EU farmer unions Copa and Cogeca have put forward a raft of measures for the European Commission to consider to help alleviate the agricultural prices crisis, ahead of a March meeting in Brussels.
“The situation is worsening every day, with farmers and agri-cooperatives facing severe cash flow problems and many being forced out of business,” warns Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen. “We lost our main export market, Russia - worth €5.1 billion, overnight as a result of international politics. Input prices are soaring - especially fertilizer costs, while the collapse in oil prices has put downward pressure on commodity prices without affecting fertilizer costs.
“The situation is untenable. The Commission’s €500 million package last September was nowhere near enough, and anyway only 25% of the aid has been paid out. Unless the EU acts now, the crisis will reach unprecedented levels, putting a severe strain on rural economies and leaving the EU unable to feed a growing population in the future”.
Key measures Copa Cogeca are calling for include: re-opening the Russian market to EU exports; faster trade negotiations with Japan; reinforcing promotion measures and the use of export credit insurance, and action on unfair food chain practices that see retailers unfairly squeeze producers on price. It wants market support measure such as a temporary increase in the milk intervention price and an extension to private storage aid for pigmeat and dairy products, plus a review of market tools for the fruit and vegetables sector.
“ The cost of inputs can be cut by lifting import duties, especially for fertilisers and we need more loan/debt relief for investments through the European Investment Bank, state aid, and adjustment of the ceiling for de minimis aid,” concludes Mr Pesonen. “Member States also need to make full use of tools under EU rural development policy and national schemes to help farmers manage risk better.”