MESSAGE FROM THE LEAD PARTNER
The food and drink sector is the biggest employer in the EU and the largest sector in manufacturing while 99% (285,000 businesses) of the companies are SMEs accounting for 62,8% of the total employment in the sector but only 48,1% of the value added and 49,4% of the total turnover.
Our goal was to support the sector through the improvement of public policies. SMEs are not only a key element in employment, but also the backbone of society, moreover they have a key role to play in the uptake of short supply chains. Not all are ready for the challenges set up in today’s environment.
We witnessed two very serious crises during the lifetime of the project. First came the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanks to the flexibility of the Interreg Europe the partnership had the chance to address this issue to some extent. We have learned that countries responded in a vastly different manner, but the spotlight definitely shifted to local products. That is also definitely the case with the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.
Therefore, our mission is more important than ever. While maintaining the supply chains as they are, we have to focus on strengthening food companies at a local level. While short supply chains do not lean so heavily on international trade, exchange of experience and sharing Good Practices across borders certainly support local companies in improving their businesses.
We have discussed local products reaching local, national and international markets, companies investing in new machinery and finally, how to increase productivity. Capitalizing on several different methods for understanding the current situation, we understood that SMEs go through a similar set of challenges which will be explained in the following sections.
The Interreg Europe Programme offers a great deal of tools providing opportunities to exchange experience, grow interregional networks and learn from other projects and Good Practices. The learning events, policy brief and other additional services prepared by the Policy Learning Platform greatly helped us in this endeavour, and we can only hope that our findings can reach other who might find them useful.
Good Practices offering solutions to certain issues or presenting something done well might help others seeking to solve their headaches as well. We have built on the results of the projects ourselves, which also will be discussed, so you, the reader will be able to learn more about how to exploit our results yourself.
Tolna County Development Agency Nonprofit Ltd.