fruit that grows in times of uncertainty »

On the occasion of the Fruchtwelt Bodensee, a round table was organized on the theme “Between the relevance of the system and the explosion of costs: growing fruit in times of uncertainty. It was a discussion between Sabine Kurtz, State Secretary of Ministry of Food, Rural Areas and Consumer Protection of Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Heilig, President of Obstregion Bodensee, Nico Grundler , managing director of Obstgroßmarkt Markdorf and acting managing director of Obst vom Bodensee Vertriebsgesellschaft, and Anthony Lee, spokesperson for Landwirtschaft verbindet Deutschland eV (Agriculture Connects Germany).Moderation was provided by Manfred Ehrle.

Closer collaboration in the value chain
According to Heilig, food retailers are responsible for about 85% of apple sales in Germany. So he is in favor of closer cooperation between producers, traders and retailers, but he also wants better cooperation from food retailers. As a positive example, he cited a communication model in Switzerland where retailers, cooperatives and producers meet every eight weeks to discuss the market situation. Furthermore, he recommends transparent communication throughout: “The market should know what is left at the end for the farmer. »

Existing difficulties of the industry
Lee said retailers have made a lot of money during the coronavirus. Traditional farms have to stop working while retailers get rich, he says. “Retailers give us just enough to keep us from getting snapped up. He stops us, like drug dealers. In this regard, he also criticizes the policy, which he believes could intervene more strongly in energy prices. Moreover, he doubts that the reduction in VAT will benefit farmers as much as retailers. However, he estimates that things should pick up again in the next two or three years.

Grundler disagrees: “If everything was sugarcane, you’d only see Polish apples on the shelves. But this is not the case. Our customers prefer our products, but only, of course, if their prices are in line with market prices. Rather, he says, the problem lies in the need to have a competitive product that can be produced and put in stores at a reasonable price. In addition, the entire value chain up to the producer must be fairly compensated. “Retailers also have to fight for every customer. »

The distortion of political competition?
Kurtz noted that especially direct marketing, organic and weekly markets have to face existing difficulties. But politics cannot and should not intervene directly in the market. “Politics is only responsible in the economy for the basic conditions. We ourselves do not intervene in market events. Supply and demand always determine the price. Politics has influence, said Heilig, in the form of minimum regulations that wages or even the disapproval of plant protection products. “This is a distortion of competition. But it’s still important to keep open borders and a free market. »

“Not only do customers not know what producers are really getting, they no longer have a sense of the commodity,” he added. “The only way to solve the problem is communication. Lee also said that it is important to convince business partners and customers of the improvements. But also to inform consumers of what will be lost if farmers leave en masse . A kind of hierarchy consciousness. “In LaWi, we provide the main labor force. In general, our agriculture has nothing to envy to others. According to him, policy makers need to be careful, especially when it comes to crop protection . In this context, Lee mentioned how the abandonment of crop protection products led to huge crop losses, which caused a crisis in Sri Lanka. “If the farmer dies, the village dies. Therefore, Kurtz is in favor with a stronger promotion of quality labels of origin and the organic label, as well as campaigns such as “Von Daheim”, for example, or food programs distribute fruit to schools in Lake Constance.

Ehrle wonders if the media might not have a duty to communicate these problems to the general public. Lee believes that everyone has this role. At the same time, the former police officer emphasized that everyone has a role to play. “Of course, the Fourth Estate is doing its part. In recent years, we have had an agricultural framework that is unparalleled. Most of the time, untruths are said on purpose. Also, if you vote Green, you don’t always get Green policies. »

Lee thinks policymakers should insist on local quality standards when it comes to importing food from other countries. “We shouldn’t be importing organic apples from New Zealand, for example. It makes no sense, especially from an environmental perspective. The grocery retail industry as a whole must make a clearer commitment to regional products, he added. Minister Kurtz responded that these issues are already covered by the Supply Chain Act. “But we may be debating this issue at a level where we lack expertise,” he said.

Problems on several levels
Rainer Wielatt, managing director of Salem-Frucht and colleague of Grundler, sees a multi-layered problem here, starting with sanctions since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The German fruit industry, he says, was selling large volumes in Russia, which was then widely restricted. Since then, Poland has also lost the Russian market, and sells more to Europe. We are really struggling with some problems in placing the goods: the possibilities are more limited than six or eight years ago.

In addition, the persistence of poor quality products on the shelves will limit marketing. “We need to implement basic quality management, which will also reduce quantity. Nothing will be thrown away, but sent for recycling. We must be aware of the opportunity presented by the crisis and take advantage of it. But it may also be necessary to adapt varieties and reduce market volumes through unpopular measures. »

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