Agrifood Brief, powered by Syngenta Group: Acting local, thinking global

Your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s AgriFood Brief, your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU. You can subscribe here if you haven’t done so yet.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, food security has become the hot topic on everyone’s lips – but not everyone agrees on the best way to strengthen the EU’s food security.

One response to the crisis can be seen in the marked rise of protectionism across EU member states, with a strong focus placed on building and reinforcing local food chains.

This has been championed by the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, who has said that the EU must focus more on developing local markets and boosting the local food industry to help strengthen European food security.

During a recent EURACTIV conference on food security in the EU, Commissioner Wojciechowski stressed that reliance on overseas markets is “not good” for the EU’s food security, instead highlighting the importance of creating connections between farmers, the local food industry, and local markets.

“Some sectors in agriculture need to supply the animals across Europe, feed from across oceans, seasonal workers from outside the EU, and they are looking for the market in China – this is not good for food security,” he said, adding that a food system where everything is transported thousands of kilometres is “not resilient agriculture”.

He cited the example of animal feed imports, such as the 36 billion tonnes of soybean imported each year from America, as a particular cause for concern.

But this turn to the local is increasingly becoming a cause for concern for some stakeholders.

Although Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, deputy head of Wojciechowski’s cabinet, stressed during the recent Forum for the Future of Agriculture Conference that strengthening local markets does not mean the EU will completely exclude trade, she echoed the Commissioner’s concern about the import of feedstuffs.

She said this is one of the main weaknesses of the EU food chain and that the EU must look at how it can improve its autonomy and resilience.

Likewise, in a speech on Monday (29 June), French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted the need to increase food sovereignty, saying that France needs to “strengthen [its] capacity to produce [its] own proteins” and work towards creating a more independent model in this area.

Following a similar logic, the Czech government has recently proposed an amendment to the Food Act which will oblige traders to have at least 85% of food products of domestic origin.

However, stakeholders are sounding the alarm about how to reconcile strengthening local markets with the need for free trade, highlighting that a turn to the local doesn’t necessarily correspond with an increase in food security.

In a statement referring to a recent report on trade barriers, the European Commission stressed that the EU is continuing to open up markets outside Europe “in the midst of rising protectionism”, with Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan saying it is “essential to keep global trade flows open”.

The statement highlights that this benefits EU farmers and food producers, citing the examples of EU beef exporters regaining access to China, pork producers who can now export to Mexico and producers of baby milk powder can now export again to Egypt.

Julia Köhn, CEO and founder of PIELERS, a company which helps consumers buy directly from producers, and chairwoman of the German AgriFood Society, told EURACTIV that protectionism is the “worst thing to do” to increase the resilience of the agrifood system.

“This nationalism, regionalism, localism that we are talking about at the moment is completely the wrong way,” she said, stating that the emphasis must instead be on transparency, increased information and interconnections.

“If you start protecting, you are cutting off the information flow between the parts of the whole system, and then collapses within parts of the system become much more likely,” she said, adding that enabling trade and collaboration is the key to success in an uncertain economy.


A message from the Syngenta Group: The Syngenta Group has launched its new Good Growth Plan

The Syngenta Group has launched its new Good Growth Plan placing the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss at the core of agriculture’s recovery from the economic and social effects of Covid-19. CEO Erik Fyrwald says collaboration is key.
Also, feel free to check out this opinion piece on how coronavirus has exposed the fragility of global food supply chains and countries must “now address questions of food security, availability and affordability”.

Agrifood news this week

EU Agriculture Commissioner refutes concerns over 25% organic target
On the back of growing concern over the target for 25% of EU farmland to be farmed organically by 2030, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski has lent the plan his support and stressed it is achievable. But farmers are still concerned that, as it stands, supply may well outstrip demand, which they say could “kill” the sector. Natasha Foote has the story.

Working conditions in meat processing plants make them hotbed for COVID-19
The EU Commission has been urged to take swift measures to protect workers in the meat processing sector following a major coronavirus outbreak in one of the largest facilities in Europe. Read more here.

Digital tools needed to help apply fertiliser targets to national level, say stakeholders
Farmers need access to the latest tools and technologies to enable them to reach EU-wide fertiliser targets and get a clear picture of what is happening on the ground, stakeholders stressed during a recent EURACTIV conference. Natasha Foote has more.

Lawmakers agreed to delay post-2020 CAP by two years
Croatians pulled off their aim of getting the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)’s transitional regulations finished on their watch, clinching an eleventh-hour deal with the European Parliament on the last day of their EU presidency. Gerardo Fortuna has more.

Report: Europe’s imported UCO mainly comes from China and palm oil producer countries
A new report has found that more than half the Used Cooking Oil (UCO) used in Europe for biodiesel in 2019 was imported (1.5 million tonnes out of 2.8 million tonnes). The biggest share comes from China (34%) and about 20% comes from Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s biggest producers of palm oil. Sarantis Michalopoulos has the story.

Quote of the Week

“We have the problem of intensive meat production, that some of the farms are, in reality, like meat factories. My ambition is to change this situation, first of all, by creating the alternative for this intensive production to support the farmers who voluntarily decide to improve animal welfare standards.”

EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski during a recent EURACTIV event
Agrifood news from the Capitals

With Germany assuming the EU Council presidency on Wednesday (1 July), Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner laid out her priorities for the next six months on Monday. High on her list is an EU-wide animal welfare label. Despite openness in some member states for such a scheme, progress on the topic will likely come slowly, she warned. However, Klöckner claimed that this topic is crucial for consumers to understand the value of food and agriculture. “Food must be worth more to us,” she said. (

Elisabeth Borne, minister for the green transition, has confirmed a ban on glyphosate use will come into effect in 2022. Interviewed by Le Parisien, she said that the the government is “currently examining alternatives that could lead to a quick way out.” Initially promised by President Macron by 2021, Borne said the ban “will be implemented before the end of the five-year term”. This statement comes after the green party’s victory at city elections last weekend and the Citizens’ convention for climate approval by Macron on Monday (29 June). (Anne Damiani |

The UK government has agreed to calls from farmers and farmers associations on the creation of a new body to advise ministers on welfare standards and fair competition in trade deals with the US and other nations. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will make recommendations to the government on how to stop the industry from being undercut by cheaper imports and to increase export opportunities. (Natasha Foote |

The government will allot several billion euros from EU funding to restore Romania’s irrigation infrastructure in the wake of the drought that affected a large part of its cereal crops this year. According to agriculture minister Adrian Oros, Romania will invest €2.5 billion out of the €33 billion it is due to get from the EU’s economic recovery plan to improve its irrigation infrastructure. He also said that €1.1 billion will be allotted for drainage infrastructure and €2.1 billion will go to fighting soil erosion. According to the Agriculture Ministry data, more than 1.2 million hectares of the 2.9 million hectares sowed in the autumn of 2019 were affected by drought. (Bogdan Neagu |

The European Commission has approved the application for the inclusion of Italy’s ‘Mele del Trentino’ in the register of protected geographical indications. This latest entry brings Italy’s total of products included in the registry to 303, which accounts for 42.6% of the EU products on the list. (Gerardo Fortuna |

At the last AGRIFISH meeting chaired by the Croatian agriculture minister Marija Vuckovic, it was concluded that the coronavirus pandemic has brought many challenges and changed the priorities of Croatia’s EU presidency in the field of agriculture. The meeting also confirmed that the focus of Germany’s EU presidency will be ”on the budget and the future of the CAP”. Read more (Karla Junicic |

Poland has appointed Wojciech Albert Kurkowski as ombudsman for animal protection as of Monday (29 June). The ombudsman’s task will be, inter alia, to give opinions on draft legal acts in the field of animal protection and animal welfare, as well as to analyse, evaluate and monitor currently functioning provisions. However, experts criticised the choice, saying that there was not an adequate procedure to verify his competences. (Mateusz Kucharczyk|

On our radar
The EU Commission has published its EU feed protein balance sheet for the marketing year 2019/20. This found that feed demand is forecast to increase by 2 million tonnes of crude proteins compared to 2018/19, predicted to reach 84 million tonnes. See here for more details.

WWF and WRAP UK have launched a new report this week about food loss and waste in the EU. To learn more about the report, be sure to listen to our Agrifood Podcast featuring Jabier Ruiz, senior policy officer for Agriculture and Food at the WWF European Policy Office.

3 July – There is a webinar on the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies and the role of farmers. See here for more information. 

7 July- There is a webinar on ‘Food sovereignty and the Farm to Fork strategy: building a fairer and more just agricultural model in the EU’, which will include a discussion with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski. Find out more here. 

9 July- #EAAGRIFOOD Twitter chat on ‘Free Trade Agreements: Help or hindrance for the EU agrifood sector?’ Join us for this online agriculture policy debate with EURACTIV journalists Gerardo Fortuna and Natasha Foote.

9 July- There is a EURACTIV two-panel Virtual Conference on the challenges and opportunities of rural broadband and connectivity. The first panel will discuss how the urban-rural broadband gap can be narrowed more quickly and will feature Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture. The second panel will be devoted to how rural broadband can help the agricultural sector grow and become more competitive in a sustainable way. Learn more about this here.

9 July – The European Project NEFERTITI is running a webinar offering training on ‘how to produce your own farm video to enhance knowledge exchange’. Learn more here.


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