Over 6000 farmers and 2000 tractors bring Brussels to standstill

Over 6000 farmers and 2000 tractors after across the EU demonstrated in Brussels today to underline the drastic situation hitting EU agriculture, in particular dairy, pork, fruit and vegetable and beef producers, and call on the EU for action.

Speaking in Brussels outside EU Farm Ministers meeting, Copa President Albert Jan Maat said “We are here today to underline the unprecedented situation and demand EU action. Demonstrations have been taking place across Europe for months. There is a particularly bad situation on the EU pigmeat, dairy, fruit and vegetable and beef markets, mainly as a result of the Russian export restrictions which shot the EU’s main export market worth 5.5 billion euros overnight. This situation is not our fault yet it is our sector that is being hit the most. EU farmers are paying the price for international politics. Prices are below production costs in many countries and farmers incomes half the average level, forcing some out of business. Copa and Cogeca welcome as a step forward the actions taken so far by the EU Commission to help alleviate the situation but it is nowhere enough to compensate producers for their huge losses. We need EU measures to deal with the increasing volatility on agricultural markets as well as medium and longer term measures”

Cogeca President Christian Pees said “The huge power of retailers is also hitting producers hard, squeezing margins further. It is crucial to have EU measures to rebalance the food chain and to fight against unfair commercial practices. The EU Commission, Ministers, MEPs must take clear steps towards curbing the disloyal commercial practices of retailers. Copa and Cogeca favour a practical solution that combines legislation with voluntary codes backed by an enforcement that provides credibility to the system. The EU agri-food sector accounts for 40 million jobs mostly in EU rural areas and exports more than 120 billion euros every year. And with world food demand set to rise by 60% by 2050, we cannot afford to wait for a new crisis to arrive. We need an economically viable agriculture sector in all EU regions. The EU must act”.

In particular, Copa and Cogeca call for:

· A Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) based on economics and a cut in red tape

· a strong export strategy, in particular new market outlets, elimination of unnecessary barriers to trade and export insurance that could cover some of the trading risks

· EU promotion programmes

· the possibility to open art 222 for producers organisations and cooperatives In extremely difficult market situations

· Fair competition rules for farmers and cooperatives

· A stronger positioning for producers on agricultural markets and a fair price for producers

· Help with farmers cash-flow problems by advancing their direct payments in Autumn

· Strengthening of producer organisations like cooperatives to help farmers better market their produce and get a better return

· Encourage development of cooperatives in Central and Eastern European countries

· Sufficient funding for research, development and innovation, also for cooperatives

· Targeted measures for farmers and regions worst hit by the Russian export ban

For individual sectors – the EU dairy, pork, fruit and vegetable and beef sectors – which were worst hit by the Russian ban, Copa and Cogeca call for:

· EU milk superlevy money to go back to the sector

· an increase in the EU butter and skimmed milk powder intervention price to set a floor in the market

· fast degrading pig fat and lard in stock to be used for non-food purposes, like biofuel production

· setting up of a beef and pigmeat market observatories to give producers up-to-date information and raw data which they can use

· EU private storage aid for beef and veal to be allowed

· maximum compensatory amounts to producers for withdrawing fruit and vegetables from market also to be updated to reflect rising production costs

· flexibility in fruit and vegetable sector for countries hit badly by adverse climatic conditions this year

· boost in EU school fruit and vegetable schemes to encourage healthy eating habits at young age

· a strong export strategy, in particular new market outlets, elimination of unnecessary barriers to trade in all 4 sectors

· export insurance that could cover some of the trading risks in the milk, beef and pigmeat sectors

· Promotional measures increased in all four sectors

The move came as the situation was being discussed by EU Farm Ministers today. Copa and Cogeca also underlined these issues in a high-level meeting with EU Farm Commissioner Hogan and the Luxembourg Presidency today.

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