Copa-Cogeca calls for more help for farmers hit by Russian sanctions

In a meeting with the Italian Presidency, Copa-Cogeca welcomed EU action to alleviate pressure on EU fruit and vegetable and dairy producers as a result of the Russian ban on farm exports worth 11 billion euros but called for further targeted measures to be introduced, including in the EU pigmeat sector, to prevent the agriculture sector from collapsing altogether.

The move came as the issue was being debated by EU Farm Ministers in Luxembourg today. Speaking in Luxembourg on behalf of Copa-Cogeca, Copa President Albert Jan Maat warned “This crisis is not the fault of the EU agriculture sector yet they are the ones paying the price for it. It is the result of international politics. EU farmers and agri-cooperatives must therefore not be left alone in bearing the burden of it. Additional funds from outside of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget are vital”.

He continued “With prices falling by over 50% in some cases, the crisis has shown that we need to step up the use of crisis management tools in the case of severe market disturbances. Application of article 222 of the CAP is necessary to enable producer organisations like agri-cooperatives to react quickly. We also need to encourage export promotion campaigns to stimulate new demand and find new market outlets for our produce. Red tape needs to be cut and non-tariff barriers to trade tackled”

Outlining specific measures needed for each sector, Mr Maat said “Since we normally export 24% of the total value of EU pigmeat exports to Russia, this sector has been suffering for months by the ban. Action must be taken to improve the situation, in particular for specific products like fat and by-products. Promotion campaigns for pig meat must also be set up”.

Turning to the EU fruit and vegetable sector, Mr Maat said “Measures taken so far by the EU institutions in the sector were a good step forward and instilled some confidence amongst producers. The package introduced provides EU funding for the withdrawal of products from the market to distribute freely to for example charities, non-food uses, green harvesting. But since 29% of EU fruit and vegetable exports are normally sent to Russia and prices have dropped by up to 50% in some cases, additional targeted actions are essential to prevent prices from plummeting and incomes from declining further. In particular, we need the temporary measures to continue beyond December 2014 for all eligible fruit and vegetables and they should apply retroactively. A grubbing up programme for specific varieties and species of fruit is also needed”.

“In the dairy sector, buyers are postponing their purchasing decisions for as long as possible due to the instability on the EU dairy market. I am therefore disappointed that the EU Commission decided to suspend suddenly at the end of September the temporary private storage aid scheme for cheese. It should still be open for countries severely affected by the ban. In view of the difficult situation, flexibility is also needed at national level to recover the milk super-levy bill from those hit by it. Finally, there is a risk that the low EU reference price for milk could drag EU milk prices down to a level well beyond production costs. The milk intervention price must consequently be updated urgently to take account of rising production costs”, he concluded.

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