Spanish MEP wants ‘migration-style’ controls on food imports at the EU border

The Mercamadrid wholesale food market in Madrid, Spain. [Javier Lizon/EPA]

Spanish Partido Popular MEP Esther Herranz wants to harmonise the EU’s border controls to protect food and plant products and prevent pests. EURACTIV’s partner EFEAgro reports.

Esther Herranz says that the EU should apply controls to the “trafficking of goods on its borders, just as it has done with migratory flows”, to protect food and plant products.

Herranz says that just as migration flows have “forced” the EU to make decisions about its borders, governments must act to avoid “health problems” linked to agricultural production.

The MEP is particularly concerned about the Xylella bacteria, which is present in plants in several countries and in the Spanish Balearic islands, and Alicante.

Herranz insists on the concept of “food defence” used by the US government, which focuses on standards to prevent contamination.

Herranz believes that the EU is legislatively “poor” in this area and that it would be advisable to persuade all member states to harmonise import surveillance.

“Producing countries like Spain are aware of the danger at borders, but not all countries are at the same level. We have proof: Xylella, or the black spot on citrus.”

“If Xylella entered with ornamental coffee plants through the port of Rotterdam, it is necessary to control not only food but also the products or objects that can carry organic beings,” Herranz says.

Looking at the United States

Referring to the “food defence” regime, she recalls strict US requirements for imports that, for example, “force orange exporters in the port of Castellon to perform many controls” if they want access to the US market.

“Let’s apply the same rules in Europe. If we open ourselves to the world without protecting ourselves, and can only count on limited use of substances against diseases, we are lost,” says Herranz.

The lawmaker suggests introducing EU-wide product certifications, because they would assist small companies that want to sell in markets like Japan, USA or Canada, but now pay a high price for accreditation.

Praising TTIP

Asked about trade agreements, Herranz regrets that the arrival of Donald Trump to the US presidency has slowed TTIP because it would have been “a fantastic tool” for products such as meat, wine and citrus.

In general, she advocates promoting new agreements, such as CETA with Canada, or the one recently reached with Japan, because “the more diversified” trade partners are, the “less risk” there will be of repeating a crisis such as that generated by Russian sanctions.

Herranz asserts that the agreements must be reciprocal, although she believes that the agricultural sector is no longer used “as a currency” as before.

About the CAP

Regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget, the Partido Popular lawmaker said that it will depend on factors such as Brexit and that the negotiation of the current CAP was already influenced by the crisis.

“You have to be realistic and think that the CAP will stop being the way it is. The reality is very different now.”

However, she advocates “being realistic and thinking that the CAP will stop existing in its current form, as it will increasingly have a greener orientation,” because some of its elements, such as historic payments, “seem like relics from another time”.

In Herranz’ opinion, the CAP should be subject to “adjustments” and improve “market measures” or tools to incorporate young farmers, because “it cannot be” that in Spain the average age of the producer is ” above 50 years “.

However, she believes that the sector is”very different” now, and is aware that agriculture is not what it was and that producers are “entrenched” in a globalized context.

Quality food secures Spain’s place in globalised market

Spain is an agricultural powerhouse: agri-food products account for 20% of the country’s exports. And if there is one thing keeping Spanish farmers competitive in the age of globalisation it is the quality of their products. EURACTV’s partner EFEAgro reports.