While industries that once seemed steadfast, like banking, automobiles and aviation, have been badly hit by the global recession, the food sector has suffered far less. While there has been close attention to costs, financial results of many major players have shown level growth at worst. Even if they trade down to cheaper products, consumers still need to eat.
But the overall role of the food industry in the economy is often ignored or played down, according to authors of a new paper in Trends in Food Science and Technology, while the main focus is on feeding the population and keeping it healthy.
As a result, the food industry is left out of stimulus packages, which instead channel assistance to industries that are facing collapse. Konstadinos Mattas and Efthimia Tsakiridou, of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, say this strategy may endanger the future and positioning of less affected industries like food.
“The food sector can reinvigorate the whole economy,” they write. As a sector, it has the highest output and employment multipliers in many countries – that is, every job in food creates other jobs in parallel sectors. In Emilia Romagna, Italy, the multiplier is 2860 jobs in the region for every 1000 in food.
“Food industry generates huge employment effects as it constitutes the backbone of the whole supply chain, inextricably connecting thousands of enterprises from the retail sector down the line to the farming sector.”
- Around 300,000 food enterprises exist in the EU, providing jobs for about 4 million people directly.
Stimulus packages should target “shovel-ready” projects, and industries with high multiplier effects, which target relief and welfare, and keep the benefits largely within borders. This is the case for food in the EU, as 75 per cent of trade in food is within the bloc’s borders.
The authors predict that the current economic conditions will also have an effect on future research directions.
For example, comprehensive approaches are required, societal relations, green growth, safe and healthy nutrition, and new priorities.
“Food industry’s long-term strategies should be redrawn on the base of new thoughts emerging from this crisis, in order to fully fulfil broader economic goals,” conclude Mattas and Tsakiridou.
Food Science and Technology
Shedding fresh light in food industry’s role: the recession’s aftermath
Authors: Mattas, K., Tsakiridou, E.