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FOOD CHAIN - 2 April 2015

The keys to continuous and sustainable growth of the EU food chain

by Farm Europe

This policy briefing looks at European agri-food trade and the surrounding data, policies, trends and trajectories. It also suggests numerous important key questions and discussion points.

Agriculture and agri-food constitute, together, one of the European Union’s (EU) main economic strengths. This broad sector is second only to the metal industry and accounts for 16% of European industrial turnover.

  • Agriculture has an annual turnover of €394 billion, is made up of 12 million agricultural holdings and provides full-time employment for 10 million people.
  • The agricultural base in Europe is the mainstay and lifeblood for 310,000 agri-food businesses (99% of which are Small and Medium Enterprises), which generate an annual turnover of €956.2 billion and sustain 4.1 million direct jobs in Europe.

With a total turnover of €1350 billion/year and 14 million jobs, agriculture and agri-food is not only one of Europe’s leading business sectors but also one of its principal sources of employment – without taking into account the contribution of other activities surrounding the food chain such as financial institutions, advisory entities, machinery, pharmaceutical and chemical industry, and research and innovation.

Global food demand is growing rapidly. Consumption trends are changing in developing and emerging countries in particular. Between now and 2050, the FAO estimates that world demand for agricultural products will increase by 50%. This rise is forecast in a context in which natural resources have become a fragile asset. The pressure on the environment and the threat of climate change place the challenge of sustainability centre stage, both for the agriculture sector and for citizens.

Policymakers need to put an ambition to foster the responsible, competitive and sustainable growth of the agri-food sector at the heart of European policy.

Today’s European policy responses result from:

EU external policies,

  1. the return of agriculture as part of the EU’s development and external assistance policy. In light of the challenges facing the world’s food supply, it should become a major strand of aid to developing countries with clear priorities and targeted, efficient and measurable actions;
  2. bilateral trade agreements, including in their opportunities and concessions, the real impacts of which, on both the European sectors and industries concerned and on our developing country international partners, merits closer analysis. The growth of global agriculture and food markets offers opportunities for the European Union. Seizing these requires an objective analysis of the opportunities and risks in the areas covered by each agreement, rather than basing negotiation strategy almost exclusively on multi-sectoral macro analyses.

The EU must take the political decisions necessary to foster those sectors and industries so that they are in tune with market requirements and able to plan for and adapt to change in world markets.

Numerous questions and discussion points arise from this – Read the full Policy Brief.

Written by Farm Europe