EU extends aid to farmers hit by Russian food ban

Spain will recall a total 40,000 tons of peaches and nectarines to raise prices. [Brandon Doran/Flickr]

The European Commission has announced it will extend support measures for the dairy and fruit and vegetable sectors hit by Russia’s ban on food imports from Europe, which has been in place for a year.

Aid for the dairy sector will be prolonged until 29 February 2016 while support for fruit and vegetable producers will be continued until 30 June 2016, the Commission said on Thursday (30 July).

Russia announced the extension of its ban on Western food imports for six months starting in early August, saying it could add new products to the list. The move came in retaliation for extended European sanctions against Moscow in the Ukraine conflict.

The Russian ban covers imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy.

“With the [Russian] ban prolonged, we need to continue to provide a safety net in order to give security to producers who continue to face difficulties in relation to the ban,” said Commissioner Phil Hogan, responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Aid for farmers will be allocated to EU countries that have exported significant quantities to Russia over the past three years.

Measures for the dairy sector will include public buying-in (intervention) and private storage aid for both butter and skimmed milk powder, the Commission said in a statement. There will also be free distribution of fruit and vegetables to charitable organisations and withdrawals of products used as animal fodder, composting and distillation in order to prop up price. Other measures include called ‘non-harvesting’ and ‘ green harvesting’ for fruit and vegetables, the Commission said.

Around 770,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables – mainly peaches and nectarines – have already been withdrawn from the markets, costing the EU €155 million.

The EU executive said it was finalising the last details of the support measures, “with a view to formally adopting the relevant legal decisions in the coming weeks as a matter of formality”.

Brussels described the Russian ban as “unjustified and illegal”.

Russia banned the import of certain foods and drinks originating from the European Union as a response to Western sanctions over Ukraine’s crisis.

The Russian food ban, which took effect in August 2014, forced the European Commission to use agricultural funds to help EU producers hit by the trade restrictions.

Russia is the second most important destination for EU agri-food exports after the United States, representing in total a value of about € 11.8 billion in 2013, or roughly 10% of all EU agri-food exports, according to the Commission. The agri-food products covered by the Russian ban represent a value of € 5.1 billion in 2013 exports, it said in an information note, or 43% of EU agri-food exports to Russia.

Some sectors are affected differently however. Apart from emergency market support measures for the dairy sector, at the beginning of August, the Commission announced roughly €32 million aid for peaches and nectarines, and €125 million for perishable fruits and vegetables.

>> Read: Dairy sector to receive emergency EU funding following Russian trade ban

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