Europe must "urgently" tackle export market barriers, says Freshfel

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Freshfel Europe has warned EU market access experts that they must act urgently to address the challenges that the European fruit and vegetable sector are facing to access third-country markets.

To help diversify fruit and vegetable export opportunities, the fresh produce association says it has recommended a number of solutions.

It proposed these schemes at the European Commission Market Access Working Group last week in Brussels. The meeting in question focused on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) matters.

Several European Commission officials, and Member States and sector representatives were in attendance and heard the association's proposals.

Freshful Europe stressed that its recommendations would help reverse the current restrictions on fruit and vegetable exports. This way, it says the EU can diversify market opportunities to new markets worldwide.

Better defined international standards

To improve EU fruit and vegetable export conditions and boost exports, the association has one solution; that is the development and implementation of better defined international standards. Specifically, these standards should concern the treatment of pests, it comments.

Currently most EU trade partners operate under a ‘closed system’ for biosecurity and plant health protection. This requires EU producers and exporters to gain access to new markets product by product and country by country.

Additionally, there are tight conditions fixed in protocols, which require long negotiations and costly procedures.

The association says there is also a complete lack of transparency by trading partners when it comes to communicating about pests and any accepted remedies. It attributes this to the different conditions being imposed on Member States for the same commodity.

Yet better defined international standards for the treatment of pests would help resolve these issues and facilitate the market access process, it emphasizes.

Easing market access for EU fruit and vegetable exporters

During the SPS Working Group, Freshfel Europe also proposed to ease market access for EU fruit and vegetable exporters.

This would be possible via Sanitary and Phytosanitary Chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), it notes.

Freshfel Europe also encouraged the European Commission to continue their 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.

In addition, Freshfel Europe voiced their support for the European Commission’s aim to fully enforce FTA provisions. It also praised the commission for its decision to promote EU exports through the Foreign Policy Instrument.

Finally, Freshfel Europe called on Member States to work together via the creation of information exchange channels to accelerate EU applications.

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