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Experts from Southern and Central-Eastern Europe join forces to show the golden opportunities arising from COVID-19 for the agrifood sector

On 28 October, EIT Food held a launch event presenting the results and insights of the EIT Food Foresight analysis on the COVID-19 impact in the agrifood sector in South and Central-Eastern Europe.

30 Oct 2020

What challenges will the agrifood sector face? What can we learn from past mistakes?  It is undeniable that COVID-19 has affected the agrifood system and, therefore, it has created a huge uncertainty among us. The 28th of October, EIT Food organised a launch event in order to analyse the impact of the pandemic on the agrifood sector in Southern and Central-Eastern Europe while showing possible future scenarios. You can watch the full event recording here.

Andy Zynga, the CEO of EIT Food introduced the event and Begoña Pérez Villarreal, EIT Food South Director and Marija-Liisa Meurice,EIT Food NE Director, continued with an interesting speech about the work of EIT Food and the objectives of conducting foresights on the COVID-19 impact. Both analysis saw the outcomes of the pandemic as a great opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The importance of strategic foresight as a tool to design public policies was acknowledged by Maryia Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, who in her special Greeting Statement for the participants of the event confirmed that both foresight studies provide valuable information for the preparations of the first biannual Work Programme of Horizon Europe. 

"The findings of the “EIT Food Strategic Foresight Analysis on how COVID-19 has affected agrifood system in South and Central Eastern Europe” are very timely and will be very useful to help the Commission to design new support measures. [...] I am convinced that agrifood sector in Europe will have a brilliant future full of opportunities if we work together to take full advantage of them.", states Mariya GABRIEL, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

During the event, Julia Patorska from Deloitte and David Lacasa from Lantern Innovation shared with us the results of the analysis done about the Impact of COVID-19 and future scenarios in different areas. Meanwhile, some experts took part in panel discussions. These were the areas involved.

  • The first panel discussion: Primary production, input providers and Food processing in RIS region  
  • Eduardo Cotillas, Spanish Food and Drink Industry Federation
  • Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė, Art 21
  • Riccardo Negrini, Associazione Italiana Allevatori 
  • The sencond panel discussion: Retail, HoReCa, Consumers in RIS region and Future scenarios for the sector
  • Olof Nystrom, Packbridge
  • Ana Machado,SONAE
  • Gemma Trigueros, Consumers and Users organisations

"Synergies make value chains improve and create new alternatives" - explains Katerina Ciampi Strancova, Joint Research Center

Experts explained how badly the agrifood sector was affected due to the low demand and labour shortage. Moreover, as a way to improve the sector, they pointed out that the pandemic is pointing towards a rise in investing in "digitalisation". As other consequence, David Lacasa explained that grocery e-commerce will remain strong, but it is still suffering for profitability and that people will consume less out of home meal, more at home cooking and more food delivery and take away. In addition, it was made evident how the agrifood system will evolve into a more cooperative sector creating more direct contact with costumers. Besides, new costumers will appear with wider awareness and knowledge about the sector.

The agrifood sector is able to modernise and adapt, says Andrius Kubilius,  Member of the European Parliament

There was also a roundtable aiming to disccuss about how COVID-19-related opportunities can be translated into public policy solutions in the light of Green Deal, the Farm-to-Fork strategy and Smart Specialization Strategies. Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament; Katerina Ciampi Stancova, Joint Research Center; and Jakub Kaczmarski, Łukasiewicz Research Center were the ones debating about these topics. It was underlinded that the sector faces challenges towards digitalisation, they have seen a lack of  knowledge and understanding between employees around the theme. Nevertheless, positivity is on their side. "The agrifood sector is able to modernise and adapt" , says Andrius Kubilius.

Finally, the event was closed by César Luena , Member of the European Parliament, who encouraged the agrifood sector to invest on innovation and sustainability: "The institution will directly support the companies transitioning to a more sustainable way of working". 

You will find the reports here and the full recording of the event here.

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