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Publication | 16 June 2021

Preliminary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on European agriculture: a sector-based analysis of food systems and market resilience

Global Food and Nutrition Security
  • Overall, during the pandemic, the EU agri-food supply chain has demonstrated a high degree of resilience. The value of the output of the agricultural industry declined by 1.4% in 2020 compared to 2019, although, when compared to the 2015-2019 average, it grew by 2.9%. Nonetheless, sectors highly dependent on the food service (e.g. wine, beef and veal) have faced major difficulties. Flowers and plants and sugar have also suffered considerable financial losses.
  • The EU response was highly effective in preserving the integrity of the Single market. Conversely, measures adopted under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) had mixed results having been implemented partially or inconsistently across Member States (MSs).
  • The costs of the crisis for the EU agri-food sector will be borne primarily by MSs. National financial support – namely in the form of State aids (estimated 9 billion EUR) and other instruments – has been significantly higher than EU support (80 million EUR in private storage aids).
  • To better respond to future crises, policy responses should be designed following a ‘food systems approach’. Moreover, the reasons behind the limited impact of CAP measures during the pandemic should be better investigated. Consideration should also be given to the decoupling of the CAP crisis reserve from farmers’ direct payments to reinforce EU financial capacity during crises. Finally, because of the economic consequences of the pandemic, food assistance programmes for the most deprived are needed.