Today, our General Secretary, Kristjan Bragason, actively participated in the inaugural Strategic Dialogue with the food sector—as announced by Ursula Von der Leyen during her September State of the Union address.
EFFAT welcomes the decision to convene various stakeholders around the table to propose a way forward, bridging diverse interests—economic, financial, ecological, and social—embedded in our food system for the medium to long term.
However, EFFAT, representing almost 15 million workers in the European agri-food industries, firmly believes that the starting point should involve establishing a comprehensive approach to define a sustainable food system: one that feeds the world with healthy and affordable food for all, respecting our planet and those essential workers, by creating quality jobs in food production and hospitality.
During the Strategic Dialogue on Agriculture, EFFAT didn’t miss the opportunity to reiterate that achieving a sustainable and resilient food system entails addressing its fragility, hence tackling key long-standing issues affecting the planet and vulnerable actors across the food chain. This is only possible through:
- Ensuring Social Acceptance: EFFAT hopes for the revival of the Green Deal. However, we find it crucial to tie it with social acceptance, demonstrating that every green ambition is an opportunity for citizens and the job quality of agri-food workers. Green targets are set to fail without a Just Transition, if the most vulnerable actors of the food system consider they’re bearing all the costs.
- Combating Market Speculation: The growing financialization of the food sector has favored shareholder value maximization over time, leading to worsened working conditions and increasing demands for flexibility. The EU must find solutions to limit the impact of short-termism on people, workers, and the planet thorough a serious fight against financial speculation.
- Tackling the Concentration of Power: Stark inequalities across the food sectors stem from a complete imbalance in the concentration of power. If the pressure from retailers and food giants goes unchecked, and a viable income is not ensured for farmers and agricultural workers, rural areas will continue to be abandoned, and farmers will persist in opting for unsustainable farming practices to increase their margins.
- Promoting Fair International Trade: In many EU-International agri-food trade agreements, the requirement for equal standards from producers worldwide is often overlooked, putting social and labor standards at risk. Trade must not serve as a means to expand corporate power at the expense of people and the planet.
Achieving a strong resilience in our agro-food and hospitality system depends on addressing systemic flaws: stark inequalities, the impact of the climate crisis, and industry players reaping profits to the detriment of agro-food workers and their working conditions. The efficient way forward sought by Ursula Von der Leyen should address all these issues collectively, in a solid and comprehensive strategy for the future.
EFFAT asserts its commitment to actively work towards addressing these critical issues in the upcoming EU mandate.