Europe’s ability to provide food depends on the preservation of the Single Market, agri-food stakeholders stressed in a joint statement published on Thursday (19 March) and directed to the European Commission.
The food manufacturing industry represented by FoodDrinkEurope, farmers association COPA-COGECA and Celcaa, the European Liaison Committee for agricultural and agri-food trade, have joined forces to urge the Commission to do “everything in its power” to prevent agricultural disruption in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The lobby groups call on the Commission to “work collaboratively with us with a consistent and clear strategy to ensure an uninterrupted flow of agricultural produce, food and drink products and packaging materials.”
The concern comes as many EU member states have taken the decision in recent days to close their borders to stem the spread of the virus.
However, given that the agri-food supply chain is highly integrated and operates across borders, the statement concludes that it is highly likely the sector will be disrupted.
“Our ability to provide food for all will depend on the preservation of the EU Single Market,” the statement stresses.
“The food supply chain should be regarded as an essential sector in all EU Member States.”
They also highlight the need to prevent and manage labour shortages, stressing that to not do so would mean that the food supply chain would be unable to function effectively, and called on the Commission to monitor the potential lack of workers, including seasonal workers, and the knock-on impact on production, and to prepare contingency plans.
This concern is echoed by EU Agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, who sent a letter on Thursday (19 March) to all EU agriculture ministers following the outbreak of COVID-19.
In the letter, which carries the subject line “economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Wojciechowski states that the “lockdown in many Member States will cause extreme hardship in many sectors, including the agri-food sector.”
He adds that EU agriculture ministers will need to “continue to work together and coordinate our actions in order to support the efforts of our farmers, agri-food industry and retailers to continue to secure the food supply chain.”
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna, Benjamin Fox]