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Concerns over intensifying food miles debate

28 August 2009

A Eurobarometer survey has reported strong support among consumers (72%) for mandatory labelling of a product’s carbon footprint, although the level of support varies across individual EU member states. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas argued that consumers have an important role in combating climate change, as ‘by purchasing environmentally friendly and climate-friendly products, individual consumers send the right signal to farmers to produce more eco-friendly products’.

African producers meanwhile argue that the ‘food miles’ concept is fundamentally flawed, since African products are ‘grown naturally under the sun’ and are thus ‘less damaging to the environment’ than greenhouse-raised products. According to press reports, research conducted by European institutions found that ‘producing vegetables in a greenhouse produces nearly 20 times more carbon than those produced under the sun in Africa and South America, and airlifted to Europe’.

Editorial comment

The food miles debate needs to be seen against the backdrop of more general efforts to differentiate EU products from imported products, so as to enable EU producers to obtain price premiums. ACP producers need to stay alert to developments in these debates and respond proactively to emerging challenges. However, unless coordinated regionally, the costs of such measures can be excessive for individual producers or national exporting associations. This suggests a need for collective action on these issues from within the ACP fruit-and-vegetable exporting sector.


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