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CEJA column, Issue 16, February 2015

2015 is set to be a momentous time for celebrating European food production because it is the year of EXPO which takes place in Milan. In his regular column, Matteo Bartolini President of CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers) takes a look at this huge exhibition which this year focuses on feeding the planet.

MF: Can you give us some background on EXPO 2015?

MB: This Universal Exhibition, known as EXPO Milano 2015 runs from 1 May to 31 October and will focus on the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’. This gargantuan event takes place just once every five years, and was last held in Shanghai in 2010. The next one will take place in Dubai. The first-ever EXPO was held in London in 1851 and was last held in Milan in 1906. The 2015 event will be the first in Italy since 1992 and the first in Europe since 2000. These ‘World Fairs’ have, over the years, led to the birth of eye-catching monuments such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Atomium in Brussels.

MF: What is special about this year’s theme?

MB: The theme is all about the many qualities of food production across the world. It is essential to remind ourselves just how important food is – it provides the energy that we need and keeps us moving and working. Food is our ultimate fuel and therefore the basis of any economic activity - a message that I am delighted this exhibition will be promoting so widely.

MF: What will the event involve?

MB: The event is set to be bigger and better than ever before, with the organisers expecting 148 country pavilions and therefore 94% of the world’s population to be represented! The host city also expects 20 million visitors over the seven-month opening period of the exhibition. EXPO Milano will be able to hold a maximum of 250 000 people at any given time. World exhibitions have always been popular events of course but they were originally established as classic business-to-consumer events. Now, however, and particularly with recourse to this theme, the EXPO is a big meeting point where everyone can find a platform and an opportunity to discuss and engage in those thematic issues relevant to them, their sector, their organisation, their region, their nation, etc.

MF: How is CEJA getting involved?

MB: CEJA is aiming to hold a sizeable conference around the future of food and generational renewal in the sector. This event would bring together young farmers, academics and policy makers in a bid to debate and discuss the future of our sector. This discussion and its outcome will be of added value to the event and theme, bringing farmers closer to citizens and strengthening the link between these two groups – whether they are from rural or urban areas. It is essential that citizens feel closer to those who work so hard to provide them with the high-quality, diverse and safe food that they enjoy so much.

MF: How will this benefit young farmers?

MB: The outcome of the discussion will also enable young farmers everywhere to make use of the event in order to call for increased support and awareness of the age crisis in the world’s farming population. Young farmers need more support for innovation and solutions to the huge problems we have with food waste and unfairness in the food supply chain – something which strongly affects consumers too. Young farmers will also be able to use the opportunity of EXPO to showcase best practices of young agricultural entrepreneurs from across the world and to stand up for European quality, diversity and traditions in food production. CEJA’s participation will be a huge opportunity for us to raise public awareness of the demographic crisis in agriculture and the need to marry farming with young talent.

MF: What does this mean for the bigger picture?

MB: As the world remerges from the global financial crisis, it is time for us to get our priorities straight for the future. Food production must be central to any strategy for innovation, growth or employment. Agriculture is a stable sector which is resistant to shocks but also forms the basis for every other economic sector. Its future, and therefore humanity’s future, depends on young farmers. CEJA will make sure that this is central to the messages emanating from this spectacular once-in-a-lifetime event. Look out for more information on our participation on the CEJA website.

If you would like If you would like to get in touch with Matteo Bartolini or CEJA, email allusers@ceja.eu

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