WUWM Meets European Commission DG Agriculture

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March 23, 2009

In February 2009 WUWM representatives met with Lars Hoelgaard, the Deputy Director-General of DG Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Commission (EC). This opportunity arose in follow-up to the WUWM 26th Congress held in Copenhagen last October where we accepted an invitation from Commissioner Fisher Boel to further detail the role and importance of markets to European food distribution. It was an interesting meeting and hopefully another forward step towards achieving greater recognition and increased collaboration with the EC for the market sector. Our discussions focussed on three current issues of importance: increasing European fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, pricing and competition, the CMO Reform. As we noted to Mr Hoelgaard, food wholesale markets and their traders obviously have a vested interest in ensuring the success of healthy eating programmes and increased fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. But we would propose a somewhat different approach than is usually seen today. To date, campaigns have tended to predominantly focus on the ‘health’ aspect, something not necessarily of interest to most teenagers. Wholesale markets instead propose a focus more aligned with ‘taste’ and ‘quality’ (after all there’s no point in trying to get kids to eat more fruit if the apples they bite into are soft and floury), in ‘hands-on’ promotional campaigns aimed at educating younger people (i.e. pre-teens). It was encouraging to hear in response that Professional Organisations (alongside Producer Organisations) may also be potential recipients of EC promotional funding, and, in line with that, a joint WUWM European member campaign proposal is now likely to be formulated and presented to the EC. Regarding issues of price and competition, we noted to Mr Hoelgaard that though the cost of food is increasing for consumers, the share of profits is often decreasing for producers and farmers. As EC studies show, and indeed as was made clear in the very interesting European Parliament resolution (13 January 2009) on the common agricultural policy (CAP) and global food security, Europe remains a major food producer with more than enough land. The problem clearly resides in the fact that producers are not getting their fair percent of the returns, this being due to higher level profits taken further along the retail/supply chain. It is therefore essential that alternative outlets to the marketplace, such as wholesale markets, be not only maintained but also better encouraged. During this meeting WUWM noted questions on the proposed deletion of marketing standards for various fruit and vegetables. The effects of this new approach on marketed quantities and prices should be carefully monitored and measured. Ongoing dialogue will continue with DG Agriculture, the next step being their agreement to discuss issues of common concern by participating in the upcoming WUWM conference to be held in Prague this May. Information on that event is available by clicking the link below or visiting www.wuwm-prague.cz