Ensuring the functioning of the food chain and developing clear guidelines for the COVID-19 crisis

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Simo TIAINEN
Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners MTK

MTK and the COVID-19 crisis

Hoarding of food and other consumer goods became a worldwide phenomenon with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In Finland too, dried food and toilet-roll disappearing from supermarket shelves was a familiar sight in March 2020. Consumer confidence was shaken by uncertainty about the future. The key task for MTK when the crisis began was to actively secure the food supply chain. MTK wanted to make sure that food was being produced and that it was still available even during the crisis.

The union quickly prepared coronavirus guidance for its own staff, its member organisations, and its representatives. The organisation switched to online meeting tools and developed a communication plan to support internal and external activities. The main objectives were to:

  • ensure that farms continued to operate;
  • protect staff, representatives and member organisations from the virus and prevent further spread;
  • strengthen consumer confidence in Finnish food and the efficiency of the food chain;
  • minimise the economic impact for MTK member organisations, and ensure that farming activity could continue during the approaching harvest season;
  • be in regular contact with COPA-COGECA at EU level and with Nordic producer organisations;   
  • follow the international media;
  • liaise with national government.
  • MTK introduced new ways of communicating with its members and organised online member evenings and other online events. The union also designed and launched a number of information campaigns.

Some communication figures for 16.3-11.6.2020:

  • 47 information bulletins  
  • 102 online news flashes 
  • 8 podcasts 
  • 11 live and/or video (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram) communications, as well as tweets
  • 63 online member evenings and online seminars
  • 15 communication campaigns launched  
  • 217 000 visits to mtk.fi website (57% increase on 2019)    
  • 4 080 media stories in which MTK mentioned (Meltwater)

The most important challenge at European level was to ensure that the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP) continued to operate during the emergency. Food security, ensuring that food products are available to people under all circumstances, is one of its key objectives. The importance of the CAP is highlighted in crisis situations. In terms of shoring up the supply chain, it was particularly important to ensure that products could move between countries so that the single market continued to function even if movement of people had to be severely constrained. MTK welcomed the Commission communication of 23.3.2020 (https://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/legislation/c20201897_en.pdf), which was concerned to keep borders open and maintain movement of goods between the Member States.

MTK was actively involved in European umbrella organisation COPA-COGECA's #Farmersdontstop social media campaign during the spring.