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Opinion: "Agri-food sector, something more than 'ora et labora'"

Our strategic agri-food sector is suffering very directly from the changes and alterations in the markets, generated by a whole host of circumstances, variables, situations and both macro and microeconomic actions that substantially modify the usual parameters of its operation.

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Opinion: "Agri-food sector, something more than 'ora et labora'"

Our strategic agri-food sector is suffering very directly from the changes and alterations in the markets, generated by a whole host of circumstances, variables, situations and both macro and microeconomic actions that substantially modify the usual parameters of its operation. The enormous rise in energy costs, raw materials and difficulties in logistics are leading to a clear downward adjustment in profitability, causing companies to automatically review their budgets and therefore their income statements creating a clear position of weakness.

Along with this, the reaction of the population has not been long in coming. This fine rain called inflation, which drains the "pockets" and savings, encourages the generation of extreme polarization in consumers, having an immediate effect on the gain in participation of private label brands. Translation is a logical and objective movement in search of more basic and cheaper products that constitute the shopping basket in view of the substantial reduction in disposable income for it.

A complex overview at its various levels and indicators that is not only given by the current situation, since in 2021 warnings and alarms began to be generated that the operating conditions could "get out of control" and fully affect our scandals. productive and commercial with inputs that were suffering from harsh speculative actions, placing the system in a clear weakness against any external action. Geopolitics has acted as a powerful triggering or accelerating external factor since it has taken as one of its variables the production of food or inputs of its value chain, adding to the expressed effect.

The weather, that great uncontrolled factor capable of the best and the worst in our agri-food, is not helping us either. In my land, Lleida, the stone fruit campaign can be considered lost. In the south, the rains (so desired) have been excessive and have acted against. So we will have a clear reduction in production and again tensions in prices.

The latest data regarding the balance and cereal harvest predict drops of close to 20%, which is added to the blockade of exports by sea as a result of the war conflict and here we do touch and affect the basic diet of many people and populations such as those implanted in the Sahel area. Areas highly dependent on imports, generating as immediate effects, hunger among its inhabitants, which will result in revolts, migrations that will lead to clear social instability.

In addition, it is necessary to add the effects that are already being predicted from the laws and draft laws (Waste, Packaging, Food Chain...) or the objectives established within the SDG concept in the 2030 agenda and sustainability. Undoubtedly, to one degree or another they will affect, directly or indirectly, the practices of the sector, its costs and the resources that must be implemented to be and comply with what is competent.

This great totum revolutum of temporary, regular, repeated, surmountable and largely endemic factors typical of the great complexity of our agri-food ecosystem (on too many occasions with components with conflicting interests and with a clear lack of unity of criteria); generates immediate reactions tending to review the terms and policies derived from the Green Deal/Farm to Fork. The EU's key strategy for its competitiveness in global agri-food, to which are added certain specific aspects, expressed and not specified, of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or totems and barriers based on health or genetic issues that together generate uncertainty and some lack of leadership and decision.

All of this is the result of a short-term vision (medium/high lights must be used), obviously the design and application of exceptional contingency plans is necessary in certain cases. Although it should not be an excuse to open doubts or alternatives on the horizon that move us away from the defined strategic lines based on sustainability as a competitiveness strategy within an agri-food business model that is productive, supply and trade really flexible and adaptable to the circumstances of the market or the situation of the environment, being clear that our consumer is the final reference as the origin of the needs and the final recipient of our products. That is the key to our complex agri-food system.

Agri-food has always been and is more likely to be addicted to the ora et labora that evoked the monastic life of the Benedictines locked up in our limits, without giving the option of collaboration and transversality in our system of the different links of the value chain . Doing and working has been our motto, although it is necessary to complement it with other aspects and that is where the need arises to communicate what we decide, do or plan. The agri-food sector must implement actions that allow it to position itself within the decision-making centers of our politics and society and give broad visibility to its operating dynamics, its direct involvement in social return projects and the daily efforts made to deliver food in perfect conditions to our tables (minimum three times a day).

We need to open our sights and continue with those changes that the pandemic generated for us towards projects with a medium-long-term vision, with innovation as a factor of change and technology/digitalization as a key tool for the transformation towards productive/manufacturing units and more flexible and dynamic marketing. A very high-impact measure is the incorporation into the system of the broad agro/foodtech spectrum, a facilitator of development and modernization with agile and applicable dynamics, together with the necessary talent to allow responding to current and future trends and consumption habits in the necessary deadlines.

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