What’s top on the Commission’s food forum agenda?

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

The exact impact of food 'sin' taxes on the European agri-food sector needs to be further assessed, says Commission
The exact impact of food 'sin' taxes on the European agri-food sector needs to be further assessed, says Commission

Related tags European union

The impact of ‘sin taxes’ on competitiveness and consumption habits, food prices, and sustainability were the key points on the agenda for the European Commission’s High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain.

The forum consists of 47 members representing 21 EU countries, EU food firms, industry associations and NGOs. It met this week to discuss what it had achieved since its creation, initially on a two-year basis back in 2010, and what it would be earmarking as priorities for future initiatives on the functioning and competitiveness of supply chains if it were to be renewed for a third time.

The industry association FoodDrinkEurope has called for the programme to be renewed for at least five years, which it said would enable more “substantial and beneficial”​ progress for the whole food supply chain.

Sin taxes highlighted

As it reached the end of its current two-year mandate, the Commission said it would be compiling a report​ on its principal achievements so far, of which it counted a report on the possible impacts of so called food ‘sin’ taxes on the competitiveness of the supply chain.

Summarising this report, the Commission said: “Non-harmonised taxes on high sugar, salt and fat products can affect the competitiveness of the agri-food industry, especially SMEs. These taxes can reduce the consumption of the taxed products but not necessarily of the targeted ingredients such as sugar, salt and fat. The exact impact on the European agri-food sector needs to be further assessed.”

FoodDrinkEurope said the report highlighted that there were no robust conclusions on the impact of food taxes on public health, and therefore their efficacy in curbing obesity was uncertain.

Other key points were the improvement of the Food Price Monitoring Tool​, which sought to increase supply chain transparency, and the nurturing of interaction between the food industry and its trade unions. Furthermore it said it had served as an incubator for The Supply Chain Initiative​, launched by seven EU associations, as well as hosting discussions on sustainability. 

An incubator for new policies

In a joint statement, the forum’s chair and industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, internal market vice-president Michel Barnier, health commissioners Tonio Borg and agriculture and rural development commissioner Dacian Cioloş said the forum’s work over the past four years had become a reference point for structured and constructive dialogue among private and public European stakeholders.

“It has delivered concrete output and enabled the achievement of joint positions - even on controversial issues. The forum also acted as an incubator for new policy initiatives," ​they said.

Director general of the industry association FoodDrinkEurope, Mella Frewen, echoed this, saying the establishment of an efficient industrial policy which could be continuously adapted to respond to new challenges was essential for the agri-food sector. She said the renewal of the forum was a key vehicle to enforce such a policy. 

Talking sector significance, the Commission said the food and beverage industry alone was the EU's largest manufacturing sector for both employment (4.25 million jobs), turnover (€ 1,017 billion) and value added (€203 billion and 12.9 % of EU manufacturing sector). In the sector, 99.1% of companies were small and medium-sized firms.

Overall, it said Europe's food industry generated a value added of €800bn and turnover of €4 trillion. 

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