The EC has approved measures designed to promote food products in countries outside the EU in order to counter growing concern over global competition.
Member States have submitted 12 promotion and information programmes to the Commission to be examined. The eight programmes that have been accepted are targeted at the USA, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Norway and Switzerland.
The products covered are wine, cheese, fruit, olives and quality products. The estimated expenditure for the EU is 8.2 million (50 per cent of the budget of the programmes).
Europe's food and drink sector has felt in danger of losing its competitiveness for some time. The Confederation of Food and Drink Industries in the EU (CIAA) has voiced the opinion in recent months that the industry needs more help from the European Commission if it is to face the increasing competition from Asia, South America and the US.
As a result the further promotion of EU food products will likely be welcomed by the food industry, though criticism over European bureaucracy remains a recurrent theme.
Horacio Gonzalez, director of international relations at FIAB, the Spanish Food and Drink Federation, told FoodNavigator.com last year that crippling bureaucracy meant that good initiatives were often in danger of losing momentum.
But the EC is confident that these programmes will impact positively on the EU food and drink industry.
"Improving the competitiveness of EU quality products on markets outside the EU is a major challenge," said agriculture and rural development commissioner Fischer Boel.
"By investing in promotion and information campaigns for our agricultural products outside the EU, the European Union is showing its determination to take up this challenge."
The EU can fund (to a maximum of 50 per cent) measures in third countries that provide information on, or promote, agricultural products and food products. These measures can be public relations, promotional or publicity measures, in particular highlighting the advantages of EU products, especially in terms of quality, hygiene, food safety, nutrition, labelling, animal welfare or environment-friendliness.
These measures can amongst others also cover participation at events and fairs, information campaigns on the EU system of protected designations of origin (PDOs), protected geographical indications (PGIs) and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSGs) and of organic farming.
Also possible are information campaigns on the EU system of quality wines produced in specified regions (QWPSR) and studies of new markets.
Detailed rules for applying the promotion and information measures are laid down by a Commission Regulation (EC) No 1346/2005 of 16 August 2005. Not later than 30 June each year Member States have to send to the Commission the list of programmes they have selected and a copy of each programme.
Subsequently the Commission evaluates the programmes and decides on their eligibility. In 2005, programmes can exceptionally also be presented by 15 December. The Commission Regulation also lists the third-country markets where promotion measures can be carried out and the products, which can be covered by these promotion measures.