‘Delays and disruption’ at European borders for agricultural produce

The responses to the spread of Covid-19 across EU member states is causing “increasing difficulties” to the movement of agricultural produce.

In a joint statement, three of the leading bodies in the European agricultural sector warned that delays and disruption at country borders have been seen for the delivery of certain agricultural and manufactured products, as well as packaging materials.

The statement was issued on behalf of FoodDrinkEurope; CELCAA (which deals with European agri-food trade); and COPA-COGECA (which represents EU farming co-operatives).

There is also concern over the movement of workers, notably due to certain border closures and travel restrictions, as well as potential labour shortages as staff follow national movement restrictions to mitigate the crisis.

“Given that the agri-food supply chain is highly integrated and operating across borders, any blocks of supply and workers will inevitably disrupt business,” the three organisations pointed out.

The joint statement is calling on the European Commission to “do everything in its power” to ensure that the flow of agricultural produce, food, drink and packaging materials is uninterrupted; as well as to provide solutions to prevent and manage labour shortages.

The statement also called on the commission to “consider Europe’s 11 million farmers, 4.7 million manufacturing workers, 294,000 food and drink businesses [including 22,000 agri-cooperatives] and 35,000 trading companies”.

The “key points” of the joint statement are as follows:

  • Preserving the single market is the best option to ensure a stable and safe food supply chain, and food security for everybody in Europe and beyond;
  • The three organisations are urging the commission to work with member states to explore ways to support the agri-food sector which has already, and will continue to, come under immense financial pressure;
  • The statement is urging the commission to work with member states to monitor the potential lack of workers (including seasonal workers) and the knock-on impact on production, and to prepare contingency plans for this;
  • The commission is being called on to monitor the price of raw materials and transport, as well as unfair trading practices;
  • The commission should ensure any actions are science-led. The commission should “further communicate” on the report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which noted there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus;
  • Given the integration of the European food and feed sector markets, a continuous and enhanced coordination at European level is “essential”.