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di Lorenzo Robustelli
Direttore di Eunews Follow @LRobustelli
Scordamaglia: Agrifood can no longer be the Cinderella of Europe, we are its future

Scordamaglia: Agrifood can no longer be the Cinderella of Europe, we are its future

The Filiera Italia leader explains that "we have large numbers, millions of workers, but the EU must invest in us". And Brexit will be a tragedy for the British, "but it will cost us too"

Brussels – The numbers are excellent, 138 billion European exports “in a world context of slowing down” are enough to describe the European Agrifood sector as a “driving force and a world leader”, but the European Union is always ready to celebrate successes but also to forget its value and needs. Agriculture is no longer simply sweat and effort: it is now high technology, it is grown with satellites, it is sold in quantity because there is a very high quality, but from Brussels there are no positive signs for the future, ready as they are to charge this sector the price of international agreements and investments for other productions.

Luigi Scordamaglia is one of the “gurus” of the European Agrifood system, for years president of Federalimentare and now coordinator of Filiera Italia, the organization that brings together Coldiretti, Conad and over 50 brands of agri-food Made in Italy, and promotes the development of the whole chain, from the fields to the supermarkets, to the European (and mostly Italian) delicatessen stores scattered throughout the whole world. He talks about the situation in this interview, granted during a brief stay in Italy, between a trip to Congo and one in Russia to promote the European product.

“The latest data on the sector, released by the European Commission, are very positive, but beyond the celebrations of Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, the strategic importance of the sector is almost always forgetten”.

Eunews – You are not satisfied about the management of the Mercosur commercial agreement…

agricoltura, export, Italia, igp, qualità
Luigi Scordamaglia

Scordamaglia – “Unfortunately Mercosur is the best demonstration that if you have to sacrifice something on the altar of an international agreement, it is agribusiness, usually in favor of the automotive industry. But it is a wrong approach, and this is demonstrated by the strong hostility to this agreement, even in the European Parliament. You can’t celebrate the agribusiness to show a medal and then be ready to sell it at sale price when needed. And then let’s say: on social and environmental dumping, on security, we cannot negotiate. We represent 7.5 million employees, we employ 44 million families and we need attention and investments, we cannot do as the automotive sector does, moving companies and production where it is fiscally more convenient ”.

E. – Would you rather prefer a helping hand instead of compliments?

Scordamaglia – “We can’t do it alone. The weak piece of the chain, the agricultural part, can continue to make sacrifices thanks to a strong rooting, but if you ask too much at the end it closes. See for example the stables: animal husbandry has also fallen due to short-sighted choices, if a stable closes it does not reopen anymore, and closes with it all the supply chain ad the other economic linked activities, because a breeding has a very high multiplier effect: machines, fertilizers, logistics … there is no way you can do it yourself, also because on the one hand you boast and say that our standards of quality, safety, environmental protection, workers’ rights are the highest in the world, but then you question the Common Agricultural Policy by saying that it is an ancient system. But this is not the case: apart from indirect but fundamental effects such as combating hydrogeological disasters, avoiding depopulation of the countryside, guaranteeing food quality and safety, as well as work and wealth “.

E. – Instead, according to you, how much is the sector ‘modern’, how much is there in innovation and what to support it?

S. – “We need innovation in spending. The phases are not unrelated, being in the supply chain is a prerequisite for accessing the CAP, how to make innovation is essential to access financing for investments. Take for example the “precision farming”: we made an agreement with Leonardo for the use of satellites for agricultural purposes, because the more technology is pushed the more you yield, reducing the resources used. With the new technologies you can manage at their best every ten square meters of land, reducing the use of fertilizers and even the more precious water. This must also be finance with the CAP, it is the global model of sustainable agriculture but also a healthy dietary model. Instead, there is now a polarization in the debate between those who aim to deliver to a few companies that are pharmaceutical production, or who, as Europe shows, maintains that 44 million families produce better than “synthesis multinationals”. “

E. – In short, you ask for economic aid …

S. – “It is not pure welfare, but it is competitiveness. The food industry must not run after market moment but must aim at long-term commitment, and here everyone’s participation, at every level, even institutional, is needed. Many things have gone wrong in recent years, such as ‘rural development’ (to keep workers in the countryside) because here too there has been a polarization in choices: either direct aid (set aside, pay not to produce) or rural development, then policies for which environmental protection seemed an alternative to production. This cannot work and indeed did not work. Rural development and high quality production must progress in parallel. We must have a supply chain that is efficient in every point, from natural parks to research and distribution. We are not a machine that consumes community resources, we are instead a modern system in which you have to invest in money and policies. Competitiveness and sustainability represent the future over 360 degrees. It is necessary to move on to have an innovative and non-archaic image of this sector “.

E. – The topic of the day, in addition to the questions on what the new European Commission policies will be, is Brexit. Is the problem only in selling less ‘bubbles’ in London?

S. – “When we talk about Brexit I hear, rightly, speaking about the”rights of citizens” as a first priority, well, with the separation, especially if it will be without an agreement, the worst effect in nutritional terms is for British citizens. A 20 percent increase in the price of basic foodstuffs is calculated in a country that is 50% dependent on the import of food products. This increase in prices leads to an important qualitative decline that will make the obesity index worse in a country that already has the European record. It will be a masochistic choice for them, especially if they choose the no deal option. British retailers are famous for selling lower quality products, using tools such as the ‘Food Semaphore’ that penalizes natural productions to the advantage of chemical ones, and they are waiting for that. The problem concerns salami, cheeses, of the whole range. The Italian products, being of quality, will have a more serious fall than others ”.

E. – If instead we will have an ordered Brexit, with an agreement?

S. – We hope so. Also because there are policies, like the chlorination of chickens, that we have never seen with sympathy, of which they were the paladins. As soon as they free themselves, as some say, from the “European bite” they will adopt rules that will worsen the sanitary standards of the products. If they want to eat that, their choice, but if there is an interchange we risk lower standards for ourselves too, and it is worrying. “