Belgian food industry seeks government partnerships

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Food

The Belgian food industry is looking to forge a lasting partnership between the authorities and the private sector in the wake of the country’s elections, helping to create a stable framework that would give sufficient guarantees for long term investment.

Following elections on13 June that saw the nationalist party New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) win a sweeping victory in the Dutch-speaking north and a Socialist Party (PS) victory in the French-speaking southern province of Wallonia, talks are underway to form a workable new coalition government. Bart De Wever, leader of the N-VA, has indicated that a new government will be in place by October.

Meanwhile, Fevia’s wish-list for the new government, dated 13 June but only published this week, “invites the political parties to develop a policy that would allow it to respond to the expectations of society through a lasting partnership between the authorities and the private sector”.

“The food industry really needs a stable judicial framework that gives enough guarantee for long term investment,”​ it said.

It has identified four areas where a partnership could bring social benefits:

  • Food, health and physical activity;
  • security of the food supply chain;
  • sustainable environment;
  • a competitive economy.

Competitiveness, to dietary surveys

Fevia sees addressing competition as an absolute priority for any new partnership. Even if the food sector has less affected than other industries by the economic crisis, it has still been affected and volatile commodity prices have been a major cause of concern.

It sees a need for greater partnership to ensure the smooth functioning of the supply chain, better and simpler legislation that takes into account impacts and administrative fees, consideration of small and medium enterprises, and more economic information and analysis.

Other points in which it is asking for specific actions include funding for an updated survey on food consumption covering the whole population, as well as attitude and lifestyle of consumers, as these are equally decisive factors in health.

It also expressed frustration at the new legislations that food producers are faced with, which are often burdensome to implement, especially for small companies. The new health claims legislation, as well as possible new labelling requirements such as country of origin labelling, are making for anything but greater simplicity.

Fevia says that the establishment of a federal agency for security in the food chain (AFSCA) last year has already built greater confidence among consumers, and improved the image of Belgian foods abroad. The next steps it sees are reducing official control mechanisms when companies are asked to implement new control systems themselves, more authority being given to AFSCA, harmonising the costs of controls – and the approach to controls – at the European level, and research into future needs and structures.

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