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Abstract

Novel food refers to any type of food which was not used for human consumption before the 15 May 1997 in a specific place. This date refers to the introduction of European Union Regulation (EC) No 258/1997 which regulated the placing of novel foods or novel food ingredients on the market within the community for the first time. Then, the Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 changed the existing legislation for the categories of food belonging to novel food in order to guarantee a higher level of protection of human health and consumer interests. Algae, which are not commonly consumed by people but are considered among the most widespread foods of the future, are one of the principal food products of natural plant origin in the regulation of novel foods. However, even if algae were not well-known in the past, nowadays they are integrated into the different food cultures of the EU. This circumstance led to an analysis of the contribution of trade flows, of algae for human consumption inside and outside Europe, on the trade balance of the member countries of the European Union. Analysis of the Eurostat database was used to provide an overview of the international trade dynamics affecting the trade development of algae for human consumption in the European Union, with the aim of measuring the competitive dynamics within member countries.
sustainability
Article
Novel Food: The Impact of Innovation on the Paths of
the Traditional Food Chain
Carla Zarbà, Gaetano Chinnici * and Mario D’Amico
Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental (Di3A), University of Catania, Via S. Sofia no 98-100,
95123 Catania, Italy; carlazarba@hotmail.it (C.Z.); mario.damico@unict.it (M.D.)
*Correspondence: chinnici@unict.it; Tel.: +39-095-7580317
Received: 26 November 2019; Accepted: 9 January 2020; Published: 11 January 2020


Abstract:
Novel food refers to any type of food which was not used for human consumption before
the 15 May 1997 in a specific place. This date refers to the introduction of European Union Regulation
(EC) No 258/1997 which regulated the placing of novel foods or novel food ingredients on the market
within the community for the first time. Then, the Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 changed the existing
legislation for the categories of food belonging to novel food in order to guarantee a higher level of
protection of human health and consumer interests. Algae, which are not commonly consumed by
people but are considered among the most widespread foods of the future, are one of the principal
food products of natural plant origin in the regulation of novel foods. However, even if algae were
not well-known in the past, nowadays they are integrated into the dierent food cultures of the
EU. This circumstance led to an analysis of the contribution of trade flows, of algae for human
consumption inside and outside Europe, on the trade balance of the member countries of the European
Union. Analysis of the Eurostat database was used to provide an overview of the international trade
dynamics aecting the trade development of algae for human consumption in the European Union,
with the aim of measuring the competitive dynamics within member countries.
Keywords: food chain; novel food; trade; competitiveness
1. Introduction
Since the creation of the European single market, the European Union has faced the challenges
arising from the regulation of the free movement of goods [
1
]. The free circulation of goods is
not a problem for individual products, but it concerns the relations between member States of the
European Union with third countries and especially with those countries in the Mediterranean basin.
This strategic role is aimed at giving importance to the development of the area, strengthening the
multi-lateral relations, establishing a framework for dialogue and cooperation, as well as relations
capable of establishing a new political itinerary [2,3].
Overall, the objectives that concern trade within the single market of products are to ensure
consumer interests, safety, uniformity, and safety-requirements throughout the European Union [4].
In dealing with the particular field of agri-food products, the current EU legislation respects all
these principles and goes even further. The principal topics of EU regulation are consumer safety
and the protection of their interests in general, but no less attention is dedicated to important issues
including the protection of human health. The risks need to be assessed, certain ones must be selected,
and it is necessary to predict probable risks, in order to avoid them happening as well as eventually
stemming their eects [5,6].
The scenario becomes even more complex when analyzing the particular category of food products
called novel food. Novel food opens up a challenge that is not simple to deal with.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555; doi:10.3390/su12020555 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 2 of 18
The term novel food refers to food that is not part of the traditional eating habits of European
citizens [
7
]. Novel food products are foods with dierent characteristics in various respects and, in this
context, they are a contrast to traditional food. These foods are an expression of integration of the
dierent food cultures, so novel food is an innovative food or food produced using new technologies
and new production processes. It follows that novel foods are innovative products which require a
dierent production process from the standard EU one or derived from the application of innovative
bio technologies [8].
The modern technologies applied to food can have unknown eects on health and it is
therefore necessary to make use of the precautionary principle. Innovation is undoubtedly a starting
point for economic progress and development. In some studies, it has been shown that the new
technology investments have brought high productivity rates and rapid, positive economic growth,
by demonstrating a significant eect on economic growth [
9
11
]. Currently, the theme of innovation
is extremely topical because the process leads to reduced production costs and to increased profit
margins [
11
]. The result is the commitment of the European institutions in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
Europe 2020 support programs (including, for example, Horizon 2020) focus on research, development,
and innovation to foster the competitiveness of European companies and achieve the objectives of
economic growth [12,13].
However, the importance the theme of innovation in order to generate increasing innovation,
cannot become an undisputed primary need. It is always necessary to assess whether the new products
bring with them unacceptable features as they contrast with current legislation.
It is therefore necessary to verify whether the novel food opportunities provided by science and
technology also create new risks [14].
The innovations, resulting from research and development (R&D) activities, must be properly
regulated before placing them on the market, and must meet the demands of operators in the sector
and consumers [11].
Issues of great importance, such as the health and well-being of animals, ethical profiles, consumer
interests, and sector operators, should not be forgotten [8].
The definition of rules regarding these aspects is relevant from a marketing point of view.
Intervening on these points has the purpose of helping firms by making the introduction of novel
foods on the EU market easier [14].
The improvement of these conditions should make the procedure for placing novel foods on the
European internal market easier and therefore could have an increase in the number of new products
that can be imported and then sold [15].
However, the regulation process of food matters is highly complex [
8
]. In fact, it is necessary to
understand that the legislative process is not immediate and involves multiple aspects of verification
that include also those with a scientific multidisciplinary nature. Only based on results that fall
outside the legal reality can the legislator make appropriate legal reasoning and then adapt an ad
hoc prudent regulation. The problem of the introduction of a new law presents another feature to be
protected, namely the certainty of the law, a cardinal principle of the legal system. The advancement
of technologies has surely accelerated the times of innovation creation processes. It is not easy to
keep up with the speed of progress, especially for a delicate and complex subject such as food. Thus,
the European legislator has to deal with the needs of a market that wants to incorporate innovations.
This implies a continuous updating and some changes in legislation that require, once again, a good
dose of flexibility on behalf of the legislator.
Furthermore, other significant aspects concern the free circulation of goods, legal certainty and
uniformity throughout Europe, sustainability, transparency, protection of scientific data and the
competitive position of those who have invested in innovative projects, etc. [16,17].
The Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the European Council on
novel food includes cardinal principles of the current legislation on the subject of health and well-being
of citizens, their social and economic interests, and food security. The regulation also includes rulings
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 3 of 18
on competition, favouring the free movement of safe and wholesome food. Part of the measure
refers to food traditionally consumed outside the EU. Because of this evolution, Regulation (EU) No
2015/2283 integrates novel foods with the macro-category “traditional foods from a third country”.
This regulatory measure is also responsible for the regulation and guidelines of the procedures for
authorizing the placing of novel food on the European Union food market. Other aims of the regulation
also include combating conditions of unfair competition and promoting the free movement of safe and
wholesome food.
In view of its importance, the first part of this paper is devoted to this new EU regulation.
The second part is dedicated to the product algae. Algae is regulated among novel foods of primary
origin from a third country not normally consumed by EU citizens for human consumption. In the
geographical area concerned, the cultivation of algae is hardly present. Hence the importance of the
discussion of extra-EU and intra-EU trade flows of the algae sector.
2. Novel Foods, Role and Perspectives. Main Elements of the Regulatory Act
Currently, the relevant legal framework on novel foods is set out in Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of
the European Parliament and of the Council, which entered into force on 1 January 2018. This regulation
repealed the previous Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council of
27 January 1997 concerning novel foods, novel food ingredients, and Regulation (EC) No 1852/2001,
which were in force until 31 December 2017.
Novel food is defined as food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in
the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first Regulation on novel food came into force [8].
Novel food can be newly developed, innovative food, food produced using new technologies and
production processes, as well as food which is or has been traditionally eaten outside of the EU.
Compared to the Regulation (EC) No 258/97, the definition includes a general notion of a food
product that derives from the reference to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and incorporates its dictate.
According to article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, the procedure for the determination of novel
food status expects that food business operators are those who shall verify whether the food, which
they intend to place on the market within the European Union, falls within the scope of this regulation.
In case there is doubt about this issue, it is required that food business operators provide the necessary
information they know about the potential novel food to the member state where they first intend
to place it, to demand whether or not a food falls within the scope of the regulation. Member states
may consult each other and the European Commission. Food business operators are obliged to inform
the European Commission of any scientific or technical information (article 25 Regulation (EC) No
178/2002) that may concern food safety on the use of the new food and any prohibitions or restrictions
imposed by a third country for the novel food placed on the market. The absence of the use of algae to
a significant extent for human consumption in the European Union before 15 May 1997 instead, is
confirmed, in continuity with the previous Regulation (EC) 258/97 [18,19].
Through Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 on novel foods, the European Union aims to harmonize
national legislation in order to overcome legal uncertainty, combat unfair competition, and promote the
free movement of safe and wholesome food. In fact, this regulation brings together the key principles
of current legislation on the health and well-being of citizens, their social and economic interests,
and food safety.
Novel food must therefore pass approval as to its suitability in terms of food safety for human
consumption before it can be placed on the market (in order to be able to be defined as novel food,
it must be included in specific categories listed in article 3 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). The European
Commission is, in fact, responsible for monitoring the application of the new regulation concerning the
recognition of food and its authorization of novel foods [20].
The commission authorizes and includes a novel food product if it complies with certain conditions
(article 7 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283): 1. The food does not pose a safety risk to human health according
to available scientific evidence; 2. The food’s intended use does not mislead the consumer, especially
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 4 of 18
when the food is intended to replace another food and there is a significant change in the nutritional
value; 3. When the food is intended to replace another food, it does not dier from that food in such a
way that its normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer.
An innovative element from a procedural point of view is the centralization of the procedure
itself. The authorization procedure is no longer the responsibility of the member states (Regulation
(CE) No 258/97), but of the Commission and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). The latter is the
body responsible for the technical and scientific evaluation of the safety of products. Based on this
assessment, after this process has been activated, the Commission will only be able to decide whether
to include the novel foods in the Union List. This list contains all novel foods authorized to be placed
on the market within the European Union as foods, in foods or used on food, in accordance with the
conditions of use and labeling requirements specified therein (article 6 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2283).
Registration in the Union List is an act having erga omnes eect, thus overcoming the previous system,
according to which the authorization regarding the introduction of a novel food product into the
market was made by a single decision.
This solution determines turning points also from a practical point of view. In this way the
problems of the restrictive nature of some national authorities are avoided, also due to the reduction of
the economic resources necessary to manage the dossiers relating to novel food products [21].
The procedure for authorization can start either from the Commission’s initiative or by directly
applying to the Commission (article 10 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). When the Commission receives an
application for the authorization of a novel food product, the latter is made available to the Member
States without delay. To deepen the theme related to the validity of a notification of a traditional food
from a third country sent to the commission, it must be specified that the notification must include:
(1) the applicant’s name and address; (2) the name and description of the traditional food; (3) an
accurate composition of the traditional food; (4) the country or countries of origin of the traditional
food; (5) documented data demonstrating the history of safe food use in a third country; (6) a proposal
for the conditions of intended use and for specific labelling requirements, which do not mislead the
consumer, or a verifiable justification why those elements are not necessary (article 14 Regulation
(EU) 2015/2283). The applicant must communicate any information that may have an impact on the
assessment of the authorization and consequently on the registration of the product in the Union List
to the Commission [7].
The European institutions become competent and the centralization of the management of the
procedure becomes important for several factors: the bureaucratic delays are countered and the
dierences in the application of the legislation are eliminated. The elimination of the latter guarantees
the harmonization and homogeneity of the evaluation and therefore a homogeneity of health protection.
The application for an authorization must be submitted directly online to the European Commission and
must contain the scientific data regarding the substance for which they request the authorization. Specific
guidelines are based on methods by the food safety Authority European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
As far as the potential eect on human health is concerned, the European Commission asks
the EFSA’s opinion. This Authority gives its opinion on the scientific aspects of the safety of novel
foods (article 11 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283) and on whether the update is liable to have an eect on
human health.
When the EFSA has verified the compliance with the requirements, EFSA forwards its opinion
to the European Commission, to the member states and, where applicable, to the applicant (article
11 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). Within seven months from the date of publication of the authority’s
decision, the commission updates the union list, taking into account every rule required in Regulation
(EU) 2015/2283.
Within seven months the Commission also submits to the “Standing Committee on Plants, Animals,
Food and Feed”, composed of representatives of the Member States and chaired by the representative
of the Commission, established by article 58(1) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, an act authorizing
the placing on the market of the novel food within the Union and updates the “Union list” (article 12
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 5 of 18
Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). By doing so, the commission also takes into account the precautionary
principle together with the various specifications needed. The precautionary principle is part of general
food law and occurs in cases where a possibility of harmful eects on health is identified. This includes
any food types in which the novel food may be contained, doses, and other characteristics, etc. (article
7 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002).
Thus, it is opportune to recall article 35(2), which allows for novel foods that are not included
in the application of the Regulation (CE) No 258/97 and which were placed on the market before 1
January 2018.
3. Traditional Foods Originating in Third Countries
The definition of novel food also includes products that circulate in third country markets that
boast a widespread consumption in the same third country of at least 25 years as a part of the customary
diet of a significant number of people with a history of safe food use has been demonstrated without
having created health problems or raised safety problems [
7
]. In this regard, the Regulation (EU)
2015/2283 intends to facilitate the placing on the European Union market of traditional foods of third
countries even if those foods are derived from primary production as defined in Regulation (EC) No
178/2002 [8,19,22].
If the novel food has been traditionally consumed, the procedure is easier and faster [
8
]. It could
be said that the European Union ratifies and allows the entry of products that, in other geographical
locations of the world, boast a remarkable consumption tradition.
The regulation relies, therefore, on the historical data of non-risky use, considering it enough
to allow marketing authorization. The simplification, implemented by Regulation (EU) 2015/2283,
is more significant considering that authorization in this case is obtained by ratification which, unless
there are any objections, is the food operator in the EU member state’s task.
So, instead of following the authorizing process for putting a novel food on the market within
the Union, the applicant, intending to place a traditional food from a third country within the Union,
may opt to submit a notification of that intention to the European Commission (article 14 Regulation (EU)
2015/2283). In this case, this alternative procedure is a faster, simpler way of updating the “Union list” [
18
].
In fact, where no duly reasoned safety objections have been submitted, the Commission can
authorize and update the Union list immediately, specifying that it concerns a traditional food from a
third country (article 15 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283) [20].
In the event that the Commission does not authorize the placing on the market within the
Union of the traditional food concerned, the applicant has the option of submitting an application for
authorization of the unauthorized food by using the notification procedure (article 16 Regulation (EU)
2015/2283) [18].
The Commission cannot always authorize the access of a traditional food from a Third Country
to the European Union market. The decision not to proceed with the authorization is taken by the
Commission on an autonomous basis or, where appropriate, following the opinion of the Authority
(EFSA) and the Member States’ views (article 18 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). The Commission operates
independently of a specific request for consultation to determine if a particular food product falls
within the definition of novel food.
The European Commission informs the applicant and the member states of the reasons why it
considers that the update is not justified.
An important aspect to consider is that, although the updating of the “union list” with the novel
food is not always allowed, this does not mean that the update is definitely refused. The applicant
can present an application supplying, new evidence and data related to the safety objections that
were made.
Where the Commission grants the authorization (already mentioned article 18), after an act of
public opinion by the authority, it submits to the standing committee referred to in article 30(1) a “draft
implementing act”, authorizing the placing on the market and updating the union list.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 6 of 18
4. Confidentiality and Data Protection
If requested by the applicant, the possibility that certain information will remain confidential
is guaranteed. This is, in the authors’ opinion, a key regulatory intervention. Some information
requested by the commission for the evaluation of the admission of the novel food can often be
the result of specific research involving an investment in terms of research. Applicants who have
invested in research and development and who send an application for authorization to present a
novel food to the European Commission thus have the guarantee that the evidence provided will not
be made available to others. If these results, on the other hand, were made available to third parties,
the latter could exploit the results of the findings [
8
]. This would be a noticeable disadvantage for
the applicant. The work done to discover a possible innovation has given a competitive advantage to
those who carried it out and it is crucial that it is protected in order not to cause problems, such as
unfair competition. It is therefore a provision which aims to avoid harming the applicant’s competitive
position. To obtain this protection, the applicants must specifically indicate what information they
consider being of a confidential nature, accompanying the request for such protection with a verifiable
reason. This confidentiality is maintained for up to three weeks after the applicants have been informed
of the Commission’s position. When the three weeks have expired if the applicants have not withdrawn
their request it is up to the Commission to decide what information to keep confidential [17].
All these considerations are even truer if, in the event that the request for entry of a novel food is
refused, another request can still be made later, since it is certainly not a definitive refusal. Therefore,
the applicant who previously submitted the application for authorization with the relevant supporting
evidence, can subsequently submit another application adding, new data or other evidence to the data
previously provided. If the new elements supporting the application prove decisive for the purposes
of input, the commission could grant the authorization.
If the data previously provided for the authorization process were made available to third parties,
the latter could simply add further evidence starting from the results disclosed by the first applicants.
Third parties would not have to start a research from scratch, but they would use the results achieved
by the first applicants. In the authors’ opinion, this would be unfair, and it is comforting that the
legislator has regulated this aspect, protecting researchers’ eorts and avoiding market distortions and
an unjust dispersion of information.
Finally, as far as data protection is concerned, the issue is important when new evidence or
scientific evidence has to be made to support the application submitted by the applicant. New scientific
evidence should not be used for the benefit of a subsequent application for a period of five years from
the date of authorization of the novel food without the agreement of the original applicant (article
27 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2283). The data protection shall be granted by the Commission where
the following conditions are met: (a) the newly developed scientific evidence or scientific data was
designated as proprietary by the initial applicant at the time the first application was made; (b) the
initial applicant had exclusive right of reference to the proprietary scientific evidence or scientific data
at the time the first application was made; (c) the novel food could not have been assessed by the
authority and authorised without the submission of the proprietary scientific evidence or scientific
data by the initial applicant.
5. Novel Food in the European Union: A Study of Algae Trade
5.1. Materials and Methods
In order to understand the dynamics and evolutionary picture of algae for human consumption
in the EU, an analysis of international trade data was carried out with the aim of verifying the relative
commercial performance of the production system of the member countries and their positioning in
the international context. In order to achieve this objective, specific analysis has been carried out on
the statistical data made available by Eurostat. Specifically, the analysis had the purpose of taking into
account the dynamics of the intra-EU and extra-EU trade flows.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 7 of 18
In this study, the preliminary phase was to identify the product codes of the products under
investigation within the international nomenclature.
In this regard, it should be noted that international trade statistics do not have a specific code for
algae for human consumption since they are included in HS 12122100 (Seaweeds and other algae; fit for
human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not) which groups together
various types of algae products. Therefore, dierent algae products, i.e., qualitatively dierent and
economically uneven in price, are grouped together for the same data when trade flows are in opposite
directions, i.e., imports, exports and vice versa. Although aware of the diculties of heterogeneous
data, this paper proposes an analysis of on the competitiveness of countries over algae for human
consumption in the world and intra-EU scenario.
Once the code was identified, data for the four-year period 2015–2018 were collected. Subsequently,
the data processing phase followed, identifying suitable indicators to adequately represent the dierent
comparative advantage enjoyed by each country in the algae sector, in particular, the following
indicators of productive specialization were used:
- Intensity of specialization index (IS);
- Lafay index (LFI)
- Grubel–Lloyd index (GLI).
The choice of these indicators is based on the following reasons.
The intensity of specialization (IS) represents the deviation between the normalized balance of a
sector and the normalized balance of all sectors [23] and is expressed with the following equation:
IS =XiMi
Xi+Mi
Pn
i=1(XiMi)
Pn
i=1(Xi+Mi)(1)
where X
i
and M
i
, in this case are exports and imports of the algae sector, respectively, while all sectors
constitute agri-food. This indicator has been used to verify the degree of specialization of the sector
under analysis.
The Lafay [
24
] index of specialization is an indicator capable of determining the specialization of
a country in a given sector in relative “internal” terms, that is, with respect to the other sectors that
make up the economic system of that country, or in relative “external” terms, with respect to a set
of countries taken as reference [
25
,
26
]. The Lafay index (LFI), taking into account imports, makes it
possible to control trade flows and, therefore, is suitable for tackling the problem of fragmentation of
production. [24,27,28]. The Lafay index (LFI) is expressed by the following equation:
LFI =
XiMi
Xi+Mi
Pn
j=1XiPn
k=1Mi
Pn
j=1Xi+Pn
k=1Mi
×Xi+Mi
Pn
j=1Xi+Pn
j=1Mi
×100 (2)
where Xand M, in this paper, are the exports and imports of algae of the individual EU country,
to and from the rest of the world, respectively, and nrepresents the total number of agri-food sectors.
Specialization is measured through net exports, i.e., through the dierence between exports and
imports, which is then compared to the sum of the two. In this way, a normalized ratio is obtained,
that is, a value that is a function of the percentage dierence between exports and imports. The sum
indicates the totality of imports and exports of agri-food with respect to which it is intended, in this
specific case, to study the degree of specialization of algal products. The normalization is, therefore,
obtained by “weighing” the contribution of the algae sector with its respective importance in the
agri-food trade balance. According to the index, the comparative advantage of a country in the
production of algae is thus measured by the deviation of the product normalized trade balance from
the overall normalized trade balance (agri-food), multiplied by the share of trade (imports plus exports)
of algae in total agri-food trade [
27
]. Positive values of the Lafay index indicate the existence of a
comparative advantage, and the higher the value of the index, the greater the country’s specialisation
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 8 of 18
in that sector [
29
]. Similarly, negative values indicate a situation of despecialisation in the sector.
Further studies have considered another property of the LFI is that it can vary between
50 (full
despecialisation) and +50 (full specialisation) [30].
Another indicator proposed by Grubel and Lloyd [
31
] measures the portion of trade between
two countries within the same sectors or products. Therefore, it can be used to measure intra-sectoral
trade and the simultaneous export and import of goods from the same product sector [
32
35
].
The Grudel–Lloyd index (GLI) can be expressed empirically:
GLIi=1|XiMi|
Xi+Mi
(3)
where X
i
and M
i
represent respectively exports and imports between and to another country of the
good i.
The GLI varies between the values 0 and 1: it assumes a zero value in the case of a sector in which
the country is only an exporter or only an importer, and a value of 1 if in a sector exports are exactly
the same as imports, i.e., if there is a pure exchange. To identify the type of trade, it is useful to classify
the values of GLI in four groups [35,36] using the following classification into four classes:
- Class 1 0.00 GLI 0.25
- Class 2 0.25 <GLI 0.50
- Class 3 0.50 <GLI 0.75
- Class 4 0.75 <GLI 1.00.
5.2. Results
The analysis of the trade flows of “seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh,
chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (hereinafter SAFF) in the countries of the European
Union, starting with the Eurostat database, highlights a rather fluctuating trend in trade in the period
considered (2015–2018). In particular, the trend in the quantities of imported products went from
17.159 tons in 2015 to 16.381 tons in 2018, showing substantial stability in the quantities imported. With
reference, on the other hand, to exports, the products sold are of lesser entity, settling in 2018 at 6222.40
tons (Table 1).
The EU countries that contribute most to the volume of products imported into the EU are, in
descending order, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland and Austria. Italy has imported
product quantities between 496 tones and 474 tons with a peak of 581 tons in 2016. An anomalous
trend is recorded by Ireland which, from quantities that place it among the main importing countries,
shows insignificant import flows with values around 10 tons. With reference to exports, on the other
hand, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Germany, and Denmark show more significant volumes
for the product analyzed than other member countries. Italy, in this context, is totally reluctant to
export, demonstrating that a large part of the product is consumed internally in the country.
In terms of value, SAFF’s imports in the EU, as Table 2documents, range from 55.3 million euros
in 2015 to 61.6 million euros in 2018, with the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany accounting
for the lion’s share. A similar situation is also shown in terms of exports, where The Netherlands and
Denmark have a significant weight, while Italy shows economic similarity with previous observation
in terms of quantity (Tables in Supplementary Materials, Table S1, Table S2).
On examining the analyses carried out, a deficit in the trade balance of the SAFF emerges in the
EU countries, as reported in Table 3, as most of the member countries are strongly in deficit, due to
the absence of domestic production. Therefore, they are forced to import, in some cases, substantial
quantities of SAFF. Few countries, on the other hand, show a positive trade balance for SAFFs, such
as Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland, which probably demonstrates the activity of handling
the processed product that is re-exported to the same EU countries. Overall, the trade balance has
improved over the period considered in terms of both quantity and value.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 9 of 18
Table 1.
Quantity of Import and export of “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100)
in the European Union (2015–2018).
Countries
Import Export
2015 2016 2017 2018 2015 2016 2017 2018
Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons %
Austria
1025.90
6.0
1067.90
7.0
1032.40
6.7
1279.60
7.8 169.90 3.3 163.30 3.1 105.60 2.0 82.30 1.3
Belgium 369.80 2.2 322.50 2.1 352.10 2.3 437.50 2.7 114.60 2.2 176.90 3.3 197.50 3.8 220.30 3.5
Bulgaria 11.40 0.1 13.00 0.1 8.80 0.1 11.60 0.1 4.00 0.1 6.90 0.1 3.00 0.1 4.60 0.1
Croatia 1.40 0.0 1.60 0.0 2.40 0.0 3.10 0.0 0.10 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0
Cyprus 7.40 0.0 11.20 0.1 19.50 0.1 26.60 0.2 0.50 0.0 0.40 0.0 2.30 0.0 0.70 0.0
Czechia 57.40 0.3 61.50 0.4 81.20 0.5 84.90 0.5 8.70 0.2 21.40 0.4 66.20 1.3 27.20 0.4
Denmark 183.80 1.1 175.20 1.1 138.90 0.9 117.90 0.7 364.20 7.0 360.00 6.8 371.40 7.2 490.10 7.9
Estonia 11.30 0.1 5.70 0.0 9.00 0.1 40.90 0.2 0.70 0.0 1.30 0.0 1.90 0.0 1.00 0.0
Finland 41.00 0.2 71.90 0.5 56.60 0.4 45.20 0.3 0.30 0.0 0.20 0.0 0.30 0.0 0.10 0.0
France
3251.00
18.9
3488.60
22.8
2871.80
18.5
3034.50
18.5 973.50 18.7 990.80 18.7 716.90 13.8 622.40 10.0
Germany
1371.40
8.0
1368.00
8.9
2029.70
13.1
1586.40
9.7 670.80 12.9 712.10 13.5 343.10 6.6 975.10 15.7
Greece 25.30 0.1 14.30 0.1 11.20 0.1 18.80 0.1 0.40 0.0 0.70 0.0 0.70 0.0 2.00 0.0
Hungary 4.60 0.0 5.70 0.0 5.20 0.0 8.20 0.1 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.80 0.0 0.00 0.0
Ireland
1329.90
7.8 10.20 0.1 21.10 0.1 33.50 0.2 687.10 13.2 432.50 8.2 754.60 14.6 317.80 5.1
Italy 496.40 2.9 581.40 3.8 577.80 3.7 474.20 2.9 22.20 0.4 21.00 0.4 20.60 0.4 7.40 0.1
Latvia 60.70 0.4 62.50 0.4 25.40 0.2 79.30 0.5 60.70 1.2 63.10 1.2 51.00 1.0 77.80 1.3
Lithuania 51.10 0.3 46.70 0.3 112.00 0.7 48.00 0.3 50.90 1.0 54.20 1.0 133.30 2.6 36.30 0.6
Luxembourg 11.90 0.1 19.70 0.1 19.20 0.1 20.80 0.1 1.10 0.0 0.70 0.0 1.90 0.0 1.60 0.0
Malta 3.30 0.0 10.60 0.1 2.00 0.0 42.50 0.3 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0
Netherlands 451.70 2.6 326.40 2.1 257.10 1.7 149.90 0.9 187.70 3.6 271.20 5.1 232.20 4.5 273.00 4.4
Poland 612.00 3.6 802.60 5.2 569.70 3.7 245.00 1.5 3.40 0.1 166.10 3.1 160.80 3.1 244.20 3.9
Portugal 52.70 0.3 77.60 0.5 104.10 0.7 101.50 0.6 19.90 0.4 34.80 0.7 83.90 1.6 183.80 3.0
Romania 45.10 0.3 55.80 0.4 39.20 0.3 51.70 0.3 0.20 0.0 4.80 0.1 7.40 0.1 0.50 0.0
Slovakia 10.90 0.1 17.40 0.1 22.50 0.1 42.10 0.3 12.80 0.2 6.70 0.1 6.90 0.1 27.00 0.4
Slovenia 4.80 0.0 2.50 0.0 2.30 0.0 2.70 0.0 1.90 0.0 3.40 0.1 0.30 0.0 1.20 0.0
Spain 605.40 3.5 592.40 3.9 540.20 3.5 535.20 3.3 454.80 8.7 237.90 4.5 153.00 3.0 134.00 2.2
Sweden 172.10 1.0 172.90 1.1 188.40 1.2 212.30 1.3 38.30 0.7 63.10 1.2 77.40 1.5 97.80 1.6
United Kingdom
6889.00
40.1
5922.40
38.7
6396.70
41.3
7646.80
46.7
1359.30
26.1
1496.40
28.3
1687.90
32.6
2394.20
38.5
EU 28 17,158.70 100.0 15,308.20 100.0 15,496.50 100.0 16,380.70 100.0 5208.00 100.0 5289.90 100.0 5180.90 100.0 6222.40 100.0
Source: Elaboration based Eurostat.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 10 of 18
Table 2.
Value of Import and export of “seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not” (HS 12122100) in
European Union (2015–2018).
Countries
Import Export
2015 2016 2017 2018 2015 2016 2017 2018
Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %
Austria 2919.02 5.3 3586.70 6.5 4152.11 6.6 3896.67 6.3 1094.25 4.0 1310.43 4.3 1447.57 4.5 1302.86 3.4
Belgium 2235.19 4.0 2300.82 4.1 2854.52 4.6 3237.29 5.3 1269.95 4.6 1501.43 4.9 1779.05 5.6 2155.15 5.6
Bulgaria 124.85 0.2 137.74 0.2 66.23 0.1 112.62 0.2 109.74 0.4 112.16 0.4 60.90 0.2 76.71 0.2
Croatia 59.77 0.1 55.17 0.1 66.09 0.1 67.04 0.1 3.27 0.0 2.20 0.0 1.66 0.0 1.79 0.0
Cyprus 70.13 0.1 189.60 0.3 123.59 0.2 159.54 0.3 1.40 0.0 1.59 0.0 53.71 0.2 16.51 0.0
Czechia 775.92 1.4 580.55 1.0 742.00 1.2 832.50 1.4 213.45 0.8 220.48 0.7 218.21 0.7 231.86 0.6
Denmark 1473.32 2.7 1585.54 2.9 3440.98 5.5 2811.67 4.6 2572.68 9.4 2586.26 8.5 3305.11 10.3 4600.16 11.9
Estonia 95.41 0.2 66.27 0.1 153.02 0.2 235.36 0.4 18.96 0.1 31.14 0.1 31.93 0.1 44.90 0.1
Finland 549.33 1.0 681.81 1.2 538.25 0.9 521.68 0.8 6.89 0.0 15.96 0.1 18.76 0.1 0.89 0.0
France 9606.60 17.4 9749.51 17.5 10,173.18 16.3 10,006.79 16.2 3911.63 14.3 3584.37 11.8 3853.77 12.1 4290.69 11.1
Germany 4266.60 7.7 4925.63 8.9 7530.90 12.0 7000.86 11.4 4190.21 15.3 3360.09 11.0 3329.42 10.4 4310.82 11.1
Greece 358.52 0.6 205.08 0.4 203.01 0.3 295.36 0.5 11.36 0.0 22.83 0.1 22.86 0.1 26.90 0.1
Hungary 44.06 0.1 65.45 0.1 53.99 0.1 102.49 0.2 0.91 0.0 0.26 0.0 3.95 0.0 3.52 0.0
Ireland 285.47 0.5 178.39 0.3 246.12 0.4 319.73 0.5 293.88 1.1 331.06 1.1 531.36 1.7 964.24 2.5
Italy 5467.61 9.9 5566.31 10.0 5285.55 8.5 4505.69 7.3 129.00 0.5 439.65 1.4 219.50 0.7 99.98 0.3
Latvia 284.45 0.5 304.51 0.5 157.14 0.3 332.06 0.5 303.20 1.1 412.74 1.4 193.39 0.6 210.23 0.5
Lithuania 291.91 0.5 309.33 0.6 488.80 0.8 333.84 0.5 190.88 0.7 188.63 0.6 398.96 1.2 131.28 0.3
Luxembourg 95.54 0.2 174.14 0.3 362.83 0.6 481.89 0.8 11.26 0.0 12.26 0.0 35.72 0.1 51.90 0.1
Malta 43.63 0.1 119.63 0.2 58.99 0.1 893.11 1.4 0.00 0.0 0.00 0.0 0.01 0.0 0.00 0.0
Netherlands 5049.82 9.1 5174.77 9.3 3978.11 6.4 2076.02 3.4 3250.20 11.9 5057.69 16.6 4237.26 13.3 5872.64 15.2
Poland 1603.91 2.9 2622.35 4.7 1585.25 2.5 1341.96 2.2 20.60 0.1 463.23 1.5 587.59 1.8 755.87 2.0
Portugal 631.45 1.1 783.86 1.4 1025.34 1.6 1347.19 2.2 118.61 0.4 228.10 0.7 451.47 1.4 1332.66 3.4
Romania 283.84 0.5 356.43 0.6 304.23 0.5 509.72 0.8 2.08 0.0 33.15 0.1 38.62 0.1 26.23 0.1
Slovakia 102.01 0.2 175.08 0.3 204.16 0.3 306.17 0.5 70.31 0.3 55.78 0.2 47.88 0.1 112.80 0.3
Slovenia 120.81 0.2 61.75 0.1 89.85 0.1 156.19 0.3 62.69 0.2 63.84 0.2 8.01 0.0 14.12 0.0
Spain 3545.31 6.4 4576.99 8.2 4200.69 6.7 3892.95 6.3 3496.85 12.8 2320.72 7.6 2176.54 6.8 2307.56 6.0
Sweden 1138.58 2.1 1282.00 2.3 1491.02 2.4 1808.79 2.9 585.51 2.1 856.18 2.8 1384.96 4.3 1457.02 3.8
United Kingdom 13,806.58 25.0 9775.77 17.6 12,931.51 20.7 14,050.35 22.8 5458.21 19.9 7281.03 23.9 7497.21 23.5 8285.07 21.4
EU 28 55,329.64 100.0 55,591.15 100.0 62,507.44 100.0 61,635.52 100.0 27,397.97 100.0 30,493.24 100.0 31,935.38 100.0 38,684.36 100.0
Source: Elaboration based Eurostat.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 11 of 18
Table 3.
Trade balance of import and export of “seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not” (HS
12122100) in the European Union (2015–2018).
Countries
Trade Balance
2015 2016 2017 2018 2015 2016 2017 2018
Tons % Tons % Tons % Tons % Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %Thousands
of Euros %
Austria 856.00 7.2 904.60 9.0 926.80 9.0 1197.30 11.8 1824.78 6.5 2276.27 9.1 2704.54 8.8 2593.81 11.3
Belgium 255.20 2.1 145.60 1.5 154.60 1.5 217.20 2.1 965.23 3.5 799.39 3.2 1075.47 3.5 1082.13 4.7
Bulgaria 7.40 0.1 6.10 0.1 5.80 0.1 7.00 0.1 15.10 0.1 25.57 0.1 5.32 0.0 35.91 0.2
Croatia 1.30 0.0 1.60 0.0 2.40 0.0 3.10 0.0 56.51 0.2 52.96 0.2 64.43 0.2 65.26 0.3
Cyprus 6.90 0.1 10.80 0.1 17.20 0.2 25.90 0.3 68.73 0.2 188.01 0.7 69.88 0.2 143.03 0.6
Czechia 48.70 0.4 40.10 0.4 15.00 0.1 57.70 0.6 562.47 2.0 360.07 1.4 523.80 1.7 600.64 2.6
Denmark 180.40 1.5 184.80 1.8 232.50 2.3 372.20 3.7 1099.36 3.9 1000.72 4.0 135.87 0.4 1788.49 7.8
Estonia 10.60 0.1 4.40 0.0 7.10 0.1 39.90 0.4 76.45 0.3 35.13 0.1 121.09 0.4 190.46 0.8
Finland 40.70 0.3 71.70 0.7 56.30 0.5 45.10 0.4 542.44 1.9 665.85 2.7 519.49 1.7 520.79 2.3
France 2277.50 19.1 2497.80 24.9 2154.90 20.9 2412.10 23.7 5694.97 20.4 6165.15 24.6 6319.41 20.7 5716.10 24.9
Germany 700.60 5.9 655.90 6.5 1686.60 16.3 611.30 6.0 76.39 0.3 1565.54 6.2 4201.48 13.7 2690.04 11.7
Greece 24.90 0.2 13.60 0.1 10.50 0.1 16.80 0.2 347.16 1.2 182.25 0.7 180.15 0.6 268.46 1.2
Hungary 4.60 0.0 5.70 0.1 4.40 0.0 8.20 0.1 43.15 0.2 65.19 0.3 50.03 0.2 98.97 0.4
Ireland 642.80 5.4 422.30 4.2 733.50 7.1 284.30 2.8 8.41 0.0 152.68 0.6 285.24 0.9 644.51 2.8
Italy 474.20 4.0 560.40 5.6 557.20 5.4 466.80 4.6 5338.61 19.1 5126.66 20.4 5066.05 16.6 4405.72 19.2
Latvia 0.00 0.0 0.60 0.0 25.60 0.2 1.50 0.0 18.75 0.1 108.23 0.4 36.26 0.1 121.82 0.5
Lithuania 0.20 0.0 7.50 0.1 21.30 0.2 11.70 0.1 101.02 0.4 120.70 0.5 89.83 0.3 202.56 0.9
Luxembourg 10.80 0.1 19.00 0.2 17.30 0.2 19.20 0.2 84.29 0.3 161.88 0.6 327.11 1.1 429.99 1.9
Malta 3.30 0.0 10.60 0.1 2.00 0.0 42.50 0.4 43.63 0.2 119.63 0.5 58.97 0.2 893.11 3.9
Netherlands 264.00 2.2 55.20 0.6 24.90 0.2 123.10 1.2 1799.62 6.4 117.08 0.5 259.15 0.8 3796.62
16.5
Poland 608.60 5.1 636.50 6.4 408.90 4.0 0.80 0.0 1583.31 5.7 2159.12 8.6 997.67 3.3 586.09 2.6
Portugal 32.80 0.3 42.80 0.4 20.20 0.2 82.30 0.8 512.84 1.8 555.76 2.2 573.88 1.9 14.53 0.1
Romania 44.90 0.4 51.00 0.5 31.80 0.3 51.20 0.5 281.76 1.0 323.28 1.3 265.62 0.9 483.49 2.1
Slovakia 1.90 0.0 10.70 0.1 15.60 0.2 15.10 0.1 31.70 0.1 119.30 0.5 156.29 0.5 193.36 0.8
Slovenia 2.90 0.0 0.90 0.0 2.00 0.0 1.50 0.0 58.12 0.2 2.09 0.0 81.84 0.3 142.07 0.6
Spain 150.60 1.3 354.50 3.5 387.20 3.8 401.20 3.9 48.46 0.2 2256.27 9.0 2024.15 6.6 1585.39 6.9
Sweden 133.80 1.1 109.80 1.1 111.00 1.1 114.50 1.1 553.07 2.0 425.83 1.7 106.07 0.3 351.77 1.5
United Kingdom 5529.70 46.3 4426.00 44.2 4708.80 45.6 5252.60 51.7 8348.38 29.9 2494.74 9.9 5434.30 17.8 5765.28 25.1
EU 28 11,950.70 100.0 10,018.30 100.0 10,315.60 100.0 10,158.30 100.0 27,931.67 100.0 25,097.91 100.0 30,572.06 100.0 22,951.15 100.0
Source: Elaboration based Eurostat.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 12 of 18
Interesting results emerged from the subdivision of the total commercial data between “EU 28”
and “Extra-EU 28”. The analysis carried out, again on the basis of Eurostat data, show that, as far as
imports are concerned, internal movements averaged 73% on the European level, while the remaining
share of imports was due to non-EU countries. Compared to the average figure, there are some member
countries where the share of “Extra-EU Import 28” is more significant, e.g., Cyprus, France, Latvia,
Netherlands, and Romania (Figure 1).
Intra-Community exports prevail in most of the member countries with the exception of Croatia,
Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovenia (Figure 2) which have trade relations with non-EU
countries. Overall, the average quantity of EU product exported to the various EU countries is 70%,
while 30% is destined for non-EU countries.
In order to measure the importance of SAFF’s trade, the indicators included in the methodology
and summarised in Figure 3have been developed. More specifically, an examination of the analyses
carried out shows that the intensity of the specialisation indicator has negative values, demonstrating
that in the European Union there are imbalances for the product analysed (SAFF) in the trade structure
for the sector analysed.
Through a dierentiated analysis of data of individual member countries, some of them (Denmark,
the United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Latvia) present positive values,
proving a certain vocation for export (Tables in Supplementary Materials, Table S3, Table S4, Table S5,
Table S6).
With reference to the LFI indicator, the no-processing carried out confirm the aforementioned
trend, i.e., imports are higher than exports and from this trend a strong dependence on foreign countries
to carry out the industrial processes of manipulation that allow the products made from algae to
achieve significant export flows (Figure 3).
Figure 1.
Proportional distribution of imported quantities of “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human
consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in the European
Union (2015–2018).
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 13 of 18
Sustainability 2020, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 13 of 18
Figure 2. Proportional distribution of exported of Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human
consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground (HS 12122100) in European
Union (20152018).
Figure 3. Dynamics of the production specialization indicators of the seaweeds and other algae; fit
for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not (HS 12122100) in
European Union.
Figure 2.
Proportional distribution of exported of “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption,
fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in European Union (2015–2018).
Sustainability 2020, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 13 of 18
Figure 2. Proportional distribution of exported of Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human
consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground (HS 12122100) in European
Union (20152018).
Figure 3. Dynamics of the production specialization indicators of the seaweeds and other algae; fit
for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not (HS 12122100) in
European Union.
Figure 3.
Dynamics of the production specialization indicators of the “seaweeds and other algae; fit
for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether ground or not” (HS 12122100) in
European Union.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 14 of 18
With regard to the GLI indicator, considering that the index assumes values between 0 and 1,
the analysis carried out confirms that in the European Union the average flows are not balanced
(Figure 3). It is possible to highlight a dierent situation within the single member states (Figure 4),
with trade activities ranging from weak to strong. The GLI 0.00 to 0.25 implies that the imports are
at least seven times the exports, and GLI 0.25 to 0.50 implies that the imports are three to seven
times the exports. Similarly, the GLI 0.50 to 0.75 implies that the exports are 1.67 to 3.00 times the
imports, and GLI 0.75 to 1.00 implies that the exports are no more than 1.67 times the imports (Tables
in Supplementary Materials, Table S7, Table S8, Table S9).
Sustainability 2020, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 14 of 18
With regard to the GLI indicator, considering that the index assumes values between 0 and 1,
the analysis carried out confirms that in the European Union the average flows are not balanced
(Figure 3). It is possible to highlight a different situation within the single member states (Figure 4),
with trade activities ranging from weak to strong. The GLI 0.00 to 0.25 implies that the imports are at
least seven times the exports, and GLI 0.25 to 0.50 implies that the imports are three to seven times
the exports. Similarly, the GLI 0.50 to 0.75 implies that the exports are 1.67 to 3.00 times the imports,
and GLI 0.75 to 1.00 implies that the exports are no more than 1.67 times the imports (Tables in
Supplementary Materials, Table A7, Table A8, Table A9).
In this study, the external Lafay index was also used in order to identify the specialisation in
the algae sector of the different EU Member States. Figure 5 shows the distribution of the external
LFI of the algae sector in the Member States in ascending order. Thanks to the LFI, it can be said that
there are eleven member states specialising in the algae sector, in ascending order: Bulgaria,
Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and the
Netherlands.
On the whole, the analysis carried out shows that the EU is highly deficient of algae and this is
due to an absent internal production probably linked to the low degree of innovation in the
production systems that leads to a very low level of production. Moreover, the analysis of the data
shows the level of weakness of the EU in general and of the individual countries in particular, with
some exceptions to be attributed in the first place to the propensity to export in general and to the
possibility of acting only as a transit country for EU imports. The indicators identified highlight the
level of weakness of the EU system vis-à-vis the SAFFs, which is largely due to the lack of raw
materials to be used in technological production processes.
Figure 4. The classification of GLI values.
Figure 4. The classification of GLI values.
In this study, the “external” Lafay index was also used in order to identify the specialisation in
the algae sector of the dierent EU Member States. Figure 5shows the distribution of the “external”
LFI of the algae sector in the Member States in ascending order. Thanks to the LFI, it can be said that
there are eleven member states specialising in the algae sector, in ascending order: Bulgaria, Lithuania,
Latvia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
On the whole, the analysis carried out shows that the EU is highly deficient of algae and this is
due to an absent internal production probably linked to the low degree of innovation in the production
systems that leads to a very low level of production. Moreover, the analysis of the data shows the level
of weakness of the EU in general and of the individual countries in particular, with some exceptions to
be attributed in the first place to the propensity to export in general and to the possibility of acting only
as a transit country for EU imports. The indicators identified highlight the level of weakness of the EU
system vis-
à
-vis the SAFFs, which is largely due to the lack of raw materials to be used in technological
production processes.
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 15 of 18
Sustainability 2020, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 15 of 18
Figure 5. Lafay index for the sector “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh,
chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in European Union.
6. Discussion and Conclusions
The quality of agri-food production and the economic viability of the markets are closely linked
to information. This situation does not always safeguard the correct nature of the information and
conscious choices of the consumers. The economic viability of productive markets helps to create
distortions in procedure capable of impeding the correct functioning according to economic theory
and causes misunderstandings and asymmetry in the information given [2].
The evolution of food habits can offer new marketing frontiers for food business operators
interested in novel food. However, food in the European Union historically has its own specific,
deeply rooted traditions, in particular, in member states bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The adaptation and therefore the consumption of novel food in the EU will probably occur more
gradually, i.e., later than in other member countries which do not have their own typical cuisine and
are instead more open to innovation and experimentation in the food sector.
In fact, the characteristic normative trait promoted by the European Union, while emphasizing
the sense of curiosity for the eating habits and lifestyles of other populations or influenced by science
and technology, is projected on an innovative food scenario offering a possible solution to the future
problem of the alleged lack of food.
With the introduction of the regulation of novel foods, the European Union tried to establish a
certain balance between free circulation of new food products and consumer protection considering
the principle of precaution. Until 2013, there were only 70 applications for new food products that
were authorised and registered in the “Union’s list”. Having considered the various problems, the
unforeseeable development of science and technology, and needing to bear in mind the regulations,
a reform was considered opportune. The reform saw the introduction of the Regulation 2015/2283 in
order to protect consumers and favour the competitivity of the domestic market [7].
Despite this, it is clear to the European legislator that, in third countries, there are different laws
relating to safety. The levels of safety and protection standards required do not necessarily coincide
and therefore there is a risk that the levels accepted in third countries will be lower than those in
Figure 5.
Lafay index for the sector “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh,
chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in European Union.
6. Discussion and Conclusions
The quality of agri-food production and the economic viability of the markets are closely linked
to information. This situation does not always safeguard the correct nature of the information and
conscious choices of the consumers. The economic viability of productive markets helps to create
distortions in procedure capable of impeding the correct functioning according to economic theory
and causes misunderstandings and asymmetry in the information given [2].
The evolution of food habits can oer new marketing frontiers for food business operators
interested in novel food. However, food in the European Union historically has its own specific, deeply
rooted traditions, in particular, in member states bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The adaptation and therefore the consumption of novel food in the EU will probably occur more
gradually, i.e., later than in other member countries which do not have their own typical cuisine and
are instead more open to innovation and experimentation in the food sector.
In fact, the characteristic normative trait promoted by the European Union, while emphasizing
the sense of curiosity for the eating habits and lifestyles of other populations or influenced by science
and technology, is projected on an innovative food scenario oering a possible solution to the future
problem of the alleged lack of food.
With the introduction of the regulation of novel foods, the European Union tried to establish a
certain balance between free circulation of new food products and consumer protection considering
the principle of precaution. Until 2013, there were only 70 applications for new food products
that were authorised and registered in the “Union’s list”. Having considered the various problems,
the unforeseeable development of science and technology, and needing to bear in mind the regulations,
a reform was considered opportune. The reform saw the introduction of the Regulation 2015/2283 in
order to protect consumers and favour the competitivity of the domestic market [7].
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 16 of 18
Despite this, it is clear to the European legislator that, in third countries, there are dierent laws
relating to safety. The levels of safety and protection standards required do not necessarily coincide
and therefore there is a risk that the levels accepted in third countries will be lower than those in Union.
Lawmakers of third countries, among other things, look at the physical predispositions and habits of
local consumers. This decision shows considerable flexibility on behalf of the European legislator.
In the case of foods traded in third countries that do not have a history of consumption longer
than 25 years and foods that are the result of innovation, a simple ratification is not enough, and so the
law sets a dierent path to obtain an authorization. This path is long and complex. When innovation is
the discussion subject, especially in the food sector, the variables that involve safety and human health
protection are more uncertain and fuzzier, if not in some cases perhaps unknown. To broaden the theme
related to the validity of a notification of a traditional food from a third country sent to the commission
it must be specified that the notification must include: (1) the applicant’s name and address; (2) the
name and description of the traditional food; (3) an accurate composition of the traditional food; (4) the
country or countries of origin of the traditional food; (5) documented data demonstrating the history
of safe food use in a third country; (6) a proposal for the conditions of intended use and for specific
labelling requirements, which do not mislead the consumer, or a verifiable justification why those
elements are not necessary (article 14 Regulation (EU) 2015/2283).
For this reason, a dicult struggle exists for the European legislator to deal with who must
balance the following conflicting needs: on the one hand, to incorporate at the legal level, technological
innovations and, on the other, to balance the risks that this may entail, especially in a very sensitive
field represented by the food industry [17,21].
The novel food regulation can be a serious, albeit unintended, non-taritrade barrier to imports
from the developing world into the EU. There is a tendency for traders and exporters to redirect their
marketing strategies to these markets on a preferential basis [8].
According to Hermann [
8
], current regulations have discouraged investments in supply chains
and has limited the growth of the market. This also negatively aects income generation and rural
poverty alleviation in developing countries.
Serious concern exists over the development of activities promoting food export chains on the
topic of food safety concerning food types that could be included in the list of novel food. Moreover,
recent studies have shown how European consumers might be willing to pay for these “new” products
and more variable diets. Production and export of these products would generate income for poor
farmers in developing countries. In addition, this would benefit the conservation of biodiversity [
17
,
21
].
In the member states, a certain assertion has been made of some species of algae (Nori, Spiruline,
etc) for human consumption. What promotes consumption, is a demand expressed by consumers
who are aware that algae are of natural origin and maintain a much lower environmental impact
than the production of ingredients of animal origin. Algae are environmentally sustainable and also
bio-economically sustainable because the cultivation of algae does not use agricultural land and ensures
noteworthy employment levels.
On an international level, the study of commercial competitivity is an excellent instrument for
understanding the behaviour of the market for a certain product. Recent studies show that the
European Union is not very competitive in relation to honey exports and is strongly oriented towards
imports. In this context, Italy is at a notable disadvantage in terms of the sales of honey compared to
countries which produce larger quantities or highly specialised products [37].
Besides the analysis of competition, interesting results can be drawn from production analyses,
conservation status, and market trends of the European eel in order to contribute to the discussion on
the sustainability of eel populations [38].
Supplementary Materials:
The following are available online at http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/2/555/s1.
Table S1. Value of Imports of the dierent agri-food sectors in the European Union (2015–2018); Table S2. Relative
importance of Import “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried,
whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in the European Union on the total agricultural and agri-food sector
(2015–2018); Table S3. Value of Export Extra EU of the dierent agri-food sectors in the European Union (2015–2018);
Sustainability 2020,12, 555 17 of 18
Table S4. Value of Export Intra EU of the dierent agri-food sectors in the European Union (2015–2018); Table S5.
Value of Export of the dierent agri-food sectors in the European Union (2015–2018); Table S6. Relative importance
of Export “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not
ground” (HS 12122100) in the European Union on the total agricultural and agri-food sector (2015–2018); Table S7.
Intensity of Specialization index of sector “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled,
frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100) in European Union (2015–2018); Table S8. Internal Lafay
index of sector “Seaweeds and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or
not ground” (HS 12122100) in European Union (2015–2018); Table S9. Grubel-Lloyd index of sector “Seaweeds
and other algae; fit for human consumption, fresh, chilled, frozen or dried, whether or not ground” (HS 12122100)
in European Union (2015–2018).
Author Contributions:
This paper is the result of the full collaboration of all the authors. The actual writing of
Sections 14however, should be attributed to C.Z., Section 5to G.C., and Section 6to M.D. All authors have read
and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding:
This work was financially supported through the project “Economic assessments of the sustainability of
agri-food systems” by UNICT 2016–2018 “Piano per la Ricerca. Linea di intervento 2-Seconda annualit
à
P7/WP2
(5A722192141)”. Project leader: Gaetano Chinnici.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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On the international scene, the study of commercial competitiveness is an excellent tool in order to gain an understanding of the market behaviour of a given product. This methodology can be implemented on goods with a significant influence on total exports, in addition to others having a lower impact, such as honey, which has interesting production characteristics. This paper aims to study the behaviour of the main competitiveness indices (RXA, RMA and RTA) relating to the European Union honey market, as the UE acts as an important trade hub for primary sector products, with a separate focus on the Italian performance. The results show that the EU is not very competitive in relation to honey exports and is strongly oriented towards imports. The analysis of the disaggregated data, on the other hand, has revealed that the eastern regions of the EU, currently important producers of honey, are the areas with the highest performance and degree of specialisation in honey exports. Italy's behaviour is similar to the rest of the EU, showing a substantial comparative disadvantage in the trade of this product when compared to countries such as Romania or Spain, which produce greater quantities, or Germany, that is highly specialised in trade.
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In this study we analyzed trade in agri-food products in Mediterranean countries, included in the Union for the Mediterranean, to identify specialization patterns in the agri-food sector within the Mediterranean basin. Through the rca index (Balassa) it has been possible to assess the growing importance that non European-Union countries are gradually gaining in traditional agri-food sectors, such as fruit and vegetables, and in other agri-food sectors with higher added value, such as processed products, which only a decade earlier, were less competitive. In contrast, the main eu Mediterranean countries show stability in their agri-food specialization model, with a few exceptions mainly concerning products requiring a high degree of manipulation.
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Nowadays agro-food productions’ quality and markets’ economic efficiency are strictly connected and related to the increasing information’s role that is no doubt simplify by the global presence of the World Wide Web system. It is possible to assert that this kind of situation does not always safeguard information’s safety and propriety and at the same time consumers’ aware and complete choice capability. From a production markets’ economic efficiency point of view these elements contribute to create some kind of functional distortions able to prevent their proper working system under the economic theory profile and supply misunderstandings and informational asymmetries. These specific conditions seem to be able to produce disadvantages all at once to producers and consumers in terms of the natural relationship contest between demand and supply both in short and long term markets’ equilibrium oriented. As a consequence, the paper wants to highlight how the modern information’ role analysis and the agro-food productions’ quality value evaluation can contribute to the agro-food production markets’ functional efficiency improvement and also can reduce demand-side information asymmetries’ operative conditions. © 2018, SRAC - Romanian Society for Quality. All rights reserved.
Article
The considerable diffusion of ready-to-eat products has focused attention on the reasons for their increasingly prominent success in the market. Although their prices are much higher than the prices of simple raw materials, their consumption has increased rapidly and with no end in sight, a situation that has challenged the conclusions of the classical literature on the importance of price and/or income in consumer decisions. In fact, more recent literature has broadened the classical vision by introducing potential additional variables that could influence consumer choice of certain foods. These variables, however, are not always easy and clear to identify because they reflect the cultural characteristics of a society. For this reason, the French scholar Malassis has introduced the concept of a model of food consumption, which, in fact, stems from a concept of food consumption as driven by factors that are not the same for all the societies that might be studied. Among these variables, regarding the consumption of ready-to-eat products, a factor that certainly acts as a driving force in an increasingly frenetic and dynamic society is the time saving that they are able to provide. Thus, it was considered essential to analyze this in a concrete way, through the variance analysis of a sample of 77 subjects resident in the city of Palermo, noting their characteristics in terms of age, education level, and number of nuclear family members. The results obtained indicate that subjects who consumed ready-to-eat products at a higher frequency belonged to a higher age group, had a higher level of education, and belonged to a family that was not particularly numerous. With these results, it can be stated that the consumption of ready-to-eat products is influenced by people’s need to optimize their available time, considered as a real, scarce resource. © 2018, American Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.
Article
The aim of this paper is to identify the main elements that characterize the emissions to the atmosphere in Italy and the downstream waste in relation to the evolutionary dynamics of companies in the agro-industrial system. The choice to focus our study on Italy seems to be opportune since it has well-established territorial and socio-economic characteristics that may play a role in promoting the sustainable growth in Europe and in the Mediterranean basin. The first part of the study analyses the trend of the atmospheric emissions (by pollutants environmental issues) attributable to the agro-industrial system, in the last twenty years. The second part offers an intercensal and evolutionary picture of the enterprises of the agro-industrial system, examining the main subsystems of these firms and comparing them with the aforementioned emissions dynamics. In the third and last part of the study, we provide a further comparison between companies with special waste and the related production activities of the Italian agro-industry in order to evaluate the conversion activity into bio-based products and bioenergy (circular economy). © 2018, SRAC - Romanian Society for Quality. All rights reserved.