EU farmers need support in face of Russia sanctions

The EU is doing everything possible to alleviate the effects of Russia's agricultural sanctions, explains Marc Tarabella.

By Marc Tarabella

Marc Tarabella (BE, S&D) is co-chair of Parliament’s Bureau of the Sports Group

05 Sep 2014

On 7 August, Moscow imposed a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation for western economic sanctions over Moscow’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

In all, EU farm exports to Russia are worth around €11bn annually, making up roughly 10 per cent of all EU agricultural sales. Fruit, cheese, pork and vegetables are the four main agricultural export sectors from the EU to Russia, accounting for a total of €3.7bn in 2013, followed by alcohol (€725m) and wine (€595m).

The bans have already caused the price of some agricultural goods to drop, as farmers scrambled to find a substitute for their largest non-EU export market.

As a member of the agriculture committee in the European parliament, I totally support the emergency support measures taken by the European commission for farmers hit particularly hard by Russia’s ban on imports of European fruit and vegetables.

The measures, which call for the spending of up to €125m in EU funds to compensate farmers of perishable fruits and vegetables, would take effect immediately and apply until the end of November.

"As a member of the agriculture committee in the European parliament, I totally support the emergency support measures taken by the European commission for farmers hit particularly hard by Russia’s ban on imports of European fruit and vegetables"

The products covered under the announced measures include tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers, apples, pears, berries, table grapes and kiwis. The markets for such fruit and vegetables are now in full season, and most have no storage option and no immediate alternative market available. All farmers of the concerned products, whether in producer organisations or not, will be eligible to take up these market support measures.

Taking into account that Russia imported over €1.3bn worth of cheese, curd and butter from the EU in 2013, the impact of the Russian ban on the dairy sector seems obvious. The European Union is therefore ready to support exporters of dairy products, adding to emergency measures already taken for fruit and vegetables.

Appearing to acknowledge that it couldn’t replace some more complex food products on its own, Russia revised some of the sanctions. As such, it will still allow imports of lactose-free milk and products, biologically active supplements, flavour additives and protein concentrates, as well as salmon and trout fry and seed potatoes and onion seed.

Even though Russia rowed back on some of the sanctions against EU farm exports, the EU will not change its opinion on the economic sanctions against Russia. Western sanctions against Russia are unfortunately necessary and must continue. Doing nothing and then witnessing the situation become more insecure is not acceptable. We are not the weakest actor in this conflict.

"EU emergency measures taken by the commission are a first step in response to Moscow’s sanctions. But it is clear that they are not sufficient"

EU emergency measures taken by the commission are a first step in response to Moscow’s sanctions. But it is clear that they are not sufficient. The EU does, and will not hesitate to, support the sectors heavily dependent on exports to Russia and to adapt the measures already announced, if necessary.

Europe will do the maximum in order to protect our agriculture. EU food producers don’t have to pay the price of the EU economic sanctions against Moscow. Our priority is to continue trying to find a political solution.

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