ensured with consumers. The position also notes that the EU approach to additives usage should be in line with the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and its targets in relation to food loss and waste.

Freshfel Europe sends open letter to European Commission calling for urgent progress in electronic certification implementation in Member States in light of Brexit

On 25 June Freshfel Europe circulated an open letter to the European Commission services of DG SANTE, DG TRADE and DG AGRI, urging the EU and EU Member States to swiftly implement electronic certification solutions with a view to prepare the sector’s exports to the UK. On 1 January 2021 phytosanitary certification will be required for most fruit and vegetables. EU27-UK movements are a key challenge for the more than 3 million tonnes the EU exports on a yearly basis to the UK. This trade will need the support of over 750.000 PCs for fruits and vegetables per year, highly concentrated in the 6 main EU Member States exporting to the UK. In its open communication, Freshfel Europe noted that whilst it hopes that on-going EU-UK negotiations could still lead to a permanent removal of SPS barriers and PC obligations, it is urgent to continue getting prepared for electronic phytosanitary certification for export to the UK. Freshfel Europe’s letter also highlighted the sector’s concerns regarding the so far slow progress of EU and Member States in this dossier in the past years despite its importance to support international trade as proven during the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Commission kindly responded to these concerns in a presentation at the European Commission Market Access Working Group on SPS matters at the request of Freshfel Europe. In the meeting, the European Commission expressed their commitment to the digitalisation of phytosanitary certifications’ transmission, as well as their eagerness to reinforce training efforts for EU Member States in the coming months.

End of COVID-19 emergency measures on phytosanitary certificates 1 September 2021: Freshfel Europe letter to Commissioner Kyriakides

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues and many countries including Member States in the EU still operate under emergency measures including social distancing and home office provisions, Freshfel Europe continues to be active in the support of the sector with regard to trade facilitation under pandemic conditions. Despite continued calls of Freshfel Europe since summer 2020 to maintain the Emergency regulations 2020/466 and 2020/714 until more countries have been transitioning into a digital transmission system either via TRACES or the IPPC ePhyto Hub into TRACES, the European Commission announced in July 2021 the end of the above measures and the return to the need for original certificates by the 1 September 2021. This will have a detrimental effect on fresh fruit and vegetable trade to the EU as only a handful of countries provides over direct access into the TRACES system and all others will have to return to original documentation despite a non-recovered air travel and courier system as well as administrative challenges caused by Covid-19 at origin countries. Freshfel Europe has been directing an official letter to Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides to request a revision of this measure to continue the emergency measures for phytosanitary certificates in light of the on-going pandemic and to support the global endeavours towards long-term trade facilitation through digitalization – one of the key points of the European Commission’s agenda for the term 2019-2023.

Freshfel Europe response to public consultation on revision of organic controls coming into force in January 2022 

DG AGRI is currently in the process of drafting the secondary legislation of the revised organic regulation 2018/848. The European Union is adding to its own domestic production of around 750.000 T of organic bananas as well as 100.000 T of other, mostly exotic, organic fruits. For these products swift control procedures are crucial to maintain quality of the products after already concluding long distance travel. Therefore Freshfel Europe has been responding to the draft proposal on organic controls, which will be coming into force as of January 2022 with an emphasis on 1) continued possibility to conduct controls for fruits not only on border control posts but also recognized border control points, which have established infrastructure for SPS controls in place and 2) a repeated attention to the problems created for fresh organic fruits caused by the issuance date prior departure for the Certificate of Organic Inspection, a procedure, which contradicts the need for swift operations and immediate departure of the ship/plane once loaded.

Freshfel Europe submits position on GLOBAL G.A.P version 6 revision

Freshfel Europe has been contributing to the last stage of the GLOBAL G.A.P. public consultation on Integrated Farm Assurance version 6. Whilst in the past GLOBAL G.A.P. has been offering the possibility to book an add-on for those markets which also require a GFSI certification, the certification body this time wanted to offer a one-stop-shop solution. GFSI v.2020 certification is a requirement mostly needed for the U.S. market as well as some niche markets. As GFSI is covering a broader scope of food production, many aspects within the proposal have been adding additional administrative burden, documentation and QMS workload for a small and medium production environment. Freshfel Europe has been voicing these concerns to GLOBAL G.A.P. with the request to return to the previous system, which allowed to add the GFSI requirements only when needed.

Freshfel Europe represents fresh produce sector at Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive Impact Assessment Stakeholder consultation meetings

Freshfel Europe is taking part in the revision process of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, also known as the Packing and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD). As a key stakeholder representing the fresh produce sector, Freshfel Europe, represented by Director Sustainability and Health Nicola Pisano, participated in six stakeholder consultation meetings for the ongoing Impact Assessment in June. Preliminary draft measures were presented to participating stakeholders on compostable packaging, recyclability, over-arching measures, recycled content, waste prevention and reuse. In consultation with its members from across the supply chain Freshfel Europe responded to specific questionnaires for each of the six areas and submitted a detailed response. The Impact Assessment report is set to be released in October followed by the European Commission revision proposal.

Freshfel Europe meets with French Ministries on national fresh produce sticker legislation

In supporting the fresh produce sector in the use of minimal and more sustainable packaging options for fresh produce, Freshfel Europe has been closely following the development of Member State legislation on fresh produce stickers. Freshfel Europe is strongly supportive of EU legislative and industry moves towards certified industrially and home compostable sticker options. On 10 June, Freshfel Europe Director Sustainability and Health Nicola Pisano and Freshfel Europe General Delegate met with representatives of the French Ministries of Agriculture and Ecological Transition to discuss the sector’s concerns regarding Article 80 of the AGEC Law banning all stickers placed on fruit and vegetables except those that are home compostable and partially or wholly composed of bio-based content. With the interpretation and enforcement of the legislation remaining unclear, Freshfel Europe continues to follow national and EU-level discussions on the legislation due to enter into force on 1 January 2022. Freshfel Europe strongly supports EU harmonisation of fresh produce sticker legislation due to high levels of intra-EU and global trade as well as high use of stickers in the sector as they are the most minimal form of functional packaging used in the sector.

Follow me to be Healthy with Europe: more young Europeans still following the #400gChallenge as the campaign enters its final semester

The “Follow me to be Healthy with Europe” campaign, launched by Freshfel Europe and Aprifel in 2019 and co-funded by the European Commission, continues to encourage young Europeans to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables to a minimum of 400g a day in its final semester. The followers of the campaign 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.

As of summer 2021, more than two years after its inception, the #400gChallenge has generated 55+ million impressions through videos, infographics, tips, and e-influencers, and generated 1.36 million video views. It has also reached 1.5 million people, received 153,000 total likes, and been followed by 15,000 people while also being covered by 154 articles. You can join the #400gChallenge today by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and visiting the official website of the campaign.

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