On Wednesday, April 26th, SME Connect in partnership with Herbalife Nutrition Foundation, Taxpayers Association of Europe and the European Economic Senate, organized a debate on “From Farmer to Consumer: Rising Prices and the Effects on Production, Nutrition and Health” kindly hosted by the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union.
First DR. ARMIN HARTMUTH, Deputy Director of the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union and DR. PAUL RÜBIG, President of SME Connect warmly welcomed all guests and gave a short summary about the economic situation and the importance of a stable food market.
The panel was opened by MARLENE MORTLER, Member of the European Parliament, AGRI Committee who pointed out the importance of European agriculture. The food market is under several influences from energy crises, covid and big players but for small farmers a stable market is essential for long term planning security.
TOBIAS GOTTHARDT, Chairman of the Committee of Federal and European Affairs and Interregional Relations in the Bavarian State Parliament spoke about the War in the Ukraine and observed the deficit of multiple products in the supermarkets. We need to build resilience in the European food market and small farmers in Europe and specially in Bavaria they are key. In Bavaria the agriculture and forestry sector is the third largerst economic sector, employing one Million people. Therefore, the Politic must provide a good environment and not overregulate agriculture. Also, education is key for the people to understand the market and buy healthy and regional products.
DR. HORST HEITZ Chairman of the Steering Committee of SME Connect and Moderator of the Event opened the Panel Discussion. First Speaker was THOMAS SCHMIDT, a Self-employed dairy framer from Bavaria. He also does arable farming and forestry. The Milk is sold to the local Cooperative, the grain to the local mills. Asked about the price evolution he spoke about the high prices for short term, which normalized in the last time. The prices came back to the level before the war, but in the political and medial discussion there is much information about still too high prices which does not reflect the reality from the farmers point of view. He also spoke about the higher risk for food producers because production costs could diverge from later sunken selling prices.
TIM GEIER Member of the Independent Retail Europe, Managing Director Office Brussels of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises – ZGV e.V. followed up explained the food shop cooperative, where every store is owned by an entrepreneur, but join forces for marketing ore purchasing. The entrepreneur must take the risk but is supported by the umbrella organization to have a better position at the market. The consumer behavior is mostly affected by the price, afterwards the choice of products and regionality are strong factors. The consumer behavior also changed from daily to weekly purchase. The weekly purchase also could be a positive influence on the consumers Nutrition and Health because they are better planed.
TEREZA SODAN Entrepreneur, Nutrition, Wellness and Lifestyle Coach, sees her task in the education of the costumer. The consumer behavior changed during the pandemic to a more aware and healthier one an important step which must be supported with coaching. People start with informing about their nutrition when they have a problem, or a target. When they are willing for a change it needs a step-by-step individual solution for every client. The pandemic was such a situation for many people.
BETTY CHANG Research Lead at the European Food Information Council presented some important date for the debate. For example, the European average in consumer behavior is, that 53% are looking for ways to save more money, that is an increase of 12% in relation to last year. 39% switch to less expensive foods to save money which is an increase of 22%. The willing of buying high quality food products decreased by 5% which is a total decrease of 10%. This evolution shows that people are less willing to pay higher prices for a healthier nutrition and even the interest in nutrition decreased by 2%. Also, more and more food banks must refuse applicants, also the type of clients changed to a younger group of people.
After the panel discussion, ROLF VON HOHENAU, President of the European Taxpayer Association awarded Marlene Mortler and Tobias Gotthardt with the Taxpayers Honorary Certificate celebrating their political work for the EU taxpayers.