The industry trade body said in its Competitiveness 2012 report that despite being a strong pillar of the European economy, the food industry still trails other countries’ food industries for competitiveness, both in established and emerging markets.
The report said that the reasons for this include a lack of an EU Industrial Policy for the food sector; insufficient export expansion, especially among small and medium-sized companies in emerging markets; and the absence of a true single market for food.
A ‘true single market’, the report said, would allow for better access to finance, particularly for SMEs, and improve the food supply chain to reduce R&D bottlenecks.
“For the EU food and drink industry, these factors combined result in a stagnating competitive position vis-à-vis global counterparts,” the report said.
It said that priorities for an EU Industrial Policy should include:
- Access to raw materials, including the management of price volatility
- Functioning of the food supply chain
- Addressing unfair commercial practices in the EU
- Access to finance
- Meeting the challenges of the labour market
- Bottlenecks to research and innovation new
- Smart regulation: completion and harmonisation of the Single Market for food
- Environmental policy and sustainability
- External competitiveness: Increase trade opportunities
President of FoodDrinkEurope Jesús Serafín Pérez said: “The industry’s ability to grow sustainably and cater for the ever-evolving needs of Europe’s over 500 million consumers is crucial not only for European food security but also for the long-term viability of the sector. Ensuring manufacturers can sustain their position as world number one in exporting high value added food and drink products will consolidate the EU food and drink industry’s place as a fundamental pillar of the EU economy and enable the industry to continue to serve consumers, generate sustainable growth, and, sustain healthy levels of employment and local wealth across communities in the European Union.”
Nevertheless, the report highlights the food sector as a resilient part of the EU economy, with a 2.6% increase in output between 2008 and 2011 compared to a 4.2% drop for the EU manufacturing sector as a whole during the same period. Employment has fallen 3.5% in the sector since 2008, but this compares to 9.9% for the whole EU manufacturing sector.
The report is available to download here.