What is ahead of us?
Marcelline: In light of the Farm to Fork strategy (currently postponed), producers have to adjust although smaller farms feel confident about the next few months, larger ones fear the lack of (foreign) labour force, for example usually hired for planting asparagus or strawberries. Attempts have been made to legalise illegal immigrants (in Spain and Italy), yet, with no success.
COVID-19 does not affect negatively nature related to our food system. It affects people and the economy. Nothing will be the same after the lock-down. Yet, the food system cannot change over a day. The postponing of the Farm to Fork Strategy shows the delays in the strategic levels. As such, it is crucial, more than ever, that we plan and implement the transition now, for it to be effective as soon as possible.
Igor: In Slovenia we have the problem that we are not self-sufficient in some areas of food production, for example for food and vegetables we are only 50% self-sufficient, which means we are dependent on imports. This might be a challenge in the near future because of the closing borders. Therefore, under current conditions the local food producers are being supported and the City has published a list of the local farms so people can get in contact with them to buy the food directly or by using the Inno-Rural app developed within the Urban Soil 4 Food project. So some good is coming out, as this allows to reduce the damage for farmers. They, for the moment, are not facing problems for the labour, as in Slovenia we are less dependent on foreign workers than Italy, for example. Many people are relying on community gardens, which is not only a healthy option, but especially allows the less wealthy ones to access affordable and healthy food.
It’s hard to imagine how COVID-19 will affect our food production and distribution systems in the long run, yet we can draw some learning points.
- We need to ensure food sovereignty and therefore that we are able to produce our own food, as much as possible;
- It is essential to ensure fair labour conditions to workers in farms to those planting and picking our food;
- This is the opportunity to establish and innovate our public food policy, connecting producers and consumers through a publicly owned infrastructure of farms, distribution firms, markets, etc;
- We need to ensure access to healthy food also to poorer citizens, this can be supported through vouchers but also by establishing public community gardens;
- The rise of food delivery offers the opportunity for restaurants and delivery people, together with consumers, to cluster their requests and ensure fair working conditions and share of the profit from delivery food firms, such as Deliveroo or Just Eat.
Marcelline Bonneau would like to thank the many people who shared their insights in preparation for this discussion: Alicia Pereira Pimentel – Molleke – and Quentin Verstappen – Almata – in Belgium, Cécile Grigoryev – farmer – and Thibaud Lalanne – BioCanteens – in France, Albert Garcia Macian – Mollet de Vallès – in Spain.