Today I am at the European Commission’s first annual Farm to Fork conference where stakeholders from across Europe and beyond are discussing our joint challenge to develop a fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly food system.
As the largest manufacturing sector in Europe – buying some 70 per cent of all EU farm produce and helping to provide 1.5 billion meals in Europe every day – the food and drink industry has an important role to play in the transition towards more sustainable food systems, and will be central when it comes to shaping a practical and impactful Farm to Fork Strategy.
Up for the challenge
We are an industry that does not shy away from a challenge, as our response to Covid-19 shows.
That the flow of good food and drink has continued throughout the pandemic is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of many people working along the entire food chain – from farmers to manufacturers to retailers.
Today we celebrate World Food Day ‘Cultivate, nourish, preserve – together’
While Europe was in crisis mode, an army of dedicated workers was working tirelessly behind the scenes.
On top of their day job – manufacturing high quality food and drink products – businesses across the continent also went above and beyond in their efforts to help communities deal with the coronavirus crisis.
One noticeable intervention came from the drinks companies that switched production from spirits and beers and used the alcohol instead to produce hand sanitisers and gels.
Meanwhile, many food and drink companies stepped in to meet the demand for essential PPE equipment for health professionals.
Others distributed large quantities of nutritious meals to vulnerable communities and essential workers, while more still made sizeable financial donations to charities and health initiatives. You can read more about these great initiatives here.
The Green Deal should be at the centre of Europe’s growth strategy, and the food and drink sector will be a key player in rebooting the economy
Cooperation with the authorities has also been vital to managing Covid-19 with as little disruption as possible. We have worked collaboratively with the European Commission which provided guidance on transport and on workers and encouraged the member States to uphold the Single Market and allow food products and workers to cross borders.
Collectively, across the food chain and working with the authorities, we have kept food shelves stocked.
Covid-19 is still having a major impact on our food and drink businesses, most notably SMEs and those involved in the hospitality sectors, and the economic destruction will play out for years to come.
We still believe, however, that the Green Deal should be at the centre of Europe’s growth strategy, and the food and drink sector will be a key player in rebooting the economy.
Today (October 16) we celebrate World Food Day, where the strapline is ‘Cultivate, nourish, preserve – together’. I can only agree. Covid-19 has taught us that working together we can achieve a lot, and we look forward to working constructively with all stakeholders to ensure European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy achieves its goals.