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Thursday, April 9, 2020
Their View / Opinion

Pre-holiday diets are an opportunity for change

With Halloween over, many of us are in the throes of pre-holiday diets.

Good thing, too.

As Canadians, we didn’t fare well this year when the Bloomberg Healthy Country Index tallied up which nations were doing the best on the health front. We came in at No. 16, just ahead of South Korea and behind The Netherlands.

Spain, home of the Mediterranean diet, came in first. Their traditional and zesty fruit-and-vegetable rich diet, which they balance with low-fat animal protein, gave them a leg up on the healthy-country scale.

The Bloomberg index considers factors beyond diet, such as Spain’s excellent health care system and a social culture that emphasizes family values over the daily grind. But there’s no question diet contributed significantly to it being well on its way to overtaking Japan by 2040 as the country with the longest life expectancy in the world.

University of Guelph human health and nutritional scientist Prof. Alison Duncan says we could take a lesson from Spain.

“The Mediterranean dietary pattern is very healthy with its high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil, its moderate intake of fish and poultry and its low intake of processed meats, sweets, red meat and dairy, as well as wine in moderation with meal,” she says. “It’s not only a diet but a culture and Canadians could learn a lot from both the components of the diet but also the approach of enjoying and savouring foods, including fruits and vegetables.” 

This dietary phenomenon shows in the growth of Mediterranean-type food and beverage exports on the world market.

From 2015-2017, fruit exports rose 120 per cent to US$107 billion, vegetables were up 100 per cent to US$68.7 billion, wine exports increased 70 per cent to US$32 billion and olive oil jumped 61 per cent to US$8.1 billion. Globally, Europe is leading the trend, where consumption traits there have significantly boosted equipment sales related to plant production and specialty crops.

So how perfect, then, that ultra-healthy Spain – home of many of the fruit and vegetables (olives and grapes in particular) that are contributing to the country’s lofty healthiness status – was chosen to host the bi-annual Agrievolution Summit this year, an impressive event dedicated to advances in agricultural production and processing equipment.

The Agrievolution Summit is staged by the Agrievolution Alliance, the global voice for about 6,000 agricultural equipment manufacturers around the world and 15 individual associations (including the Milwaukee-based Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which represents North America).

Growers know they need to be profitable to afford new equipment. But they also know new equipment can help them be more efficient and even consumer friendly.

“The main driver of the price of specialty crops is the quality of the product, particularly its organoleptic properties which are highly appreciated by consumers,” says Ignacio Ruiz, secretary general of ANSEMAT, the Spanish agricultural machinery association.

“Any alteration of such qualities may lead to a drop in the price of the product. So special care must be taken during last days in the trees. Harvesting techniques, transport, handling, calibration, classification and packaging require specific equipment to preserve quality from the trees to the consumer table.”

If healthy-eating trends continue to throw the spotlight on the Mediterranean diet and plant-based diets, specialty equipment growth is likely to be more than a short-term trend and spread beyond Europe to other continents.

Equipment-wise, Canada is already part of that revolution, with new European equipment starting to show up in producers’ fields. This country is ready to be an active player in long-term change.

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