AGRI PROMOTION 2022
As an early Christmas present, the Commission has announced its support of a total of €185.9 million for the promotion of EU agri-food products for 2022. Nevertheless, upon taking a closer look, one might realize that this is not the gift one might have asked for.
To begin with, the objective of this budget is to support EU farm products by promotion campaigns in and outside the EU to open up new market opportunities and help build their already existing business.
The allocation has its declared objective, to co-fund campaigns in line with the European Green Deal ambitions, which translates to supporting objectives from the Farm to Fork strategy, Europe’s beating cancer plan or the EU organic action plan. While some of these files’ targets have not yet been entirely finalized and accepted, as they are still assessed, under discussion, or haven’t even started at an EU level, the Commission has decided to focus supporting mainly the organic products, fruit and vegetables, and information provision and promotion programmes aiming at increasing the awareness of Union sustainable agriculture and animal welfare.
After the Commission’s agri-food promotion policy review of 2021, within the grant programmes for the internal market for the sum of €86,3 million, the aforementioned subjects receive a hefty budget of €34 million for organic production, €20 million for increasing the awareness of Union sustainable agriculture and animal welfare, and €19,1 million for increasing the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in the internal market within the context of balanced and healthy dietary practices.
Besides these, what is left for a more ‘classic promotion’ in these, are for the efforts to increase the awareness and recognition of Union quality schemes with an envelope earmarked at €5 million, plus an additional €4,2 million either for the quality schemes, or for information provision and promotion programmes highlighting the specific features of agricultural methods in the Union and the characteristics of EU agri-food products, and quality schemes.
Comparing this with a “pre-Green Deal”, 2020 promotion decision the difference is striking. First of all, 2 out of the 3 focus subjects for 2022 (organic products and animal welfare) are only mentioned within, as part of the programmes on EU quality schemes (organic) and programmes highlighting the specific features of agricultural production methods in the Union (animal welfare), not separately. Moreover, many of the funds at that year have gone to promoting products such as pork and bovine meat or even wine, spirits, liqueurs and vermouth. The new, 2022 work programme’s award criteria of relevance makes sure that these products will be downgraded, and thus unlikely be selected again for next year, given that it declares that:
“For proposals targeting the internal market, alignment with the objectives of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, in particular encouraging the shift to a more plant-based diet, with less red and processed meat and other foods linked to cancer risks (e.g. alcoholic drinks).”
It is understandable that the Commission aims to align its promotion policy with its other objectives, however one must realize, when the demand would advise otherwise. Notable example on this, is how in last year’s work programme the simple programmes in third countries for the promotion programmes on organic products had a budget of €12 million euros foreseen, yet in the end less than half of it, not even €5 million euros were allocated.
Such underspending shall be noted, when other sectors would need a helping hand too after the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the sectors and the Member States had already highlighted the problem of under-consumption last year and therefore the gap between priorities and the actual needs of the sectors. Nevertheless, it seems the response from the Commission was to maintain the same course and further use the agricultural products promotion policy as a tool for the promotional policy of the Commission’s Green Deal policy guidelines.
Given that the Commission is the sole decision-maker for the annual priorities, as the Member States and the European Parliament only give an opinion, the Commission should do its utmost to make sure that for the next year there is a limited risk of the budget not being used in the end. It must realize that not only one or two, but the whole EU agricultural sector is an urgent need to relaunch European exports and secure the market share of European products in the EU and outside of it.
 According to the Farm to Fork Strategy, red meat includes beef, pig meat, lamb, and goat meat and all processed meats.