COVID-19 fallout, seasonal workers, CAP contingency plan

Your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s AgriFood Brief, your weekly update on all things Agriculture & Food in the EU. You can subscribe here if you haven’t done so yet.

EU agriculture ministers have called for further specific and targeted measures to address the difficulties faced by the agri-food sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as restrictions in the movement of foodstuff, changes in the operation of production systems and insufficient numbers of workers. Read more here.

Agrifood news this week

COVID-19 measures could cause ‘devastating’ labour shortage in EU farming
Europe’s farming sector could face a dramatic shortfall in workers as a consequence of the border restrictions put in place to stem the spread of novel coronavirus, which could lead to “devastating” impacts, according to farmers association COPA-COGECA. Natasha Foote has the story.

MEPs demand CAP contingency plan as part of EU virus response
Lawmakers in the European Parliament have called on the European Commission to prepare a strategy anticipating the difficulties that might arise in implementing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.

Open-air markets ban: Another blow to struggling small farmers
Local farmers markets have become the latest coronavirus casualty after France decided to close open-air markets as part of its pandemic response. But the move has proved controversial given that it stands to disproportionately affect small producers. Read more here.

MEPs join call for ban on live animal transport as virus causes border delays
More than 40 members of the Parliament have joined a coalition of NGOs calling for a ban on long-distance animal transport during the crisis. They argue that the reintroduction of border controls has resulted in delays that risk affecting animal welfare and, by extension, human health. But the Commission says it is not aware of any major issue regarding the transport of animals by road. Gerardo Fortuna has the story.

Farmers warn of far-reaching COVID-19 effects on EU agriculture
A new report from farmers’ association COPA-COGECA outlines the multi-faceted ways in which COVID-19 is leaving its mark on the agricultural sector. See here for more information.

Quote of the Week

“We believe that further and perhaps more specific measures need to be introduced for the agriculture and fisheries sector in the European Union.”

Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković
Agrifood news from around Europe

Agriculture Minister Marija Vuckovic unveiled measures for the agricultural sector on Tuesday (23 March), which are part of the government’s initial set of measures designed to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. The ministry is now working on additional measures. Read more here. (Karla Juničić |

The French government has called on the unemployed to offer assistance to farmers with the upcoming seasonal harvests. However, this is difficult to implement due to the current confinement measures in place. EURACTIV France reports.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has reported that there is “no obligation” to have a particular accreditation in order for a farmer, livestock farmer or fisherman to travel to his workplace. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.

Concerns surrounding labour shortages in the food supply chain have prompted slaughterhouses to voice their concerns over worker shortages, as employees are sick or don’t come into work for fear of infection. This could lead to bottlenecks in production and subsequently higher prices for consumers. To address these concerns, Chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalian State Market Association for Livestock and Meat has called for the temporary removal of working time regulations and suggested that other states follow suit. (Sarah Lawton |

The coronavirus epidemic is changing consumer behaviour, with Poland experiencing a boom in online stores run by local farmers offering “short food supply chain” products. The turnover of many of these stores has increased by up to 200% in recent days; however, some entrepreneurs are having to withhold deliveries this week due to a large number of orders. (Mateusz Kucharczyk|

With the strawberry and berry picking season just weeks away, farmers have called for the creation of a ‘land army’ to sustain UK food production during the coronavirus crisis. Farmers in many parts of the country are already struggling after months of severe floods, and the supply of seasonal workers was already in doubt because of Brexit, but the UK faces renewed fears over severe labour shortages in light of the recent outbreak. (Natasha Foote |

The closure of all McDonald’s restaurants in Ireland and the UK this week is set to come as a big blow to the Irish beef sector, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA). IFA president Tim Cullinan wrote to European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, last week stressing that the Commission needed to stand ready to support the EU beef market after the impact of COVID-19. “The Irish beef price is already well below the cost of production for farmers. They cannot sustain any further cuts,” he said. (Natasha Foote |

Actors in the food supply chain haven’t been affected by the new wave of restrictive measures to halt the novel coronavirus outbreak in Italy. “All the necessary activities related to the smooth functioning of the food supply chain, including transports, remain open,” said Italy’s agriculture minister Teresa Bellanova. (Gerardo Fortuna |

On our radar this week

The Commission appointed Wolfgang Burtscher as director-general of the Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) directorate this week.

To mark the International Year of Plant Health, EFSA has launched a special website highlighting the work it is doing with its partners to combat plant pests and protect Europe’s cultivated and wild plants.

Upcoming events 

Due to the precautions taken against novel coronavirus, there are no events scheduled for this week.


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