Sacar Newsletter - July - august - September 2022
We are all firmly back to our office routine, with suntan fading away. Yet we sense many are happy with real life meetings, a welcome change from last year’s rentrée.
For our team, a summer highlight was our trip to Turkey to watch the harvest of grapes, figs and hazelnuts and to meet so many people who feed us. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for our Turkish members’ work and hospitality!
We also look forward to the upcoming FRUCOM in-person meetings in Brussels on October 14th: food safety, nutrition and sustainability are on the agenda.
See you soon in Brussels and enjoy reading,
The SACAR team
In this issue :
- Grape, fig and hazelnut harvest: frucom visit to the Izmir and the Black Sea regions
- FRUCOM in-person events 13-14 October 2022, Brussels
- Rain, rain, come again! Heat and dry weather puts pressure on Europe’s sugar crop
- Generalised system of preferences: neither carrot nor stick
- Changing customs – commission keen to make swift progress on the customs code revision
- FRUCOM reply to the EU consultation on a sustainable EU food system initiave
- A pretty kettle of fish= market advisory council discusses eu political priorities, FAO activities, forced labor, revision of customs code and sustainability criteria for fisheries
GRAPE, FIG AND HAZELNUT HARVEST:
FRUCOM VISIT TO THE IZMIR AND THE BLACK SEA REGIONS
The FRUCOM team visited the Izmir region, with the aim of studying the practical aspects of grape and fig growing, processing and trade, organics, pesticide regulation, as well as meeting our members. Our stay in Turkey continued with the trip to the Black Sea region, to witness hazelnut harvest, visit the processing facilities and discuss sustainability issues. We wish to thank very much our Turkish members for their unforgettable hospitality.
FRUCOM IN-PERSON EVENTS 13-14 OCTOBER 2022, BRUSSELS
Finally the time has come to put Corona behind us and meet again! We are pleased to announce the upcoming FRUCOM in-person events with around 60 people expected for a reception on 13th October, followed by Dried Fruit and Nuts Working Group, Nutrition and Communication Working Group and Sustainability Working Group. The participants will discuss the import trade, nutrition and sustainability: state of play, in-depth coverage of the topical issues, Q&A with speakers.
Frans Verstraete will speak about contaminants and Tim Gumbel will address on increased controls and conditions for re-export of non-complaint products (Art 66 and 67 of official controls). Alejandro Rodarte from FoodDrink Europe will present the state of play on mineral oils (Mosh/Moah). We will also be covering pesticides, organics and trade.
Speakers from FoodDrinkEurope and Eufic, the EU Food Information Council will discuss product reformulation and developments which will affect nutrition in the future.
For sustainability labelling and Eco-Score, Veerle Poppe Sustainability Strategist and EIT lead, Colruyt Group, is also confirmed. We are inviting the representative from L’ITAB, l’Institut de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation biologiques, on sustainability methodology, PlantScore, and Mr. Rogge from the European Commission’s DG SANTE on sustainability labelling.
We very much look forward to seeing all our members, guests and speakers again!
RAIN, RAIN, COME AGAIN! HEAT AND DRY WEATHER PUTS PRESSURE ON EUROPE’S SUGAR CROP
The exceptionally dry and hot summer experienced in Europe during the past month have resulted in a reduction in the sugar yield forecast for sugar from DG AGRI, as presented by Deputy Director General Michael Scannell at the EU Parliament’s Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI committee) on 31 August.
However, this fall in yields is expected to be offset by an increase in sugar in the beet, though the JRC MARS Bulletin is confident that substantial growth may be possible if rain returns.
Sugar yield forecasts are being closely watched by sugar users, producers, and traders alike, as the end of the 2021/2022 marketing year comes at a time of high costs and issues with energy supply. This year for a change, everyone is eager to see a rainy September.
GENERALISED SYSTEM OF PREFERENCES: NEITHER CARROT NOR STICK
Stakeholders expressed frustration on the enforcement of the GSP during an exchange with the European Commission’s DG TRADE on the next GSP Report.
Specifically, stakeholders representing specific sectors such as textiles, as well as organisations supporting sustainable trade, were pushing the Commission to elaborate on the circumstances or criteria which merit investigations, and how stakeholders may be involved in monitoring this process. The Commission was reticent to elaborate on this, noting only the example of Cambodia as a demonstration of how the process works.
The Commission adopted on 22 September 2021 the legislative proposal for the new EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for the period 2024-2034. In the meantime, the GSP Report will pave the way for reapplication under the new EU GSP come 2024.
Although the volumes are not significant, Myanmar/Burma exports certain volumes of sugar to the EU under the EBA scheme. It was one of the countries that came under significant scrutiny by stakeholders during the meeting, who called for an investigation to be launched by the EU into its GSP status due to widespread human rights abuses.
CHANGING CUSTOMS – COMMISSION KEEN TO MAKE SWIFT PROGRESS ON THE CUSTOMS CODE REVISION
It was only on 12 July that the Commission presented, during the 60th Trade Contact Group plenary meeting, the agenda for the revision of the UCC and the reform package, which it hopes to table by the end of the year.
This is a very ambitious and welcome pace from the Directorate General of Taxation and Customs, though not without some complaints over the use of the summer period to run the public consultation and call for feedback. Nevertheless, ASSUC, which participated in the both the TCG plenary and the consultation, was glad to see the opportunity for progress on an important subject for EU sugar traders.
Specifically, the report and recommendations from the Wise Persons Group into the UCC, picked up on some of the challenges which traders have been complaining about under the current system. Important sources of frustration are the lack of a harmonised application and interpretation of the UCC legislation across Member States, and a customs data and IT infrastructure that is not fully integrated or interoperable, which hinders data sharing.
It is hoped that DG TAXUD and the College of Commissioners will be both pragmatic and ambitious in how the reform package of the UCC is drawn up and delivered, and will continue to proceed with the same open and collaborative approach to traders as has so far been demonstrated.
ASSUC’s feedback can be found here.
FRUCOM REPLY TO THE EU CONSULTATION ON A SUSTAINABLE EU FOOD SYSTEM INITIATIVE
FRUCOM’s reply may seem obvious, but common sense is not so common, rue de la Loi. Our main points:
- The initiative and its policies must be WTO compatible, coherent with the EU’s own rules and its international commitments, and prioritise cooperation over unilateral measures.
- All definitions used must be clear, logical, and convincing.
- The methodologies developed or adopted must be both sound, globally inclusive, and transparent.
- Any sustainability labelling of agri-food products should be voluntary in nature. Full account must be taken of the costs and burden of new policies.
- A sensible timeframe and support for implementation and compliance with the new initiative must be put in place.
- Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the shift to a sustainable food system.
- FRUCOM takes a neutral view on questions pertaining to setting food composition targets for sugar, salt, saturated fat, and on restricting marketing of foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats.
A PRETTY KETTLE OF FISH: MARKET ADVISORY COUNCIL DISCUSSES EU POLITICAL PRIORITIES, FAO ACTIVITIES, FORCED LABOR, REVISION OF CUSTOMS CODE AND SUSTAINABILITY CRITERIA FOR FISHERIES
And other 20 or so items on its agenda for a marathon of 2 full days of meetings. Here is our pick:
- Update on Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries meetings on sustainability criteria for fishery and for aquaculture products by Gerd Heinen, DG MARE. Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries is working on setting up sustainability criteria for farmed and wild fish. Its terms of reference for aquaculture include categorisation of products, animal welfare criteria and indicators, good governance practice and regulatory requirements. These will be integrated into a scoring system based on country of origin, species and production system. Work is also ongoing on wild fish. In discussion with members, it became clear that the Commission wants to complement such labels as MSC rather than duplicate them. The NGOs such as Oceana would prefer an EU label with a grading, less costly and aligned with other foodstuffs.
- Presentation of initiative on effectively banning products produced, extracted or harvest with forced labour by Commission, Fabio Appel, DG Trade. The proposal for a regulation was adopted on 14 September 2022. The Commission would start on gathering information, which could be indicators, submissions etc, investigate if concerns are substantiated, collect evidence and eventually prohibit placing such products on the market, as well as their imports and exports. The Commission will set up a database, a network of competent authorities and provide guidance to companies, especially to SMEs.
- Revision of the Union Customs Code: Mr. Paul-Martin Brennan from Taxud referred to the ideas from the Wise Persons Group, chaired by the former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, Arancha Gonzalez For a reason: beyond this report, no decision or clarity yet exists on the timing or scope of the custom code revision which should achieve laudable objectives, such as less bureaucracy and more of a risk-based approach.
- Presentation of market priorities by Carmen Preising, Deputy Head of Cabinet, Cabinet of Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius (Environment, Ocean, Fisheries). Not much new or unexpected from this intervention: geopolitical events are putting pressure on various initiatives under the Green Deal and Farm-to-Fork, fishermen are complaining about the impact of price increase, especially of energy, which ends some fishing for good. The Commission still wants to stick to this top level initiative and asks for sector’s support in passing the message. Déjà vu.
- Presentation on 35th COFI Session (5-9 September 2022) and 2022 SOFIA Report by Marcio Castro de Souza, Senior Fishery Officer, FAO. Apart from the general overview of the state of the stocks from both marine and aquaculture fisheries (well known to the audience), the new items were the establishment of a subcommittee on fisheries management, new voluntary guidelines for transhipment and guidelines for sustainable aquaculture.