JONGCD&V organiseert mee succesvolle Youth EPP Conferentie in Roeselare en Ieper!

24 mei 2018

Van 3 tot 6 mei vond in Roeselare de Youth EPP (YEPP) Conferentie plaats over de toekomst van landbouw en voedselvoorziening. JONGCD&V trad er, samen met Europees parlementslid en voormalig JONGCD&V voorzitter Tom Vandenkendelaere op als gastheer voor het evenement. Ook werd een boodschap van herdenking, hoop en vrede gebracht tijdens de Last Post te Ieper. Mooie samenwerking bij #TeamInternationaal: Bert en Michiel namen deel aan de conferentie als JONGCD&V-delegatie, Adeline coordineerde samen met een handvol leden van #TeamInternationaal (bedankt Celine, Ben, Kevin, Benoit!) het hele gebeuren. Het korte inhoudelijke rapport lees je hieronder. 

Young European Leaders met in Roeselare to debate about the Future of Agriculture


Last weekend the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP) was welcomed in Roeselare, the agricultural capital of Belgium. YEPP, in collaboration with JONGCD&V, the Belgian Christian democrats from Flanders, organised constructive debates about the future of farming and food supply in Europe.

The first debate was about the food chain ‘from farm to fork’ and took place at the REO Veiling Meeting Room in Roeselare. Damien Viollet (managing director and Head of Crop Science Benelux, Bayer) stressed out the importance of producing more with less as young farmers struggle to get their place in the market. Therefore innovation is needed, Viollet argued. The food system isn’t sustainable as demographic numbers will rise and customers are still prefering low prices but expecting excellent quality.

Viollet also mentioned the dangers of rising populism in the EU: extreme leftist and rightists parties could undermine modern science and shut down valuable agricultural innovations. Stefan Top (CEO, AVR Agriculture Machinery) supported this view as he emphasized the tremendous importance of robotisation of the agricultural sector. This to prevent depopulation of rural areas in Europe. 

Iris Bouwers (Vice-president, CEJA) joined the debate by stating that only 5.6% of the farmers in Europe are under the age of 35 years old. This really should be alarming young leaders in the EU as we just cannot assume nor afford being dependent on other states. Furthermore will more than 30% of the farmers retire in the next ten years. Access to technology may be the key, Top explained. Bouwers added that CAP had proven to be efficient, but the whole agricultural sector should become sexy again. That would go along with more direct contact with farmers, Viollet presumed. Consumers basically want to know what they eat and we will reach sooner than later the stage that they are strongly getting involved in the discussion on food quality and sustainability. BAYER is working aside farmers in this project by meeting eight of the seventeen SDG’s.

The second panel discussion took place at the ARDO Video Meeting Room and was about the future of food and matching customers’ expectations with sustainable solutions. Diarmuid O’Connor (head of Agri Supplier Development at Nestlé S.A.) held a speech on the evolution of the people on the one hand and the big food companies on the other. No one could have predicted the current trends in the food industry. Globalisation plays a massive role in the way we are looking at harvest methods and the distribution and cultivation of crops.

It’s about changing the mindset of the consumers, Emilie Noë (Representative CEDER) replied, but also about the way consumers are informed. The role of producers and authorities responsible for health and safety is instrumental in ensuring customer understanding of product ingredients and their health implications. Neutral, scientifically underpinned and clear messaging and labeling are pivotal according to CEDER in this respect. Nathalie Muylle, Vice-Mayor of Roeselare and Member of the Federal Parliament, stressed that farmers need to be supported by the right measures and policies if society wants them to keep producing food in an economically and socially viable way. In her role as Vice-President of the Government Commission on Health, Environment and Innovation she is working in the nexus of politics, food safety, environmental issues and entrepreneurial innovation and therefore was able to pitch in into the topics discussed from a political and legal point of view. Jan Haspeslagh, CEO of ARDO, Europe’s leading company in frozen food, commented on the evolution of food processing and the specific aspects of the frozen food industry. He also emphasized that seeing opportunities, taking the right decision at the right time but most of all ensuring sufficient product supply, quality standards and tailored diversification are pivotal in meeting customer demand.

The discussions throughout the weekend, not only during the aforementioned panel debates but also informally within the group, hence focused from productivity to legislation, from consumer rights to quality standards, from sustainability to economic viability. A guided tour through the fruit and vegetable auction REO Veiling in Roeselare, through the frozen food company ARDO in Ardooie and a visit to a local farmer could make the participants understand better the needs and concerns of producers, suppliers and consumers in light of these discussions.