Brussels is alive with talk about the future of our food and how to develop a fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly way of feeding our growing population.
It is a big challenge, but as I hope our response to Covid-19 shows, we are an industry that does not shy away from a challenge, however difficult it may look.
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.
While Europe has been in crisis, an army of dedicated workers has been working tirelessly behind the scenes.
Above and beyond
On top of their day job – manufacturing high quality food and drink products – businesses across the continent have gone 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.
Cooperation with the authorities has also been vital to managing Covid-19 so that the pandemic creates 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.
Up for the challenge
Developing an EU policy environment that delivers more sustainable food systems is another important challenge, but we are ready for it. The European food and drink industry can be the benchmark for sustainability as it contributes towards a greener planet, thriving economy and healthier living.
The EU’s Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy provide a unique opportunity to tackle all these issues altogether.
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 will be central to its success.
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 no doubt 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.
In October we celebrated World Food Day, where the strapline was ‘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 delivers truly sustainable food systems.