Freshfel Europe has warned EU market access experts of the need to act urgently to address the challenges that the European fruit and vegetable sector are facing to access third country markets.
During the recent European Commission Market Access Working Group on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) matters, an event held in Brussels that gathered European Commission officials, member states and sector representatives, the association recommended concrete solutions that would help diversify fruit and vegetable export opportunities.
According to Freshfel, these recommendations will help reverse the current restrictions to fruit and vegetable exports and diversify market opportunities to new markets worldwide.
To urgently improve EU fruit and vegetable export conditions and boost exports, Freshfel Europe, represented by trade policy advisor Natalia Santos-Garcia Bernabe and export division president Paco Borras, recommended the development and implementation of better defined international standards for the treatment of pests to the European Commission.
Currently most EU trade partners operate under what Freshfel described as a 'detrimental closed system' for biosecurity and plant health protection, which requires EU producers and exporters to gain access to new markets product by product and country by country with tight conditions fixed in protocols, which require 'long negotiations and costly procedures'.
'Furthermore there is a complete lack of transparency by trading partners in communicating the pests they are concerned by and any accepted remedies, which is resulting in different conditions being imposed on member states for the same commodity under similar production conditions,' the Freshfel representatives said. 'Better defined international standards for the treatment of pests would help resolve these issues and facilitate the market access process.'
During the SPS Working Group, Freshfel Europe also proposed to ease market access for EU fruit and vegetable exporters via Sanitary and Phytosanitary Chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
Freshfel Europe encouraged the European Commission to continue its work in gradually integrating binding SPS provisions in new FTAs.
This includes ‘fast track’ procedures, the abolition of pre-clearance, member states’ group applications, the exchange of lists regarding pests of concern and facilitations for audits pre-export.
Freshfel Europe voiced its support for the European Commission’s willingness to increase efforts to fully enforce FTA provisions and step up economic diplomacy to promote EU exports through new tools such as the Foreign Policy Instrument.
Additionally, Freshfel Europe called on member states to work together via the creation of information exchange channels to accelerate EU applications.