Food Crafts and SMEs demand further dialogue on ‘Farm to Fork’

They say the Commission should facilitate a transition that creates a real opportunity and less burden for SMEs in the supply chain

Veronique Willems.

Welcoming the comprehensive approach to the food chain in the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy, SMEunited, a Brussels-based European association that speaks on behalf of 24 million crafts, underlines that the plan acknowledges the role of all actors in the change towards more sustainable food systems. However, when elaborating the individual actions, the Commission should facilitate a transition that creates a real opportunity and less burden for SMEs in the food supply chain, the organisation urges.

 Veronique Willems, Secretary General of SMEunited, praised the growing attention for small and medium sized food manufacturers and retailers, but she warned that “actions must stimulate sustainability without creating unnecessary financial and administrative repercussions on SMEs. Additionally, she urged the Commission to conduct a continuous impact assessment, as the costs and complexity of rethinking food processing, packaging, labelling or marketing practices can have a bigger impact on small businesses. Minimising these costs needs to be a priority for all actions.

We appreciate that the Commission is taking steps to promote and scale-up the implementation of sustainable business practices by small food business operators, she commented asking as well tailored solutions to be developed and disseminated in close cooperation with SME organisations and be made affordable and easy-to-use for these companies. Resources must be allocated to develop digital and green skills and tackle skilled labour shortages, she said.

SMEunited supports the Commission’s efforts to address food waste and loss reduction, but Willems expressed concerns about setting EU mandatory targets without ensuring coherent measurement and reporting methods in Member States. She referred to the recommendations of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste as a common ground to move forward.

SMEunited also backs the reflection by the Commission on the experiences and lessons to be drawn from the recent crisis and to strive for a better coordination at European level. While SMEs in the food  sector have been showing their resilience throughout the coronavirus pandemic, technical and financial assistance is required to make them better equipped against future risks and challenges, Willems added.

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