Producer organisations (POs) play a crucial role in sustaining and fostering growth in the fruit and vegetables sector in the European Union. This is done, among other things, through channelling the EU financial support for the sector. This is one of the conclusions of the synthesis study of national strategies for sustainable operational programmes in the fruit and vegetables sector for the period 2013-18, published today by the European Commission.
In general, operational programmes implemented by producer organisations have proved to be successful in improving attractiveness of POs membership, promoting concentration of supply and placing on the market, boosting the commercial value of products, as well as ensuring that production is adjusted to demand.
The data collected also shows that operational programmes have had a positive impact on the sector when it comes to improving competitiveness, protecting and maintaining the environment, and preventing and managing crises, reinforcing other policies pursuing similar objectives like rural development measures. In particular, the stakeholders mentioned the positive opportunities that arise from being member of a PO, including:
- an assumed overall better market position: In general, marketing by producer organisations accounts for about half of the value of the country's total production of fruit and vegetables;
- improved access to harvesting and processing machinery;
- financial advantages and co-investments;
- knowledge exchange and technical assistance;
- better access to crop insurance;
- access to measures that ensure product quality or certification; and
- increased resilience to shocks (including price stability) and, to some extent, general structural trends, due to the community approach.
About 18 to 21% of the total expenditure for the 2013-18 period also concerned measures with environmental objectives. Integrated production, which has a positive impact on water and soil quality, represented for example the largest share of the environmental expenditures (accounting for 37% of total expenditure in 2018). Other measures contributed to preserving habitats relevant for biodiversity and to protecting the soil. A large part of environmental actions are directly related to production, while energy saving and efficiency measures are particularly targeted at transport, and waste reduction measures at marketing.
To help producers undergoing difficulties or even crisis, the two most used instruments were market withdrawal and harvest insurance. Marketing, promotion and communication activities can also be used for the purpose of crisis prevention and management but have been mobilised to a lesser extent. The situation remains contrasted across EU countries though.
In 2020, there were 1 603 producer organisations and 31 transnational producer organisations in the fruit and vegetables sector in the EU27. The highest number of recognised producer organisations in this sector are located in Spain (527), Italy (289), France (220), Poland (196) and Greece (128).
Today’s report covers the period 2013-2018 and includes 19 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden. In these 19 countries, the expenditure for all producer organisations, transnational producer organisations, associations of producer organisations, and transnational associations of producer organisations amounted to €1 574 E million in 2018, with Spain and Italy having the largest share of expenditure with € 489.4 million and €489.3 million, respectively.
In terms of overall expenditures, data show an increasing trend for the support provided to the fruit and vegetables sector in the EU between 2013 and 2018. The total expenditures made by the EU countries in the context of national strategies increased by 20% in the period covered by this study. Recognised producer organisations can set up an operational fund to finance their operational programme. The EU financial assistance is generally limited to 50% of the total operational fund though may be increased to 60% in specific cases. In order to facilitate funding support to producer organisations, a national strategy for sustainable operational programmes in the fruit and vegetables sector are developed and evaluated on a regular basis by Member States.
In relation to the expenditure registered under single measures over the entire period, the largest shares were made for measures supporting:
- the planning of production with €345.9 million in 2013 and €417.7 million in 2018
- the improvement of product quality with €369.7 million in 2013 and €394.3 million in 2018.
Once per programming period, Member States in which operational programmes are carried out are required to monitor and evaluate them to assess the progress towards set objectives of the national strategies.