Given the increasing importance – and complexity – of European policies and legislation and their implications for the potato supply chain, Europatat is closely involved in a number of dossiers which are treated on the level of the European Institutions.
Plant health policy
As a result of Directive 2000/29/EEC, the European plant health policy is one of the major issues for Europatat. Europatat is supporting the free trade of seed and ware potatoes with respect of the plant health legislation, which intents to prevent or eradicate the presence of a number of harmful organisms such as Ralstonia, Clavibacter, Synchitrium, Globodera, Colorado beetle and others.
As a result of this legislation imports from third countries are limited to a number of countries:
- seed potatoes: Switzerland and some provinces from Canada (limited to a number of ports in Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal)
- ware potatoes: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Serbia, Syria, Switzerland, Tunisia and Turkey. (Temporary derogations can be given for other countries)
While exports of seed and ware potatoes are subject to bilateral agreements between the individual EU member states and third countries, Europatat tries to facilitate coordination at EU-level where appropriate.
The European plant health policy is currently undergoing a major review process which will take approximately 5 years. Europatat has contributed to all consultations hold thus far and closely follows the dossier as the legislative process evolves.
Market regime for potatoes
The potato market is one of the few markets for agricultural products which is not covered by an EU market regime. As a result of this, each member state is free to install its own scheme for potatoes, including quality standards, as long as they do not disturb free trade in the EU and no illegal subsidy schemes on member state level are installed.
Europatat has always opposed the enforcement of a European quality standard for early and ware potatoes, as the potato production (related to varieties and growing conditions) and the markets (presentation, packaging, …) are largely differentiated in all EU member states and as the retail sector is defining different quality classes according to the wishes of the consumers.
On the other hand Europatat supports the UN-ECE quality standards for early and ware potatoes as a guideline for minimal standards for early and ware potatoes.
Europe is an importer exporter of seed and consumption potatoes to third countries. Access to these markets is of the highest importance. As long as a global trade agreement by WTO is not achieved, bilateral trade relations between the EU and certain regions or third countries are of high importance. Europatat follows up these negotiations, in particular concerning important markets as the Middle East or North Africa.
Europatat has played an important role in opening the European promotion budget for agricultural products also to the potato sector. This evolution allows national or multinational generic promotion campaigns in and outside the EU to increase the consumption of potatoes to be supported by the European Union. As the framework is being modernised and geared towards export markets, Europatat seeks to ensure further opportunities for the potato sector.
Potatoes are also eligible for protection of quality and origin related properties such as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) which covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), in which case the geographical link must occur in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation.
Growing and storing potatoes is also influenced by the fight against diseases and pests. The policy of the European Commission and the member states to reduce the usage of pesticides where possible is taken serious by the potato sector. Food safety schemes including good agricultural and/or hygienic practices, traceability from the field to the fork, sampling schemes etc. have been installed on national or company level.
Nevertheless the availability of pesticides to grow and store potatoes is of the highest importance to present a quality product to the consumer and to assure the trade position of the European potato sector. To this end Europatat continuously monitors developments regarding the authorisation of plant protection products and corresponding Maximum Residue Levels (MRL).
Sustainable development has rapidly shifted upwards the political agenda, and public authorities are now actively promoting the consumption of ‘green products’. The EU Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production, launched mid-2008 promotes green public procurement and encourages retailers to develop the consumer’s appetite for green products. Acknowledging the scope and complexity of the debate, EU food chain partners, including Europatat, have set up a joint initiative, the Food Chain Sustainable Consumption & Production Roundtable, in order to collectively address the challenges regarding assessment methodologies and communication tools, while also exchanging best practices. A European or even an international approach is a must to avoid the proliferation of solutions and schemes which will ultimately add confusion to and cost to the chain.
Research & development
Europatat tries to takes its responsibility on items/discussions which are related to trade issues or health items. In collaboration with selected scientific institutions and thanks to the support of its sponsors, Europatat has ordered studies such as:
- Potatoes compared to other carbohydrate sources like rice and pasta
- The nutritional properties of starch in potato products: impact on glycaemia and satiety
- Nutrition & health claim opportunities for potatoes
Europatat has been the founder of RUCIP, the rules and usages for inter European potato trade, of which the first version has been created in 1956. This was the start of encoding the usages in the potato trade in a simple and efficient procedure for expertise and arbitration. Since then, RUCIP has several times been modified (in 1972, 1986, 1993, 2000 and 2006), which resulted in a RUCIP which has been adapted to the demands of the trade and the technical evolution within the potato sector. The current version came into force on 1 January 2017.
The redaction of RUCIP and the approval of the lists of arbitrators and experts are in the hands of the RUCIP European Committee with its seat in Paris. This is composed out of Europatat, EUPPA (European potato processors’ association) and Intercoop (European agricultural cooperative structures).