Copa-Cogeca praises fruit and veg sector for handling first wave, but Brits still worried
Copa-Cogeca has commended the fruit and vegetable sector for its efforts during the first wave of COVID-19, but a survey has highlighted that the British public aren’t convinced the UK food sector can handle a second wave.
During a hearing organised by the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and rural development, attendees reflected upon the lessons learned during the first Covid wave.
Luc Vanoirbeek, chairman of the Working Party Fruit and Vegetables at Copa-Cogeca attributed the fruit and vegetable sector’s adaptability to the support of producers, mostly cooperatives.
As part of the European agri-food chain, the fruit and vegetable sector carried out critical work during the first wave, the supply chain never stopped, and the shelves remained full.
Growers, as well as fruit and vegetable producer organisations that are conditioning, grading, packaging and delivering fruit and vegetables to retailers, have resisted and reversed the successive difficulties. A fact that should not be taken for granted, noted Copa-Cogeca.
The farmers interest group also applauded producers’ speedy responses with regards to risk prevention, safety protocols and contingency plans.
“The reaction capacity and resilience of the fruit and vegetable sector is largely based on its ability to work together,” said Vanoirbeek. “Fruit and vegetable producer organisations that have been established with the support of the Common Agricultural Policy play a central role and need to continue to be the cornerstone of the support to fruit and vegetable sector in the Common Agriculture Policy for the period after 2020. It is time to bet on policies that stimulate and prioritise efforts to concentrate more supply, as cooperatives.”
Considering the role played by the European Commission during the crisis, Vanoirbeek believes that the Commission reacted fast and quite adequately by giving guidelines to keep the single market open and took relevant decisions to avoid extra threats related to the free movement for seasonal workers and essential goods such as packaging.
Copa-Cogeca also acknowledged the change in eating habits; with consumers turning to more fruit and vegetables, the demand for higher quality produce rose. Nevertheless, it pointed out that extra costs that accumulated throughout the chain were not fully compensated by the higher price received in the market.
The British public is worried
Despite this praise, more than two thirds of British adults alone are concerned about the impact a second wave will have on supplies, according to the Agricultural Biotechnology Council.
Furthermore, it reveals that less than half of Brits are confident that the food and farming system is prepared for a second wave or future pandemic.
Fears for the food system’s resilience in the face of climate change and Brexit also playing on Brit’s minds.
Mark Buckingham, Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council said: ‘UK farmers have helped the country through some of its most challenging times the last few months, keeping us all well fed and maintaining a supply of healthy, good-quality and affordable fresh produce. However, other challenges are on the horizon.”