Two members of Eurada (INFO Murcia and Oost NL) and the Agrofood & Bioeconomy Cluster Agency from Friuli Venezia Giulia have shared their best practices on supporting the agrofood industry with regional public administrations and practitioners from Latin America.
Mr Rafael Martinez from the Regional Development Agency of Murcia (INFO Murcia) explained that the agro-food industry has been experiencing a decrease of the demand but not to such an extent as to reduce the credit supply. Mr Martinez mentioned the European Agrofood Industry Barometer COVID-19. He indicated that technological trends are related to increasing safety measures and smart working. Meanwhile, companies request support from regional development agencies and institutions for different aspects: the facilitation of credit lines by guarantees, support to boosting the internationalisation after the border closures -Murcia is a purely exporting region-, coordination with central/higher level administrations, and adaptation to overcome the challenges like the long-time requested digitalisation of local companies.
Dr Kardolus from Oost NL explained the interventions from his regional development agency, given that the Netherlands is the second biggest food exporter in the world. An important factor of competitiveness is the presence of Wageningen University with its development of technology in animal genetics and plant breeding. Jouke Kardolus explained how the Dutch potatoes, flowers and hospitality sector are adapting to the new circumstances. Some horticultural products (e.g. strawberries or asparagus) suffered from a decrease in demand by families, causing them to be sold in dried form, or directly by the farmers able to package them in their own facilities. Dr Kardolus indicated: “flowers were one of the most affected sectors due to the border closures”.
All the Dutch development agencies have a support scheme for companies lasting four weeks, including a risk assessment, a demo of the solution and presenting a new business model. This action is complemented with the financial support of the Corona Bridging Loan. Hence, to address the superlative impact on certain activities, they bid for a reorientation of companies activities into more demanded ones. For example, this initiative has been used by a veal meat company (which is normally consumed in restaurants closed by the lockdown): adapting their targeted clients because of the dramatical drop in demand, they have started producing goat feeders.
Oost NL is a leading European development agency. They won the first Eurada annual award in 2016 for their Food Ambassador Programme. This initiative helped to host researchers from outside of the EU in local food-producing companies as a means for connecting food producers with technologies and distant markets. This initiative significantly increased the talent attraction in the region.
Dr Pierpaolo Rovere, the director of the Agrofood and Bioeconomy cluster agency from Friuli Venezia Giulia, presented the agro-food situation of his region. In 2019 the agency created a cooperation platform for producers in FVG. But in mid-March, the Italian government required the agency to produce an overview of listed companies and their activities. FVG is a region located near the border with Austria and Slovenia and experienced difficulties regarding the supply of flour, milk and other basic goods. Italian companies then started to buy raw materials domestically (within Italy). The agency mobilised its staff to produce a monitoring report every 4 days. With this information, they also supported the combat against fake news (e.g. the need for food companies to have a COVID-19 certification). The platform was used to connect local producers with buyers (boosting logistics), facilitate remote working and including delivery to homes. The AgroFoodFVG platform grew dramatically (65%) in just a few days, with half of the companies active in food delivery. The agency has launched a campaign #iocomproFVG to facilitate the purchasing of goods. Mr Rovere emphasizes that there are changes that will stay like the switch in buying from big supermarkets to going for small shops that are less crowded, coupled with the willingness to buy Italian products from short commercialisation chains.
The next session of these Webinars will take place on the 21st of July, on the topic of Tourism and how the regional authorities are dealing to overcome the harmful effects of the Covid-19 on this important European sector. You can register here.