On 1 July 2010, the EC approved 19 programmes in 14 member states for the promotion of agricultural products, at a cost of €30.3 million to the EU budget out of the total programme cost of €60.6 million. These programmes include fruit and vegetables (54%), quality-differentiated meat products (12.4%), dairy products (1.6%), honey (1.7%), ornamental flowers (4.5%), various Geographical Indications (12.4%), and organic products (7.8%). Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş argues that ‘in an open global market, merely producing excellent food and drink is not enough. We need to increase our efforts to explain to consumers the standards and the quality of what EU agriculture puts on the table.’ These types of support programmes are seen as making an important contribution in this regard.
In a linked development, at a COPA-COGECA seminar on the EU’s evolving agricultural product quality policy, a call was made for ‘clear EU guidelines for private certification schemes, in a bid to reduce potential for consumer confusion and cut red tape for farmers.’ COPA-COGECA also called for more involvement of producers in the development of private standards. Legislative proposals for the reform of EU agricultural product quality policy are expected before the end of 2010.
New EU quality standards and quality labelling regulations are likely to have an important bearing on who can realise commercial benefits from quality production. This is recognised by EU farmers, who have called for greater producer involvement in the design of quality schemes and for transparent EU guidelines for such schemes. These are demands to which ACP producers could usefully add their voice, since there is a growing concern that these private quality schemes are generating new costs which reduce the net benefits to ACP producers arising from quality-differentiated production. Greater ACP involvement in the design of such schemes, within the framework of transparent EU guidelines for the design of such schemes, could help to reverse this process and ensure that ACP producers are in a position to realise the commercial benefits arising from quality production.
However, for such benefits to be realised, an expansion of ‘aid for trade’ support to promotional programmes for ACP quality-differentiated products would appear to be necessary. In this context, promotional programmes to raise awareness about quality-differentiated meat products potentially carry important lessons for ACP beef suppliers who, in the light of the relaunched EU-Mercosur negotiations, are likely to need to reposition themselves on EU markets to serve quality-differentiated market components, in order to avoid head-on competition with Mercosur exporters on price. In the face of a likely acceleration of the erosion of the margins of ACP beef tariff preferences, supporting ACP beef exporters to reposition themselves in this way on the EU market is one of the areas where such assistance could help ACP beef exporters to deal with the process of preference erosion.