EU ministers rally to help 'bleeding' pork business

By Kitty So

- Last updated on GMT

Plans for new measures to get pork back on its feet include reopening Russia's market
Plans for new measures to get pork back on its feet include reopening Russia's market

Related tags European union Eu Pork

EU ministers have told the European Commission to devise detailed assistance measures to help European pigmeat producers, following a debate at the EU Council of Ministers for agriculture on 14 March.

The measures for the pork industry are part of a wider emergency aid package for the agriculture industry, proposed by the European Commission's agriculture commissioner Phill Hogan.

In formal meeting conclusions drafted by the Dutch government, which holds the EU Council’s rotating presidency, ministers called on the Commission to continue identifying new non-EU country markets for EU food exports; prioritise working with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to develop financial packages helping farmers and meat processors make their businesses more competitive; and work with the EIB and member states to consider the feasibility of an EU export credit tool.

The Commission, according to EU ministers, should intensify efforts to regularise trade with Russia; consider allowing member states to grant temporary support of up to €15,000 per farmer per year; and protect the interests of European producers in free trade negotiations, including the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks with the USA and negotiations with South American trade bloc Mercosur.

The Dutch government said it would “keep developments in the market situation under close review​” and would reassess the situation at a June Council of Ministers meeting, or earlier if necessary, and could urge the Commission to consider making available additional resources, such as tapping a crisis reserve as a last resort. Meeting minutes stressed that the pigmeat sector was also suffering from lagging demand worldwide.

Russia must be ‘reopened’

EU farmers and cooperatives body Copa-Cogeca welcomed the package, but noted more could be done. “The package is a step forward, but we need to see how it pans out. Many farmers across Europe are facing the worst crisis since the early 1980s. The EU dairy and pigmeat sectors are bleeding. They were hit by the loss of our main export market Russia – worth €5.1bn. The Russian market must be reopened as soon as possible. The proposed measures on state aid… may help some farmers, but it is a step away from a common EU policy that should shoulder the consequences of international policy developments,​” said Copa president Martin Merrild, from Denmark, in a statement.

While he noted the measures on market management, use of export credit insurance and additional financial instruments could be useful, he urged EU ministers to step up payments from the September 2015 package as only part of this aid has been released.

It is also good that the Commission has prioritised its engagement with the [EIB] in order to develop the right financial instruments to help farmers invest in their businesses and improve competitiveness,​” said Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson.

Pigmeat ‘suffering’

A communiqué said that the Council and Commission had agreed to “take decisive actions without delay​”, building on the €500 million aid package for farmers approved last September (2015). Pigmeat and dairy are the two segments suffering the mot at present, ministers agreed, with the meat sector’s plight worsened by Russia’s continuing import ban on EU products.

In formal meeting conclusions, drafted by the Dutch government, ministers urged the Commission to continue closely reviewing the pigmeat sector’s situation and consider a new scheme for ‘private storage aid,’ to be introduced in 2016 “at the time most beneficial for the sector​”. It also said the Commission should extend the existing dairy sales monitoring system (the EU milk market observatory) to the beef and pigmeat sectors, and increase the dedicated promotional funding for pigmeat sales.

For a breakdown of the emergency aid package proposed by the EU, see this article.

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