As the EU’s borders are opened, the European farmers’ and agri-cooperatives’ group COPA-COGECA has argued that it is now ‘more important than ever to promote EU farm products on the domestic markets, in order to raise consumer awareness of the EU’s high quality goods and production standards.’ Against this background, COGECA President Paolo Bruni called for ‘an ambitious EU promotion policy’ to ‘help the EU to maintain and increase its market shares in non-EU countries.’ Raising consumers’ awareness of EU quality standards was thought to be an important component of this.
In a related development, the EC has tabled proposals to the European Parliament to regulate food labels, with country-of-origin labelling possibly becoming mandatory for fruit and vegetables. Major labelling issues covered include mandatory allergen labelling, front-of-pack labelling of the energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars and salt content. Once the regulations are agreed, food producers will have three years to update their labels, and small firms with fewer than 100 employees will have five years to do so.
COPA-COGECA’s support for promotion of EU farm products comes against the background of the launching of a tender to evaluate the successes and failures to date of previous EU promotion programmes. Last year, the Court of Auditors observed that it was difficult to ascertain the value and effectiveness of such EU promotion programmes, given the lack of quantifiable objectives in most of the product promotion programmes submitted for funding.
The focus on the promotion of EU quality-differentiated products on third-country markets raises the prospect of EU exporters ‘creaming off’ premium-priced markets for EU suppliers. To avoid restricting ACP suppliers to serving the price-sensitive ‘necessity purchase’ components of the market, where they will face intense competition from highly price-competitive advanced developing country suppliers, there is a need for ACP producers to reposition themselves to increasingly serve ‘quality’-differentiated product markets.