On 23 January 2018, Freshfel Europe (the European Fresh Produce Association) and A.R.E.F.L.H. (the European Assembly of fruit, vegetable and horticulture regions) organised in coordination with the two European university and research centre networks for fruit and vegetable related research, EUFRIN and EUVRIN, a conference on the research priorities for the fruit and vegetable sector for the current Horizon2020 funding programme and its successor, Framework Programme 9 (FP9). As a result, the four organisations drafted a list of policy recommendations regarding the position of the fruit and vegetable sector in the EU’s Research and Innovation policy for policy makers to consider.
From the discussion during the conference, all the fruit and vegetable business representatives and researchers endorsed the multi-actor approach that is demanded in many Horizon 2020 calls. Involving different types of actors in a consortium not only ensures a more practical focus on the real problems on the ground, but also allows for a fruit and vegetable supply chain perspective. However, the trend towards broad, multi-product projects cannot highlight the sector’s specific problems: diversified products, perishability, different areas of production with specific challenges such as drought, frost and precipitation, and the sector’s added value in relation to health and sustainability. The sector laments that fruit and vegetables remain under-represented within Horizon 2020, and that this is not reflecting the size of the sector in the economy and its societal and health benefits.
To turn the spotlight on these specific problems and possible solutions, the Task Force drafted following policy recommendations regarding the position of the fruit and vegetable sector in the EU’s Research and Innovation policy:
- More attention should be paid to applied research: This can best be achieved by including a representative of an applied research centre in the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) to ensure continuity between the different calls and budget lines over the years.
- The particular value added justifies a bigger budget to be allocated to research and innovation in the sector: The horticultural sector is not like other agricultural sectors, as it is a scattered and small sector in terms of input, but large in terms of output. Not only does it make up 20% of the agricultural value output, eating fruit and vegetables also contribute to a healthier population and a sustainable planet.
- Therefore, the budget lines could focus on ‘plant-based food’ proposals: The trend towards big multi-product projects does not allow to bring the particular difficulties of the sector to the forefront. If focused on plant-based food, the sector’s needs can be met, without necessarily limiting the calls to fruit and vegetables only.
- A better balance needs to be assured between calls for creating new knowledge and thematic networks: The latter is becoming superfluous, if there is no new knowledge to disseminate.
- The sector gives its full support to the multi-actor approach, especially given the fresh character of the supply chain: However, to involve growers is difficult, especially given the high administrative costs. Involving applied researchers, advisors and farmer organisations is more useful than individual growers, especially given that an active role is needed for all the members of the consortium.
- This also applies to the Operational Groups of EIP-Agri: the growers are needed in operational groups, but the administrative burden is too large at the moment and simplification is needed.
Note to the Editors:
Freshfel Europe is the European Fresh Produce Association, representing the interests of the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chain in Europe and beyond. Freshfel Europe currently has over 200 members, including both companies and associations. For more information, contact the association at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the association website www.freshfel.org.