The EC’s package, announced last week, is a step in the right direction, some MEPs told Commissioner Phil Hogan in a debate last week. But it may not be enough to support many farmers badly hit by falling prices, caused partly by a global oversupply of pork and dairy and compounded by Russia’s ban on EU food imports.
Some MEPs asked the Commission to intervene and immediately increase prices to tackle the situation that has led to farmers throughout Europe blocking roads with tractors and burning pyres of straw outside government buildings in Brussels. Others asked for further support in helping farmers find new foreign outlets.
Tools to manage supply
Several MEPs called for tools to manage supply, particularly when it comes to the milk sector, while others insisted on structural reforms that would simplify the Common Agricultural Policy and boost the competitiveness of EU farmers on the world market. Some also called for €900 million raised from former ‘super levy’ fines paid by farmers who exceeded their quotas under the quota scheme abolished in April 2015.
Copa & Cogeca said in a statement the measures on the table fall far short of being able to “solve the drastic situation hitting EU agricultural markets”.
Copa president Albert Jan Maat said: “There are a few positive elements in the package like a boost in the EU promotion programmes but it falls short of our expectations.
'Strong export strategy'
“EU producers have lost their main export market to Russia worth €5.5bn annually and a €500m aid package will not be enough to compensate for this. They are also been squeezed hard by retailers. What we need is a strong export strategy and export insurance in the EU beef, pork and milk markets that could cover some of the trading risks. Priority must also be given to re-opening pigmeat and dairy trade with Russia and revamping competition policy rules.
“Producer prices do not even cover input costs and we are experiencing extreme volatility on agricultural markets. The package includes very few measures to help manage the market or deal with the increasing volatility and short-term problems. In particular, we are disappointed that there is a lack of measures in the EU pigmeat sector and the fact that there were few discussions on difficulties facing the EU beef sector.”
Announcing the aid package, the EC said it was “well aware of the difficult situation” faced by farmers. Vice-president Jyrki Katainen said the package demonstrated “that the Commission takes its responsibility towards farmers very seriously and is prepared to back it up with the appropriate funds”.