Data on growth released today from the CIAA - (Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU) - shows a 1.8 per cent rise in production volume, dropping to 0.3 per cent for the first semester of 2003.
Exports of food products continued to grow in 2002, rising by 3 per cent, although considerably less than the 5 per cent growth recorded in 2002.
Despite the general belief that we are heading towards increasing consolidation in the industry - across the board from farm to retailer - the CIAAreport highlights the fact that the European food and drink industry appears to still be diversified and fragmented. More than 90 per cent of food enterprises are small and medium size companies, accountingfor almost the half of the turnover - estimated production value of €600 billion - and two-thirds of jobs.
The CIAA also analysed the production specialisation of the various European Member States. The report reveals, for example, that France produces more that 20 per cent of European processed meat and that Germany is the largest processor of fruits and vegetables.
Taking a look at household expenses, the CIAA data found that although food expenses were traditionally the most important item on the households' budget, before being progressively replaced by housing and transport expenses, in candidate countries this evolution has not yet occured. While food expenses represent 12 per cent of the budget in the EU, in the future Member States this figure comes in at nearly double the size - 22 per cent.
"Statistics are playing a key role in the elaboration and the implementation of European policies. This publication illustrates the CIAA efforts to contribute to a better knowledge of the European food and drink industry and its challenges among EU decision makers," said Raymond Destin director general of the CIAA.
With 26, 000 companies employing close to 3 million people, it is essential that a clear picture of the general health of the industry is understood - both for industry players and politicians - in order to pinpoint, early on, signs of weakness, room for improvementand strategies to help the industries.
The food and drink industry uses 70 per cent of Community agricultural products and at €45 billion is the second global exporter of foodstuffs.