The EUR 5 million programme is part of a wider effort to export specific EU agricultural produce to target a total of 10 markets, including the US, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, Norway and Switzerland. In all 8 programmes have been accepted by the EU to promote the export of wine, fruit and vegetables, olive oil, potatoes and Mediterranean products.
"Improving the competitiveness of EU quality products on markets outside the EU is a major challenge. By investing in promotion and information campaigns for our agricultural products outside the EU, the European Union is showing its determination to take up this challenge", Commissioner Fischler, responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, said.
For Eastern Europe the programme includes a move by the Italian Potato Association to promote potatoes in Russia, while ASOP, the Greek Agricultural Agency, will be trying to push sales of fresh and packaged nectarines and peaches.
The move meets the growing demand for more diverse agricultural products and foods in Russia and Central Europe, especially foods that are perceived as being exotic or foreign. This stems from a burgeoning middle class, enjoying new-found spending power, seeks to try a range of foods that have not been on offer in Russian food stores or markets before.
The Italian potato producers are hoping to push new varieties of potato on a market that has been witnessing shortages in recent years. Although Russia is the world's second largest potato producer - behind China - growing domestic demand for processed potato-based products such as crisps, coupled with crops being hit by blight, has led to growing demand for potato imports.
Russian imports of agricultural products increased from $10.3 billion in 2002 to $11.2 billion in 2003. Major agricultural imports include barley, cereal, fruit and nuts.