Promotional measures for local food producers need to be increased, according to Liam Aylward MEP.
European Union farm products are unique in their quality and diversity, but in an open global market, merely producing excellent food and drink is not enough, the Fianna Fáil MEP said.
During the debate on the European Commission’s “Tastes of Europe: Promotion of EU Products” proposal in the European Parliament’s agriculture and rural development committee, the MEP for Ireland East identified local food producers as the key sector that the commission needs to support with promotional schemes.
“There has been a strong growth of interest among consumers in locally produced food and traditional products,” he told the committee. “The increase in the numbers of farmers and artisanal food markets supports this. In the regions there has been an increase in the numbers of SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and micro-businesses producing and selling high-quality, locally produced foods products.”
“It is clear that, implemented correctly, this initiative will have significant benefits for the export market; however, I would like this linked the new rules on Green Public Procurement,” he urged. “Ireland has a high standard of locally produced foods and these companies need to be supported in promotion to increase their access to the immediate markets.”
The agri-food sector is one of Ireland’s most important indigenous manufacturing sectors, accounting for employment of around 150,000 people. It includes approximately 600 food and drinks firms throughout Ireland that export 85% of the country’s food and seafood to more than 160 countries worldwide.
As the ALDE political party negotiator on this report, Mr Aylward said his priority was to ensure that this initiative would be designed with small producers in mind.
“The EU budget spent on promotion was €47 million in 2011 and €55 million is earmarked for 2012,” he said. “This is funding that we need to ensure is targeted at promotion measures for the growing sector of local and regional food producers.”