Early in the week, I was in Naples and Sicily, where the focus was very much on European Quality Products and Mediterranean food products. What's always interesting about visiting southern Europe is the attachment that people have to local, quality food products and the extent to which food and food production is as much a cultural and social aspect of life as it is an economic issue.
While visiting Naples and the neighbouring city of Caserta, I participated in a conference, hosted by Nicola Caputo MEP, a key member of COMAGRI. One of my key points was to emphasise that "it is only by maintaining this emphasis on quality that we can maintain our advantage as the world's leading agricultural exporter." I was anxious also to reassure the large audience that "ambitiously pursuing new markets for your high-quality produce remains one of my top priorities." Put simply, in terms of trade policy, "we must continue to pursue new markets on the one hand, and guarantee the protection of high value EU products around the world on the other."
I had the opportunity to visit a farm in Campania which produces milk for the production of Buffalo Mozzarella, which is exported throughout the world.
I also visited Sicily, where I participated in a conference on "Policies for Agriculture in Southern Europe", hosted by Giovanni La Via MEP. Giovanni is chair of COMENVI and was a rapporteur on one of the CAP regulations during the last CAP Reform.
Italy is very much 'top of the class' when it comes to recognising the value of quality products. It boasts the highest number of registered origin products of all EU Member States - 284 food products, 603 wines and 37 spirit drinks. It is for this very reason that the EU has placed such a priority on the protection of our quality designations (PGIs, PDOs etc) in our international trade negotiations. Their value is increasingly recognised by producers and there is hardly a week that goes by when we don't see a new GI product being added to the Register.
Indeed, I had the great pleasure to present a GI Certificate to the producers of the latest product to achieve such status, in this case a Sicilian olive oil.
I have consistently stressed the importance of identifying and pursuing new market opportunities and my week ended with a very practical demonstration of that when I visited Rotterdam port, in the company of the Dutch Minister for Agriculture, Martijn Van Dam. I was there to witness the resumption of the export of veal from The Netherlands to the United States and to see shipments of meat to China and the US. The symbolism of today's shipment is shown in the fact that Rotterdam is the world's no 1 port for shipments of agrifood, reflecting the EU's position as the no 1 global agrifood exporter.