“We wish to highlight the importance of classifying insect farming as an ‘essential activity’ by national public authorities. The functioning of innovative food-producing systems, providing high-quality solutions for the food and feed chains, has to remain a priority in times of crisis,” said Antoine Hubert, president of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), the umbrella association of the European insect sector.
The group said the COVID-19 pandemic poses numerous challenges to insect producers in Europe and around the globe. Exclusively composed of SMEs and newly established businesses, the insect sector is facing important disruptions as a consequence of this unprecedented crisis, stressed IPIFF.
It said its 64 members as well as other non-affiliated entities active in insect production activities have noted the negative consequences of strict confinement measures applied by national authorities, which are putting at risk the continuation of production activities in certain companies due to teams active in operational activities being reduced to a minimum.
Other consequences of the outbreak for the insect sector are heavily disrupted supply chains. In several instances, the efforts of operators to assemble new production facilities or to upscale their activities have been hindered, while R&D projects, particularly with R&D laboratories also temporarily closed, have also been stalled, said the umbrella association.
"Although there is general agreement that food production remains an 'essential activity' across the continent - and this was publically announced by EC President, Ursula von der Leyen - our members inform us that the status of insect farming business operators varies across the EU. An explicit reference to 'insect farming' for both food and feed production would be necessary, we believe, to eliminate any possible inconsistency across the EU," a spokesperson for IPIFF told FeedNavigator.
He referred to repercussions from restrictions in place due to the spread of the virus on activities conducted on a local level, but also on businesses located next to borders. "We hear that employees or partners, i.e. researchers, for example who live in the neighboring country of an insect facility, cannot travel, or that the transport of inputs used in insect farming - rearing substrates - is visibly delayed - a major risk for insect populations of our members," he added.
The postponement of private investment financing and public funding initiatives towards the development of the sector is also a concern, given that these funds are now being reallocated to ‘other priorities’ in these times of crisis, said the organization.
Sustainable food models, legislative measures
IPIFF said the European insect sector, although a young industry, intends to contribute proactively towards the transformation of our food supply chains into more sustainable and circular systems. Against this background and in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the group made a series of recommendations to European and national competent authorities.
The group is urging the EU Commission to publish the ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy (F2F) in accordance with the latest agreed timeframe, publication on April 29, 2020.
"We firmly believe that EU discussions on the development of more resilient and sustainable food systems must by no means be delayed. Notably, the directions offered by the much-awaited ‘Farm to Fork’ Communication could be very helpful in identifying preliminary priorities on how to best respond to food security challenges resulting from major crises, such as pandemic events.
“Similarly, key EU policy reforms for the development of our sector - novel food authorizations for insects as food, authorization of insect proteins in poultry and pig feed - should not be delayed either. Notably, these reforms are necessary to unleash the potential of our sector, and thereby bring forward several important solutions envisioned in the F2F ambition towards shorter and more sustainable food supply chains."
The umbrella group is also asking national competent authorities to ensure that insect producers can get full access to national support mechanisms that are open to economic actors active in the food and feed sector such as direct financial support and/or other aid open to food and/or feed sectors - including at fiscal or social level.