New York 2 november 2011
Eskil Erlandsson, Landsbygdsminister
"From Farm to Fork"
Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Royal highness.
First of all, I would like to begin with a special thanks to the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce for taking the initiative to this seminar. It is a real pleasure for me to take part in this very interesting event.
"Know your farmer know your food" is the headline of this section. I do know a lot of farmers, in fact I used to be one myself. But now a days the farming is limited to a passion of mine - breeding of ponies.
First of all - do people really want to know their farmers, and why?
In Sweden, we see a very clear trend of increased interest in where the food comes from. Consumers want to have real, authentic produce and food-experiences. They do not only want to know the origin of the product, but also the name of the farm, the face of the farmer and the story about how the product is being produced.
Together with the revolution that his highness Prince Daniel mentioned we can also see the return of the local produce, focus in traditions, seasonal variation and the revival of our culinary heritage.
In a survey that we made this summer (together with Visit Sweden), about Swedish attitudes towards food, we could see that Swedish consumers have a high confidence for our primary producers and that they think that farmers produce with good animal-welfare and environmental respect. In other words - they want to know the farmer, and they like what they see.
But from attitudes and knowledge - to behavior in the food store, there is often some work to be done. This, of course, also goes for Sweden. Despite of the increased consumer interest high quality food and a sustainable food chain the Swedish food production is dropping, and in some sectors the farmers are struggling with profitability.
As a response to this, and in line with my urge to strengthen the farmers role in the food chain. Me, and my colleagues in the Swedish government created the vision: Sweden - the new culinary nation.
The vision focuses on how Sweden can use our advantages and make the most out of our unique qualities and conditions in climate. Our various geography, innovative farmers, entrepreneurs, chefs and attractive surroundings for tourism and a growing export.
This is a vision with the purpose of creating food for a better life in terms of taste, health and sustainability. And of course in the end, new entrepreneurs, jobs and rural development.
The development of this vision needs to be done with the greatest care for people, animal welfare and the environment. Our talented and dedicated farmers is one of the very foundation in our vision.
A trend is also that the chefs and the team in the restaurants want to know the farmer and sometimes be a part of the growing and harvesting.
Going "back" to the philosophy of household and seasonal variation.
An example of this interest, is a coming speaker, Magnus Nilsson, Chef at Restaurant Fäviken Magasinet who has drawn an international attention the restaurant and food served. The dishes are depending on what is possible to pick, harvest or hunt, locally or in the farm.
It's clear to me that we do not only need to know the farmer, we also need to know the food. Both from an ecologically, healthy and sustainable perspective.
Therefore, an important focus in Culinary Sweden is animal health. Animal health and welfare are always primary focus, along with organic cultivation, environmental approaches and sustainable food production both in cultivated and wild landscapes, and in the sea.
Sweden has some of the strictest animal welfare legislation in the world. Sweden is also salmonella-free, which promotes consumer security.
Finally, one last thing I'd like to point out it's the role of our future consumers all over the world, children and young people. They need to get to know the farmers and their work. They need to have the knowledge about where the food comes from to be able to be active and aware consumers.
An important part of this is the around 2 million school meals that are served in Sweden every day. Working with the meals within the school-system is very important for me.
Did you know that Sweden, together with Finland, are the only countries where school pupils get free hot meals? This is unique and I think we can develop this area further. Connect the school with the farmers, and maybe, as we saw today also have more schools with gardening of their own.
Sweden has knowledge in this area, that I believe that can be an successful export product!
And speaking of export. I have set a goal to double the Swedish export of food until 2020. This a real challenge, but I truly believe that Sweden, and Swedish food has unique values that can compete with some of the great food nations of today.
Of course, saying all of this, I hope that you all will get to know a Swedish farmer, and that you will come to Sweden, the culinary nation, to meet one yourself!
Thank you very much for listening.