European fresh fruit and veg sector facing tumultuous period, says Freshfel

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European fruit and vegetable association Freshfel has urged the sector to continue to stimulate consumption despite “high uncertainty” in the industry’s business environment.

It says the current concerns – including Brexit, the on-going Russian embargo, the growing impact of climatic events and other market access challenges – should serve to further stimulate the sector to boost current low consumption levels across Europe.

“The European fresh fruit and vegetable sector is facing a tumultuous period that is challenging fresh produce production, trade and consumption,” it said in a release.

“On the one hand the last two years have been noted for severe weather events, which have impacted produce quality, destabilized supply and demand and resulted in market instability in many regions. On the other hand, market uncertainties continue to cloud any transparency in the business environment.”

It highlighted that the outcome of Brexit remains unknown, with the March 29 deadline fast approaching, while at the same time a trade embargo in Russia as well as the Mediterranean basin and other market access challenges have led to “complexity in market diversification”. 

“A new wave of unilateralism and protectionism around the world are further contributing to an unpredictable trading environment that is increasingly complex to navigate for businesses,” it said.

“Waiting for conditions to return to normal however can lead to missed opportunities. Despite this complex trading environment the sector still needs to stimulate consumption on the European market.”

European daily intake levels remain below the minimum level recommended by the World Health Organisation of 400g of fresh fruit and vegetables per day. Accordingly in 2018 Freshfel led a European Commission Thematic Network, creating a Joint Statement with other stakeholders comprising of 43 policy recommendations for all actors in society on how to stimulate consumption across Europe.

Additionally this year in cooperation with Aprifel, Freshfel has embarked on a three year European Commission funded agricultural promotion programme entitled FV for a Healthy EU to boost fruit and vegetable consumption by 18-30-year-old Europeans – the consumer segment with one of the lowest levels of consumption.

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