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Informal meeting of EU ministers for agricultural and fisheries

Minister Dr Jože Podgoršek participated today in an informal videoconference of EU Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries. On the Agenda, the Ministers had agricultural as well as forestry issues. In focus was the discussion on the state of play in agricultural markets due to Covid-19 pandemic, on food loss and waste, African Swine Fever (ASF), on the common position on the EU Forest Strategy, and on preparations for the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, one of the greatest international events to take place during Slovenia’s 2021 EU Council Presidency.

Minister behind a computer

Minister Podgoršek | Author MKGP

At today’s informal meeting of EU Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, the European Commission reported on the state of play in agricultural markets, and the Member States exchanged their views on actions to be taken at EU level, as further deepening of imbalances between supply and demand in agricultural products is expected in the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. In discussion, the Minister Dr Jože Podgoršek told that we perceived difficulties in certain sectors, particularly in the wine sector, in the fruit and vegetable sector, and in the bovine and porcine meat sector, mostly on account of closure of the child-care and educational facilities and of the HoReCa (Hotels, Restaurants, and Cafes) system. He pointed out that extreme and lasting impacts on agricultural markets and the society as a whole were expected and, for this reason, it was “imperative to act immediately and to apply more appropriate crisis prevention and management measures which, in addition to economic aspects for primary producers, will comprise also food security aspects in the Member States and the EU as a whole. Due to a decline in purchase prices, Slovenia proposed private storage and intervention purchasing measures in the milk and bovine meat sectors and relevant porcine meat market schemes to be activated. Similar applies to the potato and fruit and vegetable sectors.”

The Presidency and the Commission reported today also on progress assessment in implementing the EU Council’s conclusions on food loss and waste. To this end, the EU platform on food loss and waste has been active for quite some time now, and strengthened have been the activities of stimulating the setting up of the food use and waste management hierarchy, of educating and raising the awareness of the citizens on sustainable food production processes, on the sources required, on food consumption and loss and food waste; strengthened have been the research and innovations, in particular within the European Innovation Partnership. Slovenia welcomed the endeavours for further steps in halving food loss and waste per capita along the production and supply chains. The Minister Dr Podgoršek highlighted that Slovenia had more recently undertaken to apply a more concrete approach to resolving this challenge. “The aim of the EU and of Slovenia is to decrease, namely, to halve food waste in the food supply chain.” The Minister further pinpointed that Slovenian National Strategy on Less Food Loss and Waste was already within the harmonisation procedure and that it would address these issues within a comprehensive and intersectoral approach.

Concerning the African Swine Fever (ASF) in wild boars in Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland called on the Commission to support the further harmonised endeavours of the Member States in combatting ASF, and to mitigate the administrative burdens due to measures instituted and co-financing system, which was supported by Slovenia. Slovenia is well aware of the risks posed by ASF, as the losses suffered in the pig-breeding sector are large even if the disease is present in wild boars only. Thus, according to Minister Dr Podgoršek, specific focus shall be on pig-breeding holdings to avoid the introduction of ASF by introducing and implementing the effective biosafety measures. “A Proposal for an Act on ASF, Defining the Rapid and Effective Measures, has already been submitted for discussion in, and adoption by, the National Assembly.”

Today, the Ministers also dealt with preparations for the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021. This is one of the key activities within the United Nations Decade of Measures for realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The Summit will address the important issue of urgent transformation of our food systems into the more sustainable, fairer and resilient ones at global level, which is all the more important in the light of new challenges in global food supply, including the current Covid-19 pandemic. At EU level, we embarked on a path of transition with the European Green Deal, more precisely, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which recall the importance and contribution of sustainable food production and processing to the health of the people and of the Planet. Slovenia welcomed the decision of convening the Summit, and drew attention to the important role of the EU, within preparations for the Summit and in creating steadfast and ambitious international commitments for urgent changes and transition to sustainable food systems. Minister Dr Podgoršek further highlighted that the Summit was of great importance for Slovenia as it was to be one of the high-level international events to take place during Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Presidency further reported on the next steps concerning the formation of a common position of the EU Council on the purport of the EU Forest Strategy. A new post-2020 EU Forest Strategy is in preparation, aimed at ensuring the preparedness for coping with future challenges and thus contributing to achieving the EU climate and environmental goals. Slovenia welcomed the Presidency’s efforts in creating a common response of the Member States, particularly in the light of the EU’s endeavours of resolving the challenges of global forest protection, strengthening of biodiversity, combatting climate change, and setting new guidelines for transition to low-carbon, climate neutral and circular bio-economy. Minister Dr Podgoršek pointed out that Slovenia was pursuing the multifunctional, environmentally friendly and sustainable policy. “Thus, we ensure a high level of biodiversity, favourable situation of forest species, availability of wood as a source of material and energy, harmonisation of many forest functions and adaptation of forests and forestry to challenges. As many challenges reach across borders, the cross-border cooperation is of key importance in the exchange of information and experiences.” The Minister further emphasised that, in the upcoming EU measures in forestry, the different baseline situations in the different Member States and the different regional approaches, specificities of local sectors, and specificities of forest management that bring good results, should be taken into account.