Mr Chairman, dear colleagues, I am pleased to welcome you all to this first meeting of the European Crops Market Observatory.

This is the fourth Market Observatory set in motion after the Market Observatories on Milk, Meat and the one for Sugar. I am a firm believer in markets, and their central role in creating exports, jobs and profits for our European farmers and agri-businesses.

However, we can only take advantage of market opportunities if all the players have access to the right information at the right time. Information is Power.

My services and I will continue to maintain a bird's eye view of the entire agri-food economy, and by placing specific sectors under the spotlight, we can not only assist in the development of these sectors but gain a better understanding of the bigger picture too.

Today's meeting is the fulfilment of a commitment to extend to the crops sector the successful story of the Market Observatories for Milk and for Meat, in line with the recommendations of the Agri-Markets Task Force, and as announced at the meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers held last March.

This Market Observatory also meets the demands of stakeholders in the crops sector and has been set up with the aim to ensure more market transparency by disseminating market data and short-term analysis.

The purpose of a forum like this is to build discussion platforms, to evaluate market developments and to highlight and assess the current market situation, for the sake of both economic operators and Commission services.

And this is good business sense: the EU Crops sector is essential for European agriculture. It has a production of more than 300 million tonnes of cereals, 30 million tonnes of oilseeds and 5 million tonnes of protein crops the EU Crops.

The sector is vitally important for both the domestic feed and domestic food markets, and it makes a significant contribution to the competiveness of our livestock sector and food industry in general.

The Crops sector also plays an essential role in the competiveness of EU agricultural products at global level. On average the EU exports more than 40 million tonnes of cereals every year, corresponding to an export value of more than EUR 10 billion. This makes cereals the number one contributor to EU exports of primary agricultural products.

Your response to our call for applications and your presence here today proves your interest and willingness, as the main players in the sector, to take advantage of this new tool that we are putting in place. We expect a high level of contribution from your side, because it is indispensable to the success of this Crops Market Observatory.

Being the first meeting, part of today's gathering will be dedicated to introducing the structure and mandate of the Observatory as well as to highlight and discuss your role, contributions and responsibilities. You will also adopt the Rules of Procedure for this Economic Board in line with the general procedures for Commission expert groups.

Subsequently, my colleagues will explain the data sources that are currently used; illustrate the Crops Market Observatory website; and propose a discussion on additional data needs and possible inputs from you, the members. Later on, we would like to discuss the current market situation with you.

Building on the experience of the existing Market Observatories, the Crops Market Observatory has been conceived as a dynamic instrument to provide a detailed analysis, carried out by the relevant actors themselves, of the market situation in the short term.

It is for this reason that the Observatory should be based both on the assessment and on the dissemination of market data.

The Observatory will allow for an increased gathering and assessment of market data and statistics, producing high-quality reports and providing market information accessible to all via a dedicated web-page.

Quality and reliability will be of the highest possible standard.

These assessments and data will complement the already available information. In this regard, your comments on additional data needs, as well as any further communication expectations from your side, will be more than welcome.

The website will be regularly updated and will include all relevant and appropriate market data.

Our experience with the other dedicated Market Observatories is that stakeholders strpongly appreciate the dedicated websites and frequently visit them to get the latest market insights.

I would also like to draw your attention to certain aspects, which I believe to be particularly relevant for your involvement and the success of the Observatory.

You are a part of the Observatory in your capacity as market experts. As designated representatives of your respective organisations, you are expected to contribute with your expertise objectively and constructively.

Each one of you will of course provide views based on your experience in the supply chain. However, the Observatory is not a forum for political statements.  This should be very clear from the outset.

We will all benefit from the outcome of the discussions of the Observatory. You, the relevant actors of the supply chain, will be able to take your decisions with a deeper knowledge of the market situation and trends. And public authorities, including the Commission, will be better equipped to decide about policy instruments if the situation so requires.

Our ambition is for the Observatory to become an additional and useful tool to assist the Commission in its market management duties.

This is what the Milk and Meat Market Observatories have been doing for some time now and I am sure the Crops Market Observatory will rapidly acquire the same authority and credibility.

Let me conclude by recalling the importance of this new project, and by stressing how essential your commitment is to make this initiative a success.

Your role is to provide the expertise and guidance that will underpin the sector's healthy, sustainable and successful growth.

The CAP needs to provide operators with the tools and supports to feel comfortable and confident when engaging with markets. The other Market Observatories have provided this strong support since their establishment.

Now I want the EU Crops Sector to have a similarly strong support system.

I believe our products are among the finest and safest in the world, and their export value is already huge, with great potential for further growth.

So let us today resolve to work together to make a success of this outstanding new opportunity.

Thank you all in advance for your cooperation.