Food Processing Industry and Sustainable Consumption in the V4
Climate change and its adverse effects on humans and the environment are some of the most pressing issues we face. The promotion of sustainable consumption is an essential element to ensure climate protection and to foster prosperity. The CEE region has the potential to develop itself to a prominent forerunner in encouraging sustainable consumption behaviour because of its booming Food Processing Industry. In detail, the V4 countries (Slovakia, Czechia, Poland and Hungary) have the flourishing Food Processing Industry that can be sustained by introduction of the sustainable consumption behavior. Sustainable consumer behaviour is the behaviour that tries to satisfy present needs while at the same time attempts to limit the environmental impact. Furthermore, the concept of sustainable consumer behaviour is key to any paradigm shifts in how society approaches environmental problems. Although food security is becoming a concern in affluent states in times of COVID-19, this concern shall not be forgotten when these times are over. Climate change will bring back this very anxiety. A sustainable Food Processing Industry can be a key element in fighting climate change and in stimulating green consumption behaviour. Thus, the establishment of appropriate product regulations based on quality and safety standards, to put in place fiscal policies (such as taxation) that are proportionate to the reduced-risk potential of these products is essential
The Food Processing Industry is one of the most booming industries in Slovakia. The main objectives of Slovak Food Processing are as follow: to modernize the production process, mainly in order to achieve higher productivity of labour and to improve the hygiene of foodstuff production; to increase the competitiveness of the food processing industry. The total revenues of the Slovak Food Processing Industry are EUR 4.4 billion (2019). Moreover, the total number of people employed in food processing companies is 50,500 employees (2019). This represents about 10 % of employees in industries in the Slovak Republic. In other words, 10 % of all employees work in the Food Processing Industry. It is a vital job-making industry that needs special attention by policymakers and entrepreneurs to secure its growth and stability by promoting sustainable consumption behaviour. To secure its position and competitiveness consumer-oriented policies shall be envisaged. These consumer-oriented policies should stimulate the purchase of risk and harm reduction products and services by adjusting the taxation scheme relative to the risk and harm potential. This should allow a stimulus for sustainable consumption behaviour and also enhance the full potential of the Food Processing Industry to fight climate change.
The Food Processing Industry is among the key industries in the Czech Republic and meets around 95% of domestic food consumption. In detail, the meat and dairy industries are among the largest food producers. The importance and potential of the food industry in the Czech Republic are documented by the following 2008 data: its 8.8% share in employment provides approximately 103,000 jobs in the Czech Republic. The food industry, as the fifth most important sector, accounts for 7.9% of the overall sales of the Czech industry with a turnover of EUR 10.08 billion. To maintain the strength of the Food Processing Industry a sustainable consumption behaviour is advisable. However, the share of organic food in overall food consumption in the Czech Republic is 0.55% (for comparison in Austria it amounts to 8%, in Germany 3.5%, in Poland 0.1%). Thus, it is the right time to promote organic food production and consumption by consumer-oriented policies that include subsidies and incentives that support human welfare as well as reduce the environmental impact.
Poland’s Food Processing Industry is the largest in Central and Eastern Europe and the seventh largest in the EU. In 2018, food processing accounted for 7 % of Poland’s Eur 487 billion GDP (2018). The most important segments in value terms were meat, dairy, beverages, confectionery, baking, and processed fruit and vegetables. Approximately, 373,100 thousand persons work in the Food Industry. Poland’s large Food Processing Industry needs, first of all, an awareness-raising campaign about sustainable consumption behaviour. As the share of organic food in overall food consumption in Poland is 0.1%, a consumer-oriented policy will not do the job. The recommendation is to raise awareness about sustainable consumption and what benefits it will have for the Food Processing Industry.
Since 2010 the sector’s output has been steadily on the rise. In 2017, the value of output was up by 4.8 % year-on-year, totaling EUR 9.3 billion which accounts for 10 % of total industrial sector output. A reason for this boom can be that the Hungarian Government has modified its taxation and incentive system related to R&D activities to make Hungary the innovation hub of CEE. This is a strong sign that a consumer-oriented scheme is a benefit for Hungary’s Food Processing Industry. Thus, Hungary is a vivid example of how the Food Processing Industry can be promoted. With the establishment of appropriate product regulations based on quality and safety standards, the Food Processing Industry can be aligned with fiscal policies (such as taxation) that are proportionate to the reduced-risk potential of these products and Hungary will be able to stimulate sustainable consumption.
Former Programme Manager & Research Fellow, Sustainability