EU border restrictions disrupting food supplies, industry groups say

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EU border restrictions disrupting food supplies, industry groups say

The border restrictions imposed over recent days by numerous European countries are disrupting food and packaging material supplies, industry representatives said on Thursday in a joint statement.

They also raised concerns over potential labor shortages, after more than a dozen countries either tightened or shut their borders as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 rises rapidly on the continent.

On Thursday, Italy's death toll rose to 3,405, overtaking China as the country with the most deaths. Spain, Germany and France also have among the highest number of confirmed cases in the world.

"Following the important and necessary emergency measures taken by EU Member States, our members are reporting increasing difficulties in their business operations," the joint statement said.

"Delays and disruption at country borders have been observed for the delivery of certain agricultural and manufactured products, as well
as packaging materials. There is also concern over the movement of workers, notably due to certain border closures and travel restrictions, as well as potential labour shortages as staff follow national movement restrictions to mitigate the crisis."

The letter was signed by FoodDrinkEurope, the European Liaison Committee for Agricultural and Agri-Food Trade (CELCAA), and COPA-COGECA, which is the union of the two biggest agricultural umbrella organizations.

Given that the agri-food supply chain is highly integrated and operating across borders, any blocks of supply and workers will inevitably disrupt business, they said.

"Our ability to provide food for all will depend on the preservation of the EU Single Market," the statement said.

"We therefore urge the European Commission to work collaboratively with us and to do everything in its power – with a consistent and clear strategy – to ensure an uninterrupted flow of agricultural produce, food and drink products and packaging materials (e.g. through “green lanes”), as well as solutions to prevent and manage labour shortages, so that the food supply chain is able to function effectively."

The groups also urged the European Commission to monitor the price of raw materials and transport as well as unfair trading practices. 

It is also essential that any actions are science-led, they added.

"The Commission should further communicate on the report by the European Food Safety Authority, which noted there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus," the groups said.

"Therefore, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agri-food sector remains committed to supplying all EU citizens with safe, nutritious, high quality and affordable food."

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