Operating Environment and Coming Changes

Impact of Global Trade, Population Growth and Climate Change

Globalisation and climate change are generating new risks and increasing the likelihood of certain existing risks within Evira’s operating sector. As free international trade increases, the greatest risks related to animals, new plant species, foodstuffs, products, goods and raw materials in their country of origin are also being realised in Finland. This is compounded by the fact that there can be several countries of origin.

Due to the global nature of the procurement of foods and their raw materials, extensive food poisoning epidemics or chemical contamination of foodstuffs can arise and spread across several nations, requiring advanced international coordination and epidemiological expertise to be investigated. Globalisation also generates important challenges in relation to crime prevention within the food supply chain. Global warming is increasing the risk of animal diseases, plant pests and animal-to-human disease transmission. It is predicted that occurrences of vector-borne diseases and pests will increase in northern Europe. Changes in land use and wild animal populations may also promote the spread of animal diseases and plant pests.

The Finnish population is ageing and this will change the spectrum of foodborne illnesses. Globalisation is changing the population’s eating habits and bringing in new forms of animal husbandry. Tourism and transporting are increasing, which is itself increasing the risk that new animal diseases and plant pests will enter Finland.

Food production consumes natural resources. The world’s growing population will need increasing amounts of food. It is estimated that the global population will grow by two billion by 2050. An ever greater proportion of the population will be lifted out of poverty into the middle classes, which will increase global consumption of high-quality proteins. Use of food-based raw materials as energy sources will reduce their supply. At the same time, significant amounts of food waste are generated by households, retail and the food industry. Waste reduction would save natural resources and restrain climate change.

Structure of the Food Production Chain and Consumer Attitudes

Food can be made from ingredients produced locally, but a significant proportion of current food production chains reaches across several countries. Managing the risks related to food safety and nutrition is more complex in the case of longer food supply chains than shorter and simpler ones. Traceability is therefore particularly important. Consumption of locally produced and organic food is growing. Finnish organic farming is increasing, and organic foods are also being imported.

Consumers value food safety as well as reliability and transparency in the food supply chain. For the consumer, it is important to obtain truthful and straightforward information on the food consumed. Food safety arises from clean raw materials, good hygiene, management of chemical and microbiological risks and high levels of expertise in each of these areas. Consumer confidence can be increased through trustworthy, impartial and open supervision. Some consumers wish to consume products that are aligned with their personal values. In response, the food industry is developing its own social compliance systems based on the needs of different consumer groups.

Many consumers are interested in foods, their production, origins and supervision, as well as in animal welfare and plant health. The need for reliable information is growing as the public debate intensifies. Consumers expect extensive information, as well as swift communications if anything unusual occurs. The new social media are challenging traditional communication methods and encouraging the authorities to engage in new forms of communication and interaction. Stakeholder collaboration and communication are growing in significance.

Agricultural Policy and Structural Changes in Farming

In the new programme period of the EU’s joint agricultural policy, from 2015 market forces will increasingly determine what kinds of agricultural produce and foods are produced. Agricultural policy strives to ensure that factors related to food safety and the environmental and ethical impact of production are in line with the expectations of society and its citizens.

Food safety legislation will be more closely linked to the implementation of shared agricultural policy. Market price fluctuations related to agricultural produce and production activities may quickly transform the profitability of production processes. Some livestock farms are suffering from a decline in profitability. The number of farms will decrease while their average size will grow, with some very large individual farms being established. Farms will increasingly specialise in specific aspects of production and regional concentration will occur, which may challenge animal disease management and animal welfare.

Evira’s Operating Environment

A long period of slow economic growth is forecast for the Finnish economy. In terms of state finances, this means that there will be no increases in the available resources. Evira’s financial circumstances are expected to remain relatively stable. The Finnish government has launched an Effectiveness and Productivity Programme aimed at increasing productivity of public sector based on the available resources.

Although the government is reforming the organisation and funding of its sector research institutions, Evira is expected to remain an independent organisation focused on scientific research and risk assessment related to the food chain, its supervision and the related analyses.

Municipal reform and new arrangements in local government are expected to simplify official supervision structures. Third-party supervision and inspection activities will grow in significance.

Securing food safety will be impossible without close international cooperation. Evira will continue to be part of European Union networks and global cooperation bodies within the sector.