I attended the Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, where I was pleased that Ministers approved new rules for a single EU School Scheme for Milk, Fruit & Vegetables. Child obesity has become a real concern with 1 in 3 children in the EU between the ages of 6 and 9 years old being overweight. This Scheme is an important measure to bring sustained changes in children's eating habits and invest in a healthier lifestyle, in line with the challenges that our society faces these days. The importance of knowing and choosing good, nutritious food is vital for our society's wellbeing. And the Scheme also supports our dairy, fruit and veg sectors.
In addition to the Council, on Tuesday I was in Strasbourg where the European Parliament held a major plenary debate on the ongoing market difficulties in the agri-food sector. This was a frank and productive discussion, in which I robustly defended the actions taken by the Commission to alleviate the crisis over the past two years. We have mobilised more than €1 billion in additional funding to support farmers. And most recently, the proof of our strong commitment to support farmers through this difficult time is the new measure allowing farmers to jointly plan milk production.
From Wednesday, I am continuing my 2016 "Diplomatic Offensive" with visits to Kazakhstan, China and Japan. As European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, it is one of my top priorities to pursue new global markets for our high-quality EU food and drink products. This mission will offer an opportunity to promote EU produce and expand on existing economic and political relations. With over 60 agri-food business representatives from 15 EU Member States accompanying me, we have a great opportunity to highlight the quality and standards of our exports.
In Astana, I met with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Agriculture Minister Asylzhan Mamytbekov to discuss agri-food trade and other issues. I was pleased to see a great selection of European produce on display at local shopping centres and markets in Astana.
Over the next few days, I will be continuing my Mission in China and Japan, where I will have the opportunity to attend a number of promotional events in Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo, as well as meetings with national Ministers and other key stakeholders to develop our agri-food trade relations.
The value of our EU agri-food exports has increased by 70% in the last 5 years - which is faster than overall EU exports. Indeed, our most recent statistics show that exports in February 2016 were worth €10.2 billion, well above export values in January 2016 and even slightly above exports in February 2015.
This mission is part of our ongoing effort to ensure these figures continue to move in the right direction. Export growth has a central role to play in EU economic recovery, and I am convinced that the agri-food sector can be at the heart of this strategy.
With the Kazakhstan Minister of Agriculture Asylzhan Mamytbekov.
Visiting Artyom Market in Astana, Kazakhstan.