EC to support producers hit by Russian ban

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The European Commission (EC) came out with exceptional support measures earmarked at €125m for European Union (EU) producers of perishable fruits and vegetables Monday in light of Russia’s embargo on imports of agricultural products from the EU.

Commenting on the decision, Dacian Cioloș, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, stated: “Taking into account the market situation following the Russian restrictions on imports of EU agricultural products, with effect from today, I am triggering CAP emergency measures which will reduce overall supply of a number of fruit and vegetable products on the European market as and when price pressures become too great in the coming months. All farmers of the concerned products - whether in producer organisations or not - will be eligible to take up these market support measures where they see fit. Acting early will provide an efficient support to the price paid to producers on the internal market, help the market adjust and be cost effective."

"Acting early will provide an efficient support to the price paid to producers on the internal market, help the market adjust and be cost effective."

The measures are listed to be applicable to the following products: tomatoes, carrots, white cabbage, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers and gherkins, mushrooms, apples, pear, red fruits, table grapes and kiwis. In particular, these goods are currently at the height of their season and have no storage option in most cases and no immediate alternate markets available in the face of the closed Russian market.

The exceptional measures will include market withdrawals especially for free distribution, compensation for non-harvesting and green harvesting. The financial assistance will cover all producers whether they are represented by a producers’ organisation or not. The measures will be effective retroactively from August 18, which means that any volumes withdrawn from today onwards (or subject to green harvesting or the other measures) will already be covered by these additional measures, subject to the necessary controls. These measures will apply until the end of November with an expected budget of €125 million.

The announcement came on the heels of a letter to the EC from Latvian Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs in which he urged it to compensate losses to producers and reduce the pressure on the market from plunging prices due to gluts of the embargoed goods. In his letter Dūklavs also requests a lifting of punitive fees for exceeding milk production quotas, as well as eased restrictions on state procurement interventions and other pressure-releasing mechanisms to help the affected product sectors.

However, Agriculture ministry spokeswoman Dagnija Muceniece told business news portal that Latvia’s fruit and vegetable exports to Russia aren’t great enough, especially amongst the EC’s announced product list, to amount to a significant claim on the EC exceptional support package monies.

“It’s really a negligible amount of vegetables that is exported to Russia…, moreover the principles and criteria for receiving the support have not been made entirely clear,” Muceniece said, declining to estimate how much of the €125m might be claimed by Latvia.

The ongoing market situation for all products will be discussed at another meeting with Member State experts and experts from the European Parliament scheduled to take place in Brussels on Friday.

The EC said it will continue following developments for all the sectors affected by the Russian ban on agriculture and food products in close cooperation with Member States and will not hesitate to support further sectors heavily dependent on exports to Russia or to adapt the measures already announced, if necessary.

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