Freshfel Headlines

Freshfel Europe Headlines – Edition 6, 2020 

Freshfel Europe General Delegate takes part in European Parliament Hearing on COVID-19

Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe General Delegate, was called to report, together with Luc Vanoirbeek, COPA COGECA chairman of the Fruit and vegetable Committee, at a hearing of the European Parliament on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the fruit and vegetables sector. While recognizing the measures taken by the EU authorities at the start of the outbreak in regard to border controls and circulation of seasonal workers, Mr. Binard underlined the resilience of the sector despite added costs and the negative consequences of the closing of several market segments in food services. In regard to the evolution of business in autumn, he underlined the increased pressure on costs aggravated by the decrease of price return, some on-going issues in regard to the mobility of seasonal workers and several trade concerns given the continued closure of the food services sector and exports to third countries. More information is available via Freshfel Europe’s press release and the statement is available from Freshfel Europe.

Interbranch Committee is launched in Freshfel Europe

Mr. Laurent Grandin (President of Interfel) was elected by the Freshfel Europe Annual General Assembly as chairman of the new Freshfel Europe Committee for Interbranch organizations (IBOs). This Committee started to operate in October of this year. The Committee will look at different matters including the visibility of the role and actions of IBOs towards authorities and for the sector, the position of IBOs in the CAP and exchange best practices. At the end of October a meeting took place with representatives of DG AGRI.

Freshfel Europe continues active engagement with members and authorities to support the sector’s readiness for Brexit

In the past months Freshfel Euope has been actively engaged in monitoring new Brexit developments and new UK import requirements and procedures, as well as disseminating this information with members. This market for the European sector is important, representing 10% of intra-EU trade of fresh produce, and will become the first export market of European produce after 1 January 2021. Freshfel Europe together with members representing the main EU exporting Member States to the UK had a virtual meeting with DG AGRI in October to exchange on the main concerns from the sector, notably from the perspective of Spain, the Netherlands, France, Poland, Italy and Belgium. The Freshfel Europe Secretariat is also in close contact with its UK members and with UK authorities from DEFRA.

Moreover, as part of its communication efforts with members, Freshfel Europe produced a Questions and Answers Fact Sheet on fresh fruit and vegetable trade after the Brexit Transition Period, the fourth edition of which was published on 1 December. In addition, Freshfel Europe Policy Advisor Natalia Santos organized a webinar with members on 26 November, entitled ‘The end of Brexit’s transition period: What is at stake for fresh fruit and vegetables trade?’. During this virtual workshop, she debriefed members on the state-of-play of EU-UK negotiations and possible scenarios looking at 1 January 2021, and key elements for business readiness, such as phytosanitary implications, and changes import controls, organic trade, food safety, high risk commodities, certifications, IT Systems, marketing standards and customs. Freshfel Europe has also continuously engaged with members to respond to specific questions related to the new environment for trade after Brexit. Freshfel Europe will continue working in the coming month to clarify any remaining concerns and procedures in close contact with members and EU and UK authorities.

Jose Antonio Garcia

Election of Freshfel Europe representative Simona Rubbi (CSO Italy) as Chair of European Commission CDG on Promotion & Quality 

On 5 November, Simona Rubbi (Freshfel Board member from CSO Italy) was appointed as chair of the European Commission’s Civil Dialogue Group on Promotion and Quality representing Freshfel Europe. This appointment is coming at a moment of important policy evaluation and reform including the promotion policy but also the PGI and PDO policy as well as the increase of focus on quality issues and food fraud prevention. Freshfel Europe is also chair the Civil Dialogue Group of Fruit and Vegetables through its representative Jose Antonio Garcia Fernandez (Ailimpo). The full press release with more information is available here.

Freshfel Europe welcomes increased EU budget for fruit and vegetable promotion

Freshfel Europe is welcoming the significant increase of budget for fruit and vegetables promotion as part of the Annual Work Programme 2021 for the European promotion policy. A new budget of € 9,1 million for simple programmes and an increase from € 8 to € 10 million for multi programmes are the new budget ceilings for fruit and vegetables. These new financial resources will contribute to assist the sector in its efforts to improve dietary practices of European consumers towards a healthy diet. In regard to the Annual Work Programme, Freshfel Europe and many other agricultural Associations are however voicing their concerns in regard to the planned allocation of close to 30% of the total budget to the promotion of organic products, while the organic segment is today at best representing only 8 % of the market. Freshfel Europe urgently requested the European Commission to move the organic budget into a more general ‘sustainability’ budget on the internal market and for the international market to transfer back the financial resources to general activities of promotion on third countries without specific reference to organic.

Freshfel Europe holds webinar on COVID-19 and trade facilitation with World Bank Group

On 20 October Freshfel Europe together with the World Bank Group (WBG) organized a webinar discussing the issues faced by the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. This included the positive responses of governments in addressing trade issues and link to the articles of the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which support the trade of the perishable sector. The webinar was attended by Freshfel Europe members and was chaired by Freshfel Europe General Delegate Mr. Phillipe Binard and moderated by Freshfel Europe International Trade Policy Advisor Ms. Natalia Santos-Garcia Bernabe.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Shane Sela, Senior Trade Facilitation Specialist (WBG) who highlighted their work to enhance developing countries’ participation in the world economy by implementing the Agreement under the Trade Facilitation Support Program, with support from nine donor partners: Australia, Canada, the European Commission, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He discussed the articles of the Agreement relevant to the sector, the capacity building support provided by the WBG for countries implementing the TFA and how the implementation of practical measures aligned with the TFA can facilitate the trade of agricultural products and reduce shocks caused by unexpected events such as the pandemic. Two roundtable discussions followed the opening presentation. Participants shared valuable insights on the key barriers and solutions to address challenges during and post COVID-19. Some of the negative impacts faced by the private sector included the lack of harmonization in the application of international standards and the border closures and lockdowns, which led to delays movement and discharge of goods. Participants also mentioned positive trade facilitation measures taken during the pandemic, such as acceptance of electronic certificates and copies of certificates by some countries or the implementation of green lanes, as well as the conducting of virtual inspections and audits.

Ms. June Ghimire, Private Sector Specialist, WBG closed the session with a presentation on the results of a survey on perishable goods being undertaken in cooperation with Freshfel Europe and Union Fleurs. The survey is aimed at better understanding the key border bottlenecks faced by traders that may contribute to damage, waste, or loss of perishable goods in international trade. The survey remains open to responses and is available here. Freshfel members and other stakeholders are encouraged to complete the survey.

Freshfel Europe holds webinar on food fraud

On 18 November 2020, Freshfel Europe organised a webinar for its members on Food Fraud entitled ‘Reviewing food fraud incidents in the F&V sector’. Combating food fraud along the food supply chain is one of the priorities of the European Commission under its Farm to Fork Strategy and therefore Freshfel Europe decided to provide a platform to its members to discuss this matter. Freshfel Europe invited two external speakers to present their views on the topic. The agenda of the webinar was as follows: reporting of food fraud incidents (Eric Marin, European Commission, DG Sante, Unit G.4 Food Hygiene & Fraud, Deputy Head of Unit); experience of food fraud incidents at national level in the EU (Josselin Saint-Raymond, ANPP, France).

Freshfel Europe holds webinar on packaging and packaging waste policy revision

On 29 October 2020 Freshfel Europe Sustainability Policy Advisor Nicola Pisano gave a webinar to Freshfel Europe members on ‘Examining the review of the requirements on packaging and packaging waste in the EU’ as part of its October 2020 Webinar Series. Ms. Pisano provided Freshfel Europe members with an extensive overview of the European Commission’s ongoing review of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC). This included the current supporting studies being carried out as well as the general revision options being considered by the European Commission. Part of the webinar was dedicated to discussion between Freshfel Europe members on the product impact of potential changes to the legislation and Freshfel Europe’s response to the public consultation currently open until the beginning of January. Freshfel Europe’s Webinar Series are for its members and associated members in place of its normal working group meetings.

Freshfel Europe contributes to call on Competition Policy and the European Green Deal

Over the autumn the European Commission published a call for contributions regarding competition policy supporting the European Green Deal. The purpose of the call was to gather ideas and proposals from stakeholders to better understand the different perspectives on how competition policy, namely state aid control, antitrust rules and merger control, will intersect with the European Green Deal and if changes to the existing legal framework are required.

Freshfel Europe, in collaboration with its members, responded to the European Commission’s call, outlining its concerns for potential revision of competition policy to meet the ambitions of the European Green Deal. Freshfel Europe believes that for primary agricultural products, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, maintaining the status quo on competition policy is essential. While competition does incentivize more efficient use of resources to deliver more sustainable products and services to consumers, reaching the highly ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal should not justify derogation from competition law. Competition law should remain as the key tool for ensuring the good functioning of the European economy and the Single Market.

Freshfel Europe answers to European Commission roadmap on ‘Action plan for the development of EU organic production’

Through the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity strategies published in May 2020, the European Commission has committed to reach at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030 and a significant increase in organic aquaculture, both to improve the sustainability of the food system and to revert biodiversity loss. To meet this target the Commission proposed setting up an action plan to accompany the sector in this route, helping Member States to stimulate both supply and demand for organic products and to ensure consumer trust. Organic farming has for many years seen a dynamic growth of surfaces and consumption. However, organic surfaces still represent only 8% of the total utilised agricultural area in the EU. Therefore it is necessary to prepare a clear action plan with a proper follow-up to allow reaching the target while maintaining the economic viability of the sector.

In October Freshfel Europe responded to the public consultation on the roadmap of the European Commission initiative ‘Action plan for the development of EU organic production’. Main comments submitted by Freshfel Europe covered the following aspects: feasibility of proposed initiative, promotion policies, organic production under the Common Agricultural Policy, availability of plant protection products in organic production, knowledge about organic, and research and innovation.

Freshfel Europe responds to European Commission public consultation on substantiating green claims

Over summer the European Commission began the consultation process for a proposal for a regulation on ‘Environmental performance of products and businesses – substantiating claims’. This initiative will require companies to substantiate claims they make about the environmental footprint of their products/services by using standard methods for quantifying them. For over two years Freshfel Europe has followed the European Commission’s development of policy in the area of environmental footprint studies. Freshfel Europe has now responded to the public consultation following its response to the Inception Impact Assessment in August. Headed by Freshfel Europe Sustainability Policy Advisor Nicola Pisano, Freshfel Europe has expressed its support for this initiative, however expressed its concern on a large array of aspects. This includes recognizing that environmental footprints do not inherently cover the diversity of sustainability factors determining green claims, analysis of impact on product and consumption must be undertaken, trade facilitation must still be ensured and B2B and B2C practicability must be prioritized among others.

Freshfel Europe takes part in EU Vietnam Seminar on EU production standards for agricultural products

On 8 October Freshfel Europe took part in the digital EU Vietnam Seminar organized by DG AGRI to highlight the quality of EU agriculture products and voice concerns for pending SPS issues. This seminar took place as the EU Vietnam Free Trade Agreement is coming into force and will provide more trade opportunities. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard represented the fruit and vegetables sector as a speaker with a presentation on “European Fruit and Vegetables, a seal of quality and diversity”. Export from the EU to Vietnam grew significantly to reach 14.000 T. Apples exports increased 16-fold primarily from France and Poland. The upcoming removal of duties will provide more opportunities of growth to this market of 95 million inhabitants. Several protocols remain pending and should hopefully progress in the new spirit of the FTA and more pressure needs to be made to improve market access, in particular differences of conditions for market access. The presentation is available from Freshfel Europe.

Freshfel Europe outlines key drivers of apple business development at European Commission Mid-term Agri Outlook Conference

Freshfel Europe was invited to participate to the session on apples of the Mid-term Agri Market Outlook conference, which took place in mid-October in Brussels. The European Commission is elaborating a market outlook towards 2030 for apples and tomatoes. On this occasion Freshfel Europe delivered a presentation on the key drivers for the apples market. The analysis included EU apple production trends, the development of production in the EU neighbourhood, the position of apples in the fruit basket and challenges and opportunities for consumption. The evolution and lack of tools available for protecting crops in times of climate change and evolving societal concerns were also reviewed. The presentation is available from Freshfel Europe on request.

Freshfel Europe attends Bi-annual DG Sante Advisory Group meeting

On 19 October Freshfel Europe’s Director Food Quality Eglë Baecke participated at the Bi-annual DG Sante Advisory Group meeting. The objective of the event is to provide stakeholders with updates on recent developments in relevant policy areas. At the meeting, European Commission officials presented updates relevant for the fresh produce industry, such as Farm to Fork Strategy, plant health, updates and ongoing developments for plant protection products, and an update on the stages of the review of the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD). This event is an important occasion for Freshfel Europe to address all relevant questions to the European Commission and hear the views of other stakeholders on policy areas of common interest.

Freshfel Europe participates in CDG on Organic

On 19 October Freshfel Europe’s Director Food Quality Eglë Baecke participated in the Civil Dialogue Group on Organic Farming, during which the European Commission updated participants on the ongoing discussions about the new Organic Regulation and its secondary legislative acts, reconfirmed the postponement of the new Organic Regulation by one year and provided an update on the activities of EGTOP. The European Commission also presented a clarification document on relevant legal provisions on the exemption of notification of operators that sell pre-packed organic products directly to the final consumer.

Agri Food Chain Round Table for Plant Protection participation by Freshfel Europe

On 27 October on behalf of Freshfel Europe Director Food Quality Eglë Baecke attended the Agri-Food Chain Round Table for Plant Protection. Freshfel Europe is a member of the Agri Food Chain Round Table for Plant Protection, which represents more than twenty industry associations. The objective of the meeting was to revise the recent regulatory developments in the area of plant protection, involvement of the European Parliament in the decision making process, discuss the activities of the minor uses coordination facility and to revise the regulatory status of certain plant protection products. Such a meeting takes place 3-4 times a year and is used as a platform to discuss issues of common concern.

Freshfel Europe participation in Canada tomato pilot project with the EU – exports of tomato with green parts

Following the EU-Canada Workshop of March 2019 on alternatives to methyl bromide, to which Freshfel Europe Trade Policy Advisor Natalia Santos took part, the EU Commission has started a pilot project to work on a joint Systems Approach for tomato with green parts exports to Canada and the USA. Freshfel Europe with members from Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and France, as well as contacts with Spanish members, is actively engaged in this project coordinating proposals from the sector in close cooperation with the EU Commission and Member States’ National Plant Protection Organisations. The objective is to finalise a common proposal for all EU Member States involved to resume tomato exports to the USA and Canada.

Freshfel Europe holds meeting with Indian Embassy and works on GMO order with European Commission and Indian authorities

Since August 2020 Freshfel Europe has been liaising with EU and Indian authorities in Brussels regarding the new Indian Order requiring a new non-GMO certification for imports, which would have affected EU exports to India, notably apple, chicory, eggplant, melon, papaya, pineapple, plums, sweet pepper and tomato. In the absence of EU GMO fruit and vegetables production Freshfel Europe has been calling for a waiver from the measure, or alternatively a facilitation of the implementation, for instance by a general EU declaration. In the light of uncertainties over the current export season, Freshfel Europe has also called for a postponement of the entry into implementation of the new measure initially expected by 1 January 2021. Thanks to the support of members and the European Commission, India recently confirmed willingness to postpone the entry into implementation of the measure, providing certainty for upcoming EU exports.

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