SENIOR agriculture officials and consultants from Europe say a push for shorter, more local food supply chains has been one of the key outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic in their countries.
The sentiment feeds into longer-term European Commission strategies, such as Farm to Fork, which advocate raising the sustainability standards of European Union food production systems and imposing those same standards on other countries exporting food to the bloc, they say.
It's something those looking to trade with the EU in the agriculture and food space should be watching very carefully, they advise.
With the next round of EU-Australian Free Trade Agreement negotiations due later this month, Meat & Livestock Australia's On the Ground podcast recently hosted Andreas Schneider, policy advisor in the Cabinet of EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojchiechowski and George Lyon, a consultant at international public affairs and communications firm Hume Brophy. Mr Lyon was a United Kingdom Liberal Democrat MEP for five years and an influential member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee.
Mr Schneider said one of the initial biggest problems in Europe when coronavirus first emerged was moving product across borders but 'green lanes' were quickly set up to facilitate the transport of agriculture products.
"Then seasonal workers became an issue - a lot of people from Eastern Europe come to places like France and Germany for picking and harvesting," he said.
"In hindsight, the ag sector has done pretty well however. Hardest hit were the flower and wine sector.
"We imported less and exported less but the balance was the same."
Mr Lyon said agri food supply chains stood up very well in what were challenging times.
He said for the red meat sector, the biggest challenge was consumer changes - people not eating out had a big impact on steak sales, for example.
The general sentiment in Europe was that trade with Australia was looked upon as a positive - we were not seen as a great threat to EU food production, he reported.
The main area Australia needed to be watching was to see if the imposition of sustainability credentials materialised.
Mr Schneider agreed, however he said there could be opportunity for Australia as well as challenges.
"Perhaps next year the Commission may come forward with a methane strategy and all those strategies add up and it gets more difficult for some livestock producers to continue," he said.
"Maybe the Farm to Fork and biodiversity strategies could mean the end of livestock production in Europe as we know it in the longer term and that would give a lot of other countries a huge advantage, not only Australia but maybe Ukraine."
The story EU's local and sustainable push something for red meat to watch first appeared on Farm Online.