Yves Somville: Lessons from the crisis

As someone living in the countryside and mad about gardening, I have to confess that I have not suffered unduly from the lockdown, apart from no longer being able to see family and friends.

Personally, I would draw three lessons from this crisis. First of all, while the EU did eventually come up with budget measures to help the recovery, it was regrettable that there was a lack of consultation between the Member States on providing health equipment at the peak of the crisis, or on measures to be taken when easing the lockdown. A more joined-up approach would have shown the public the value of the EU.

The second lesson, based on what I experienced in my own country, is this: what I shall take from all this, rather than the manifest failure of some of those in charge of tackling the crisis in terms of communication and the provision of protective equipment, is the dedication throughout the emergency of large numbers of people – in the health sector, of course, but also elsewhere. In fact, it is the public services, much maligned by some on occasions, that have enabled the whole of our society to get through this crisis – not to mention the many manifestations of solidarity from the public itself.

Finally, the third lesson, to my mind, is the fortitude and discipline that people are capable of when necessary. Of course, in this case it was health that was at stake, facing a little-understood virus for which there is no cure.

If there is one thing I would wish for, it would be that, just as we listened to the experts in tackling this health crisis, we would similarly follow what climate scientists and other experts have to say in managing the climate transition as we embark upon the recovery. 

In agriculture, while there were good conditions for work in spring, the lockdown and the closing of businesses and the hospitality sector led to a slump in demand, squeezing the prices of some dairy products, such as milk, pigs, certain categories of livestock and, for Belgium in particular, potatoes as a result of the closure of processing plants – big exporters in normal times.

Horticulture has also suffered terribly not just from the lockdown but from the shortage of seasonal labour for fruit picking. However, farmers who opted for farmgate sales are one good news story.

Consumers really have turned back to locally produced food for both meat and dairy and fruit and vegetables. Let us hope this continues in the future!