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Article: Food and Agriculture Policy Briefing

23 March 2020 Peter Rixon

"No food shortage" says US farm body, laws eased to let shops join forces, Portugal reduces child obesity

Also, US FDA suspends routine inspections, European Commission publishes draft text for UK/EU future relationship and Germany confirms a case of H5N8 avian flu.

The American Farm Bureau Federation sought to calm nerves last week by clarifying that there is no shortage of food in the US and the supply chain remains strong even though consumers may be seeing barren food shelves or television amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, the federation and other officials warned that the US situation could change if agricultural labour issues relative to immigrants coming to the US to work are not addressed.

In the UK, the government announced it was temporarily relaxing competition law to allow supermarkets to work together to feed the nation during the COVID-19 crisis.

The move allows retailers to share data with each other on stock levels, cooperate to keep shops open, or share distribution depots and delivery vans. It would also allow retailers to pool staff with one another to help meet demand.

Italian farmers revealed that Italy's agri-food market is bracing to meet surging demand for several key agri-food products, including flour and canned produce, as the virus engulfs the nation.

The country's farmers' group Coldiretti released information on the list of top ten most purchased food products by Italians during the COVID-19 emergency during February. The list of products that are under severe demand pressure from domestic consumers includes products ranging from flour (+80% spike in demand) to milk (+20%).

In an unprecedented move aiming to curtail spread of COVID-19, the US FDA announced it was suspending all routine inspections of domestic food facilities and will instead focus its inspection resources on conducting inspections that are "for-cause" and "mission-critical."

Additionally, FDA said it was changing the way it does domestic inspections and "for the foreseeable future" will be pre-announcing the majority of inspections that the agency conducts domestically.

CAP delay

The coronavirus is causing more delays to the CAP reform negotiations and could make a two-year transition period inevitable, a leading EU parliamentarian warned last week.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to disruptions in the work of the European Parliament, with consequences for the ongoing negotiations on the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Scottish farmers are not expected to meet the CAP's crop diversification conditions this year, local authorities announced during the middle of last week, but not because of the virus.

Crop diversification is one of the greening conditions that farmers need to follow to receive direct payments from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for practices that benefit the environment.

The Scottish government said that the rules will not be enforced in 2020 after farm fields suffered extensive rainfall.

Receiving less attention than it might normally have done, the European Commission published the draft text on the agreement on future EU/UK relations during the week.

The publication of the text, which comes out of the Task Force on Relations with the United Kingdom, was welcomed by the European Parliament with German MEP David McAllister saying that that it goes beyond what the EU usually engages in with third countries.

The agreement covers, among other matters, sanitary and phytosanitary issues as well as geographical indications.

Obesity reduction

The numbers of overweight and obese children in Portugal has "slowly but surely" decreased between 2008 and 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a March statement praising the country for its efforts to tackle the issue.

A combination of unhealthy diets and a rise in sedentary lifestyles has "precipitated a public health struggle with childhood obesity", the WHO said. But the UN agency praised the country for making significant progress. The WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) has been tracking the trend in childhood obesity for 12 years and has seen the numbers in Portugal reduce.

Finally, in Germany has confirmed a case of H5N8 avian flu on a small poultry farm in Saxony - a state that borders Poland and Czech Republic.

The state ministry for social affairs and protection said highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu had been detected on an egg farm, located in Bad Lausick near Leipzig. All hens on the farm have been slaughtered and a quarantine area set up around it.



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