The European Food Industry is an important sector which spans a wide range of economicalactivities. Two striking observations can be made about it. On the one hand, it produces an im-pressive diversity of products that ranges from the staples of our survival to luxurious sensualindulgences. On the other hand, this vast array of products emanates from a fairly limited number of famous world leading companies together with a myriad of irreplaceable and relatively un-known small and medium-sized enterprises – both of which exist side by side within the Euro-pean Community.By contrast to other prominent industrial sectors such as the car industry or pharmaceuticals, theEuropean Food Industry is
characterised by a complex value chain. This chain links theprocurement of agricultural raw materials, through their processing up to their presentation for ﬁnal human consumption and includes their economic distribution. As a result, this industry in-volves multiple players such as farmers, input suppliers, manufacturers, packagers, transporters,exporters, wholesalers, retailers and ﬁnal customers with different and changing interests, cul-tural attitudes and dimensions.This huge and composite industrial and economical entity has done well at Community leveland, still constitutes a ﬂourishing domain of which we can be proud. Nevertheless, in spite of itsleading status at Community level in terms of manufacturing, of value added and of job creation,the competitiveness of this sector is now a matter of concern: this is the clear message I received from this study. Moreover, consumers preferences are evolving very quickly and becoming moredemanding and sophisticated. Industry needs to adjust and adapt to these circumstances.This document sheds light on a truth which will appear to some people as a disturbing one. Ithighlights recent warning signals such as the diminishing capability of this sector to generateinnovation and enough proﬁt to allow for adequate re-investment to maintain or even conquer market share in domestic and/or foreign markets.If the challenges as revealed by this document are to be met stakeholders must grasp the op-portunity to act now and trigger every single action which could improve the current situation.Truly, there are so many reasons for hope. The European Food Industry exhibits a large array of assets that have to be put to proﬁtable use: this industry has the right cards and some very ca-pable players. It needs only to take up the challenge of adaptation of the agro-food industry tonew and demanding conditions so as to ensure continuity of its traditional excellence in manu- facturing food products of ever higher quality with more and more value added for the fulﬁl-ment of its consumer’s expectations. I agree this is a difﬁcult task! But really, the reward is worththe effort! Acting! This is what I propose to do. First of all, I would like to invite all of the interested partiesto seize this document, to study it carefully and objectively, as I did myself with my collaborators,to debate it and then to gain the best proﬁt from it. Notwithstanding its freshness of approachand originality as to the competitiveness comparability, this document is not entirely unique butit is timely. It, together with other studies which have come to similar and convergent conclu-sions, must be understood, appreciated, addressed and harnessed to create new momentum for change to meet the identiﬁed challenges in this domain.Secondly, and more concretely. The Commission, in the course of its mid-term review of indus-trial policy, has decided to launch a targeted initiative aimed at addressing the challenge of competitiveness and placing the emphasis on innovation. Having regard in particular to thelarge proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Food sector, it is anticipated thatthis initiative will be of considerable assistance in assuring the future of our vital Food Industry.
Vice-President of the European Commission
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