Food and drink make up the most important manufacturing sector in the EU in turnover terms, bringing in €965bn in 20098 – some 12.9per cent of total turnover – and providing jobs for 4.4m people.
The industry’s competitiveness has been a top agenda point recently, and in July 2009 the High Level Group on the agri-food industry published a report detailing 30 recommendations for improving competitiveness.
At a dinner-debate hosted by the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) yesterday, stakeholders discussed implementation of the recommendations.
Speaking at the event, Commissioner Trajani said the Commission will establish the new effectiveness forum hopefully by the end of this month. He will chair the forum and will be helped by John Dalli (health and consumer policy commissioner), Michel Barnier (financial services Commissioner), and Dacian Ciolos, (agriculture and rural development).
The forum is intended to be a place for open debate on implementing competitiveness initiatives, and the work of several task forces will feed into it – in particular, a task force on agri-logistics, one on contractual relations, and one on industrial competitiveness.
The news of the new forum follows a Commission communication on competitiveness last year, which focused on price transparency throughout the food supply chain, contractual relationships, innovation, and access to finance.
Of the 30 HLG recommendations, seven have been identified as priorities.
Taking a holistic approach to policymaking, right across the food supply chain;
Ensuring the sufficient supply of raw materials at competitive prices;
Improving the functioning of the overall food supply chain;
Driving forward the work of the Sustainable Production and Consumption Round Table;
A continuing focus on incident management;
Promoting nutritional information to consumers; and
Providing specific support for SMEs in the sector
Essential to economy
The CIAA is emphasising the need to prioritise agri-food competitiveness as a key measure to improving Europe’s economy.
CIAA president Jesus Serafin Perez said: “A thriving food and drink sector means a thriving European economy, which is why this is so important for the future.”
Board member for competitiveness Laurent Freixe, who is also executive VP of Nestle, said: “As we look to the future and the creation of the Forum - as well as the broader development of a Community Industrial Policy - we urge the Commission to maintain the momentum on these crucial competitiveness issues for our industry and we stand ready to support this process.”