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IP/08/921

Brussels, 12th June 2008

High Level Group to boost competitiveness of the agro-food industry

The first meeting of the High Level Group (HLG) on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry today will help pave the way to boosting the performance of this important sector in Europe. The group, chaired by European Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen, includes Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva, Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou and senior policy makers from the public and private sector. Their task is to identify and address issues that determine the competitiveness of the Agro-Food industry and to formulate a set of recommendations to achieve predictable and stable framework conditions for years to come.

European Commission Vice President, Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: "The European agro-food industry is an important sector, driven by thousands of highly innovative and dynamic small companies. High quality food at affordable prices is of key importance for consumers and the agro-food industry in Europe. Together we will identify and discuss the fields which need extra attention to increase the competitiveness of the industry and meet the expectations of citizens.”

The European food industry is an important sector which spans a wide range of economic activities. This industry is characterised by a complex value chain, which links the procurement of agricultural raw materials, through their processing, up to final presentation to consumers.

Today’s initiative is a follow-up of the Conference “Promoting the leadership of the Agro-Food Industry'' in November 2007, organised by the Directorate General Enterprise of the European Commission.

Priority topics for the HLG are, amongst others: competitiveness issues, needs for innovation and research & development, sustained support for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), simplifying food legislation while ensuring a high level of food safety, new means of sustainable production, multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and ways to overcome the food price crisis and its effects on the food chain.

Background:

The food and drink industry is one of Europe’s most important and dynamic industrial sectors. It is made up of about 280 000 companies, over 90% of which are SMEs, and provides jobs for 4 million people. The European food industry is our number one industry in terms of turnover (around 800 € billion).For more information

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/food/index_en.htm


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