ISN Editor Riad Belad Talks to Supermarket CEO on European Food Policies

Interview conducted by Riad Belad, Analyst at ISN Media specializing in the food industry


Riad Belad (RB): Thank you for joining us today. European food policies have been a topic of discussion for quite some time. From your perspective, are these policies too restrictive for African exporters?

Jean Luc La Chapel (JL): Thank you for having me, Riad. Yes, European food policies can indeed be quite restrictive. The stringent regulations, while ensuring high standards for food safety and quality, often pose significant challenges for African exporters. The certification process required to meet these standards is rigorous and can be quite difficult to navigate, especially for smaller producers who may not have the resources to comply with these extensive requirements.

RB: Speaking of certifications, how hard is it for African exporters to obtain the necessary certifications to export their products to Europe?

JL: The certification process is exceptionally challenging. African exporters must adhere to various regulations that cover everything from pesticide use to packaging standards. This often requires substantial investment in technology and training to meet the criteria. Additionally, the process can be lengthy and costly, which can be a deterrent for many potential exporters.

RB: Once they have obtained the necessary certifications, what are the challenges they face in accessing the European distribution network?

JL: Accessing the distribution network is another major hurdle. The European market is highly competitive and dominated by established players with well-oiled supply chains. African exporters often struggle to find reliable distribution partners and to penetrate the market effectively. This is compounded by logistical challenges such as transportation costs and the need for efficient cold chain management to ensure product freshness.

RB: Payment delays have been a common complaint among exporters. How significant is this issue for African exporters working with European supermarkets?

JL: Payment delays are indeed a significant issue. Supermarkets often operate on lengthy payment terms, sometimes taking up to 60 or 90 days to settle invoices. For African exporters, who may already be operating on tight margins, these delays can be detrimental to their cash flow and overall financial health. It is crucial for these exporters to have a strong financial backing or alternative financing options to sustain their operations during these waiting periods.

RB: In summary, what do you think can be done to improve the situation for African exporters looking to enter the European market?

JL: To improve the situation, there needs to be a concerted effort from both sides. European policymakers could consider simplifying certification processes and providing more support to exporters from developing regions. On the other hand, African exporters should seek partnerships with local and international organizations that can help them navigate these complexities. Additionally, developing more robust financial support systems and investing in infrastructure improvements can also make a significant difference.

RB: Thank you for your insights. It’s clear that while there are considerable challenges, there are also opportunities for improvement that could benefit both African exporters and European consumers.

JL: Thank you, Riad. It’s been a pleasure discussing these important issues with you.

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