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FoodDrinkEurope: EU must act fast to avoid confusion and delays

March 26, 2020 3:55 PM, Der AUDITOR
Will Surman, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, FoodDrinkEurope
Will Surman, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, FoodDrinkEurope
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BRUSSELS. Unprecedented quarantine measures and travel restriction throughout Europe are prompting concerns over supply chains and the workforce in Europe’s largest manufacturing industry. FoodDrinkEurope is working closely with the EU Commission to adopt fast action. In an interview with Mundus Agri, Will Surman, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, outlines how the industry is holding up to the Covid-19 pandemic.

FoodDrinkEurope represents the food manufacturing industry. Made up of 294,000 businesses and 4.7 million workers, the food and drink industry buys 70% of all EU agricultural produce and is Europe’s largest manufacturing industry.

How many members does FoodDrinkEurope represent?
Surman:
We have 3 types of members – companies, national federations and sector groups. See them all here.

Traffic jams at the borders, lack of manpower and not enough available trucks are issues that traders are constantly confronted with, just how disrupted are the food and drink supply chains in Europe at the moment?
Surman:
The food and drink supply chain is under pressure, there is no doubt about that. But we have identified five areas where fast action from member states and the European Commission will avoid serious disruptions to food and drink supplies to consumers and safeguard businesses and jobs. See more here.

Why is the supply chain so vulnerable to the crisis we are in, are there perhaps underlying problems the industry and politics have failed to address before the coronavirus became an issue?
Surman:
The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Despite this, we are seeing a supply chain that is holding up remarkably well. While we acknowledge areas that need urgent attention, the food and drink industry has so far ensured all citizens can continue to access safe, affordable and quality food and drink products.

FoodDrinkEurope has recently issued a joint statement with CELCAA and Copa Coga urging the EU Commission to work collaboratively and provide a clear strategy to ensure the uninterrupted flow of agri-food and drink products and packaging materials. Do you think that the EU Single Market is at risk and which measures would you like the EU Commission to take?
Surman:
We do believe that preserving the Single Market is the best option to ensure a stable and safe food supply chain, and food security for everybody in Europe and beyond. We therefore welcome the Commission guidelines on border management and ‘Green Lanes’ to ease the flow of goods across borders. We are in daily contact with the commission to ensure the continued flow of food and drink products, ingredients and food packaging. We also think the commission has a very important job to work with all Member States to ensure a coherent strategy that avoids fragmented measures across individual members which can lead to confusion and delay.

Are we risking a lack of food and drink if the EU fails to act on a structured approach very soon? How trustworthy are political statements that there will be enough food and drink available in the current situation?
Surman:
We have enough food and the situation can be managed. But there are urgent steps that must be taken (as already outlined). We have seen very positive moves from the European Commission and members states, and we are pleased they are working closely with us and the entire food supply chain to deal with the crisis. Support for our workforce is now a top priority, which is why we have worked with the trade unions on this joint statement, released yesterday.

Given that the EU Commission needs to negotiate with all member states to agree on a plan of action, do you think that the necessary measures will be enforced in time to prevent even larger disruptions to the supply chain?
Surman:
The Commission has put crisis management in the face of Covid-19 at the top of its priority list. Other workstreams have been paused or delayed as it deals with the situation. The announcement of ‘Green Lane’ measures is a good example of the Commission responding to the need in a quick and efficient manner. Of course, we now want it to tackle all of the urgent areas we raised last week in our letter to the Commission President.

How well or bad is the food and drink industry coping with the crisis in your view? What is your advice to the market players in Europe’s food and feed industry?
Surman:
Europe has 294,000 food and drink businesses that employ 4.7 million workers – I am absolutely amazed by the fortitude and dedication of everyone to deal with this crisis. From farmers, to factory workers, to truckers and beyond we are seeing an industry pull together in a time of crisis. We have launched our #FoodHeroes campaign to acknowledge their great work. See more here.

What do you think the long-lasting impact of the crisis will be on the food and drink industry in Europe? Will it be business as usual for the market players in the industry or will anything have to change to cope with such a crisis in future?
Surman:
I think it is too early to tell.

Would you perhaps like to add a comment, a statement or your personal view on the crisis we are confronted with?
Surman:
I’d like to pay tribute to all of those across society, in particular the incredible medical staff, who are working tirelessly to deal with the Covid-19 public health crisis. For its part, our industry will do all it can to ensure our food systems continue to function sustainably and effectively through the Covid-19 pandemic. To that end we will continue to work with the European institutions to ensure the response to Covid-19 is coordinated and effective, both in the short and long-term.

 

Mundus Agri is dedicated to reporting a clear picture of the international food and feed commodity market. We would like to hear your experiences. Please contact info@derauditor.de if you would like to share your experiences in dealing with the coronavirus crisis and how the measures implemented in your country impact your business.

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