Consumers need to know what they are eating

huhHis successor and party colleague Jo Brouns are on the same page. For Minister Brouns, ‘food literacy’ is not just about having the right knowledge and skills so that we can eat healthier. It also concerns the perception and sight of food.

Project watcometopjebord.be

According to the Minister, after an entire public debate on food information and waste, ‘food competence’ should be included in the teaching at the earliest possible time.

He refers to specific projects such as the ‘watkomeneropjebord.be’ project, which was launched by the Flemish Center for Agricultural and Fisheries Marketing (VLAM) in the second and third grades of primary school. Students go on a journey of discovery about local and seasonal food.

Dairy ambassadors

For some products, VLAM goes a step further. Potato growers receive materials and gadgets when they receive schools. The dairy sector within VLAM has set up an extensive ambassador network.

VLAM also focuses on hospitality education. Parents, educators and health professionals are supported. It’s a whole package of initiatives around food competence, around our awareness of the importance of healthy food.

In this way, people – says Minister Brouns – learn to handle the social context around our food and the information about it in the right way.

“It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to introduce this to our young people as early as possible,” the minister said.

To cooperate

The co-operative idea is also gaining more interest in agriculture. Several interpellants argued in the Agriculture Committee that partnerships can ensure upscaling without putting extra pressure on the individual farmer. Cooperatives increase professionalism and usually also focus on marketing and increased accessibility for consumers. This benefits the well-being of the farmer.

Member of Parliament Chris Steenwegen (Green) notes that the current scheme to support agricultural cooperatives through the Flemish Agricultural Investment Fund (VLIF) is fully aimed at traditional cooperatives working within a vertical column of similar agricultural or horticultural products. There are requirements that are not in line with some new forms of collaboration.

Newer cooperatives, for example, do not only consist of farmers. They are complemented by other stakeholders such as hub managers and sympathizers and consumers. As a result, these cooperatives are almost never eligible for VLIF support.

Farmers first

Minister Brouns agrees that a number of restrictions have recently been imposed on VLIF support.

Within the framework of the CAP’s call for projects for cooperation, the presence of farmers is always crucial. The Minister of Agriculture believes that both formal and informal forms of co-operation can be supported through a co-operation agreement. For him, this does not have to be put in the legal-corporate context. There must be a co-operation agreement to also enable co-operation projects in the short chain, and this in close co-operation with the farmers.

A thousand peasants

Ludwig Vandehove (Vooruit) asked the new Minister of Agriculture if he shares his predecessor’s ambition to attract 1000 extra farmers within the short chain by 2027.

If it stands to Brouns, it should be possible to encourage 1 in 5 farmers in the next 5 years to develop towards a professionalisation of the short chain.

He lists a number of reasons that justify this ambition. It is a win-win situation for both the farmer and the population. Then you can buy locally. Brouns is already a believer and convinced of its added value as an element in the operational management of the farm.

Through VLAM, efforts will be made to promote short-chain farmers to address consumers. For this, the website https://www.rechtvanbijdeboer.be will be reworked.

With the effort ‘Start-up or transition to a future sustainable business strategy on an agricultural farm’, Minister Brouns aims to provide one-off support to companies that want to change their business model.

He also notes that the importance of local products continues to receive increasing attention from local authorities and organizations. Sales of local products on the farm are on the rise and not everyone can help but be satisfied.

Fons Jacobs

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