What steps has FIPA taken to foster the competitiveness of the local food industry?
The food and drink industry in Portugal currently sees turnover of about EUR16 billion per year. FIPA represents about 85% of the entire food industry; we have branch associations, large national companies, and multinationals. We are a lobbying organization, and our main goal is to deal with stakeholders in government, non-profit organizations, and other associations. We have several ministries to deal with; in the past, we worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, though now we also work with the ministries of health, economy, environment, and finance on various aspects. Our networking is our greatest asset. We are recognized as the voice of the sector and follow all the developments.
How does FIPA enable the food industry to capture a greater international market share?
There are two major issues for our federation, and one is the competitiveness of our sector. With that in mind, our main pillars are innovation and exports. The global financial crisis hit certain sectors hard, and they realized the only solution was to grow exports. The boom in exports came after 2012, and in the last five years exports have grown by over 10% annually. It is not only about selecting products and exporting them; there are also trade barriers and logistics problems that need to be resolved. To that end, FIPA was extremely engaged in devising a strategy for the food and drink industry in Portugal to boost exports. We are engaged with the national competitiveness cluster that provides all the tools for international fairs, deals with trading issues, and picks our companies in an organized way. Notably, FIPA created what we call technical scientific mediators to create a link between universities and companies to transfer knowledge and solutions.
What are some of the biggest competitive advantages of Portugal's food industry?
Portugal has great raw materials in areas such as vegetables and fruit, for example. We have excellent technology in our factories and modern processes. When we entered the EU, we needed to adapt to new regulations and were behind many countries in Europe. However, today our new factories are world-class in technology. We have great human resources, and our universities offer outstanding education in the food industry and agronomics. As a small country, we have the creativity and know-how to take advantage of excellent raw materials; it is vital to have a great end product.
What are FIPA's top objectives and priorities for 2019?
We are pleased that Portugal is emerging from the crisis and recovering. We are currently dealing with several important issues. We have a major challenge with competitiveness and are working to ensure a more competitive food industry. However, there is instability in policies. For example, fiscal and labor policies are not predictable. If we want to grow with confidence and attract more foreign investment, we need to improve. One of the main challenges for FIPA is asking for more predictable policies. What is important is to be part of the dialogue on nutrition and creating an environment where dialogue can thrive. Our second-biggest challenge is being part of the evolution in society regarding consumer behavior and nutrition. Third, we have to maintain the reputation of FIPA and the industry. Sometimes, a negative perception about us is cultivated by health professionals, nutritionists, doctors, and more recently politicians. The fourth challenged is sustainability. Portugal and Europe as a whole will face more challenges regarding sustainability, packaging, pollution, and waste. We are dealing with the main circular economy, and it is a big challenge for us. We need to know what to do about food waste, packaging materials, logistics circuits, and reducing our carbon footprint. Addressing all these challenges will bring greater competitiveness to our industry.