Interview With Commissioner Wojciechowski On The Occasion of The European Union Pavilion At SIAL 2023 And Vinexpo


Interview with Commissioner Wojciechowski on the occasion of the European Union Pavilion at SIAL 2023 and Vinexpo

Q1: Following the conclusion of SIAL 2023, what were the standout features of the EU Pavilion, and how did it contribute to showcasing the excellence of European agri-food products?

The EU pavilion hosted interactive sessions that included product tastings, workshops, and live cooking shows with renowned Indian Chefs Guntas Sethi and Ajay Chopra. Attendees had the opportunity to experience top-quality EU ingredients used in typically European recipes, as well as innovative recipes pairing EU products with ingredients from India. Over 50 EU business delegates attended the show, providing a tangible business angle.

Q2: During the various informative sessions and cooking shows, we observed that the EU placed a strong emphasis on the safety, quality, authenticity, and sustainability of its agricultural products. Considering this, how does the EU continue to ensure that its products maintain their overall quality, authenticity, and reliability?”

The EU upholds rigorous safety and quality standards throughout the entire food supply chain, encompassing controls from farm-to-fork, elevated production standards, traceability of products and ingredients, world-leading animal welfare rules and adherence to labelling regulations. Animal and plant health regulations ensure the safety of agricultural production and allow for regionalization in the event of disease outbreaks. Our commitment to quality extends to schemes like geographical indications (Protected Designation of Origin - PDO, Protected Geographical Indication - PGI). Furthermore, the EU is actively promoting sustainable agricultural practices in alignment with the European Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. 

Q3: The EU's commitment to sustainability is evident. Could you provide examples of sustainable practices or initiatives within the EU's agri-food industry that have resonated with Indian consumers and businesses?

The EU is definitely engaged in the transition towards a more sustainable food system, that embraces all the steps of the agri-food chain, from production of food to the marketplace. The guiding principles have been enshrined in the EU’s “Farm to Fork Strategy” and incorporated into the EU countries’ respective agricultural plans. The EU farmers get public income support provided they respect practices which are good for the protection of natural resources, biodiversity, climate, and animal welfare.  The farmers are also incentivised to go beyond these standards and adopt even more ambitious, sustainable, ways of producing. This has to do for instance with the limitation of use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, antimicrobials for farmed animals, and the development of organic farming. Indian consumers and businesses are more and more in demand not only for high quality products but also for “greener” products that are free from additives or chemical residues.

Q4: B2B matchmaking sessions were a significant part of the EU's engagement at SIAL. Could you elaborate on the outcomes of these sessions and how they contribute to fostering collaborations between EU businesses and Indian buyers, retailers, and distributors?

The B2B matchmaking sessions were a significant and integral part of the EU's engagement at SIAL. The EU Pavilion, hosting a delegation of over 50+ EU company representatives from diverse food and drink sectors, played a crucial role in creating excellent matchmaking opportunities for Indian buyers, retailers, and distributors.

The outcomes of these matchmaking sessions were multi-faceted. They resulted in the establishment of new business partnerships that are mutually beneficial for both EU companies and their Indian counterparts. The direct interactions during the sessions contributed to a better understanding of the specific needs and preferences of the Indian market.

During the delegation’s visit to India, 250 B2B meetings were held with 150 Indian companies.

Q5: Following SIAL, what strategies does the EU plan to implement to overcome challenges related to entering the Indian market?

Entering the Indian market is not an easy ride for several EU products competing with local production. The efforts of the EU agri-food businesses in promoting the excellency of their products will have to continue after the High-Level Mission. From Commission’s side we can explore using different promotion tools as a follow up to SIAL (e.g. promotion campaigns and seminars, presence at international food fairs, etc).

All things considered, EU agri-food products are not competing for market access in India directly with Indian foods. The EU and Indian producers are rather working to divide an ever-larger pie of growing consumer base in India, something which was made evident by the sales pitches and expert testimonies given at this year’s SIAL and Vinexpo fairs. While the EU itself imports Indian tea, spices and even fruit, Indian consumers are increasingly interested in high quality European items such as cheeses, chocolates and wines. In fact, according to the European Commission’s survey, half of Indian consumers already purchase agri-food products from the EU at least several times each month. Imports from the EU are therefore providing a greater choice for Indian consumers, as much as Indian products help achieve the same in the EU.

To this end, the EU administration and Member States will jointly continue reaching out the Indian authorities with a view to facilitate access to the Indian market, easing procedures and lifting non-tariff trade barriers. Last but not least, the EU and India are engaged in negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement which should dismantle tariffs in a significant manner, paving the way for increased agri-food exchanges.