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Sorting the Apples and the Oranges …

  • October 27th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

fruit-resize-150.jpgNew legislation is being prepared for the fruit and vegetables business in Europe, to confront pressure from the supermarkets, overseas competitors, and declining consumer interest in healthy eating.

The European Commission is expected to approve outlines for a new Common Marketing Organisation for the sector in the next few months, to come into force in 2008.More…

Its Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, said this week (25.10.06) at Strasbourg, the change would keep financial support schemes for producers who marketed their product through producer organisations.

“The efforts to tackle fragmentation of our sector need to be reinforced… Rather than giving up this approach – I want to reinforce it.”

However that would exclude some parts of the current marketing system, like production support for processed fruit and vegetables, no longer compatible with overall agricultural policy, which has moved away from export subsidies and production-based assistance.

The goal of the structural changes being planned was to “reduce fluctuations in producers’ income resulting from crises.”

There would be moves to promote more consumption in Europe; environmental protection; “targeted risk management”; and simplification of administration to stimulate competitiveness and better market orientation

Domination of markets by supermarkets and discount chains, familiar elsewhere in the world, has caused some alarm.

“High levels of concentration … have enabled these to assume a leading role in the determination of market process,” the Commissioner said.

“These are problems we are not unfamiliar with in other sectors such as milk – but they seem to put our fruits and vegetable sector in a particular stranglehold.”

There was concern also about “unfair competition” from outside Europe, though trade protection would not be considered, to provide an excuse – “to postpone for tomorrow, what needs to be done today.”

She said:

“We have important offensive interests to pursue in many of the emerging third country markets.

“But often our exports are hampered by sanitary and phytosanitary barriers. Although this is not a matter to be tackled within the context of this reform, it is a problem that is weighing down on our sector and contributing to the need for reform.

“And problems are not confined to the fresh fruit and vegetables sector. Products intended for processing are also increasingly suffering from the increased exposure to competition from third country imports. Examples are many: tomato paste, frozen fruits and canned mandarins from China or orange juice form Brazil are but a few.”

Some of the problem was not Europeans buying from elsewhere, but not buying at all – consumption had been “stagnating”.

People not eating their “greens”, today frequently enjoy less than the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, 400-grams per person – as the Commissioner pointed out. It ranged from Britons eating 200 grams, to Greeks who would take 500 grams.
Her comments were contained in an address to the European Parliament Inter-group on Fruit and Vegetables.