Industry outlines urgent actions to ease food supply pressures

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FoodDrinkEurope, the European food industry confederation, has outlined five areas which it says could help ease food supply pressure during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Mella Frewen, Director General of the organisation, acting on these five areas – which includes supporting the workforce and eliminating transport bottlenecks – can help to “avoid serious disruptions to food and drinks supplies to consumers and safeguard our jobs and businesses”.

The organisation has written to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, calling on its to take urgent actions based around the five key areas outlined below.

1) Support the food sector workforce

Given their essential role to maintain food security in Europe, FoodDrinkEurope is urging the Commission to provide EU guidelines to Members States to establish harmonised protocols for food sector workers to continue their work safely, where they are fit and able, just as workers in the medical sector have also been given special dispensations and privileges.

2) Recognise the entire food supply chain as ‘essential’

Although the Commission recently announced guidelines to Member States on border management measures – and reorganising food as an “essential service” – different Member States have different interpretations of what may constitute an “essential” sector and the measures to keep the food value chain is full operation. FoodDrinkEurope is therefore urging the Commission to “impress on all Member States the essential importance of the food sector and the special measures needed to keep the food supply chain functioning in all of its aspects”.

3) Unblock transport bottlenecks

The Commission is also being requested to follow-up on the measures set out in the Informal Transport Council of March 18, including strongly encouraging Members States to implement the priority ‘green lanes’ for food sector lorries, and waiving existing weekend bans. It also strongly advises the harmonisation of border crossing protocols across the EU in order to maintain a fully functioning Single Market and to avoid transport bottlenecks. Further consideration should be given to measures to re-distribute food which cannot reach its intended market, it added.

4) Support struggling businesses

FoodDrinkEurope is also urging the Commission, in collaboration with Member States, to develop comprehensive emergency measures for the food sector, to minimise the financial impact on food businesses, maintain jobs and to help re-build the economic sustainability of the sector over the long term. It also counts on the Commission to facilitate a flexible and pragmatic regulatory environment which supports vulnerable businesses in these times of crisis. For instance, flexibility around the implementation of state aid rules and certain fiscal support could be crucial to cope with impact in the Member States.

5) Facilitate global trade

Lastly, FoodDrinkEurope is asking the Commission to hold bilateral talks with its major trade partners to facilitate trade in food and drink products and essential ingredients and call for international collaboration to ensure that products can continue to move globally.