The Luxembourgish association "Mouvement Ecologique" published a report on Thursday criticising the implementation of the school fruit scheme in the Grand Duchy.
In response to these criticisms, namely regarding a lack of regional produce within the programme and a focus on costs, Luxembourg's Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, Romain Schneider, has clarified that the need to respect European public procurement rules (since the programme is partly financed by the EU) "does not limit the supply to domestic products". He added that "the ease of implementation by schools is a crucial condition for ensuring the success of the programme". In this regard, specialised distributors deliver to most schools throughout the academic year: "For the 2018-2019 school year, more than 360 school sites had to be stocked each week". Minister Schneider also argued that "the current system works well", with some 100,000 students benefitting from the programme.
Regarding costs, Romain Schneider has highlighted the importance of prices but also the specific criteria related to regional fruit production. For instance, Luxembourgish producers supply apples, pears and carrots to the programme. Minister Schneider highlighted that: "In 2018-2019, almost 26% of the apples distributed are of Luxembourg origin".
In addition, distributors are required to select at least 5% of the fruit from organic production, in addition to organic fairtrade bananas. Minister Schneider stated that organic fruit production remains limited in the Grand Duchy: "In 2018-2019, 35% of the fruits distributed [were] organic, but of non-Luxembourgish origin". However, he added that "an organic action plan is already being developed with the sector":
For its part, the Mouvement Ecologique had already anticipated a response from the Agricultural Minister in their report, arguing that the Ministry would cite EU regulations as the reason for certain limits of the programme. Whilst the association agreed that Luxembourg does not currently produce enough fruit for the requirements of the programme, it argued that the Government should "either tender for a lesser extent, give producers the opportunity to apply (possibly together within the Greater Region) [...] to use regulations that force suppliers to increasingly focus on organic and regional [produce] according to quality criteria. And thus also to lay the foundation for an appreciation of fruit cultivation in Luxembourg".
In his response, Romain Schneider lamented that the Mouvement Ecologique had not presented their concerns directly to the Ministry. As such, he has invited the association to "a constructive dialogue at the Ministry, thus allowing a real exchange of views and the search for solutions to the complex subject of public procurement".