Fernando Burgaz, General Director of the Food Industry in an interview for ecomercioagrario.com, published in the magazine ECA OLIVE, has answered several questions about the situation of the agri-food sector.
ECA FRUITS: In short, what balance can you make for the year 2017 for the agri-food sector?
Fernando Burgaz: The year 2017 has been exceptionally productive, with the launching of many initiatives that have meant a qualitative leap for the benefit of the environment and the sectors that we defend from the Ministry. As far as invoicing is concerned, although we do not yet have data corresponding to that year of the Structural Statistics of Industrial Sector Companies of the INE, it can be assumed that the food industry continues to occupy the first place in sales. What shows that we have a consolidated subsector and motor of the Spanish economy that contributes to the creation of employment and the internationalization of our products.
ECA FRUITS: What measures and commitments were carried out during 2017 for the proper functioning of the horticultural sector?
F.B: First of all, I would like to highlight the defense of Law 12/2013 to improve the functioning of the food chain. For this, AICA carried out control programs with the Autonomous Communities, resulting in a total of 922 sanctions in the last four years, of which 287 are from the fruit and vegetable sector.
Likewise, from the MAPAMA, we continue working for the development of the Law of Cooperatives, reinforcing the sectoral integration of the interprofessionals. The improvement in the balance of the different links in the food chain is a key objective in the policy of this Government. So we bet on the development of the Law of Cooperatives. Especially in farmers to be integrated into internationally competitive cooperatives or interprofessionals. The Control Program for products sold at abnormally low prices has also been expanded. And finally, add that we continue to promote the sustainability of our agri-food industry.
We have a consolidated and driving sector of the Spanish economy, contributing to the creation of employment and the internationalization of our products.
ECA FRUITS: Likewise, what have been the commitments for this 2018, also from the European policies?
F.B: As determined in the Commission’s Work Program for 2017, the Commission considered necessary action at EU level to address anti-competitive practices caused by the weaker position of farmers and SMEs. In this context the Law of the Chain, has been presented as a “model”, to overcome the reluctance of some countries and operators to establish a common regulatory framework, which is expected to be approved this year.
On the other hand, the Ministry collaborates with autonomous governments, conducting campaigns for fruit and vegetable consumption. Like the promotion in tarpaulins and buses with the motto “Fruit and vegetables. From here and now “; the management of School Programs in which students will receive fruit and vegetables worth 14M euros during the 2017-2018 academic year; or the performances of “Mediterraneamos 2018”, in which more than 80,000 schoolchildren will participate.
We bet on the development of the Law of Cooperatives so that our farmers are integrated and are more competitive internationally.
ECA FRUITS: Regarding agriculture and ecological industry, in what position is our country and if much remains to be done in this area of production?
F. B: The latest statistical data, corresponding to 2016, indicated that the 2,018,802 hectares were still maintaining, one more year, Spain as the first EU country by total area dedicated to organic production, and the fourth level world.
Although the regulation of Spanish organic production was one of the first three to be established, it is still a young sector compared to conventional systems, so it can be said that there is a long way to go, not only in Spain but worldwide. There is still insufficient internal consumption of organic food despite good statistical data. The sector is still too dispersed today, without strong and concentrated interlocution figures that facilitate its relationship with the Administration.
This is why the Ministry has prepared a Strategy for Ecological Production 2018-2020 that is published on the web. The objectives are to contribute to a better structuring of the ecological sector, support its growth and consolidation, and study the role of organic production in environmental policy and adaptation to climate change.
ECA FRUITS: How will Brexit be addressed from the Ministry?
F.B: Regarding Brexit, there is a shared interest between MAPAMA and the sector because they offer the highest degree of certainty about the conditions to be applied and as soon as possible.
The United Kingdom is a globally deficient country in agri-food products and Spain is a major exporter of these products with a positive trade balance, both in traditional sectors such as fruits and vegetables, and in other products such as olive oil, meat products or the wine and other drinks. Our interest is that this situation is not altered with the departure of the EU from the United Kingdom.