Hogan: Farmers have to seek ‘alternatives’ for post-Brexit world

Phil Hogan warned farmers, particularly Spain's fruit & veg producers, that Brexit will have a big impact on them. [European Commission]

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has warned Spanish farmers they will “have to find alternative markets” once the UK leaves the EU. The bloc has increased its budget for finding new market opportunities as a result. EURACTIV Spain reports.

“The industry has to make sure that it is not dependent on the British market,” Hogan told EFE shortly before a conference in Madrid and a meeting with Spanish agricultural minister Isabel García Tejerina.

Hogan encouraged all the member states and agricultural organisations to “get organised and seek alternative markets to the UK”.

“Every sector is going to be affected by the UK’s leaving; it’s a big market that is going to be on the EU’s doorstep in the future,” admitted the Commissioner, who added that Brexit will particularly have an impact on the Spanish fruit and veg sector.

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The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU could have a “serious impact” on Spanish meat and wine exports, according to a report by Farm Europe. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Producers are “aware” of the situation and must strive to mitigate its effects, warned the Irishman, who added that the best way to achieve this is by marketing.

Opening up new markets has been the main way of addressing the crisis that has emerged as a result of the ban on Russian food exports, which has been in force since Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and which look set to run until December of next year.

“We have diversified our markets and 80% of the goods that would have been destined for Russia now find their way elsewhere in the world,” explained Hogan.

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Hogan added that in order to boost its international presence, Brussels has increased its budget for promoting international sales from €111 million this year to €133 million in 2017. The money will be used to promote trade in 32 non-EU markets.

This strategy is helping pork producers, which have been hugely impacted by the Russia sanctions, get out of crisis mode, insisted Hogan. Producers have seen their prices rise by 30% in the last five months.

The sector, which accounts for 35% of the losses incurred by the Russia ban, according to Spain’s Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX), has turned its attention to markets like China, Japan, Mexico and Vietnam, where 100 Spanish companies have set up shop in the last year. 80 of these are pork producers.

Hogan added that “the companies have done a good job in terms of structure and competitiveness”.

The Commissioner highlighted the “initiatives” Brussels has launched in order to help the sector, such as private storage (PSA), which is intended to offset falling prices.

He also announced that “changes” would be proposed to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) within a year of implementation of its reform, with the aim of simplifying it and providing “new opportunities for young people”.

Young farmers: CAP progress is 'still not enough'

In an interview with EURACTIV’s partner EFE, the president of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), Alan Jagoe, called for more aid for people new to the industry and criticised national governments for doing more for veteran farmers than their younger counterparts.

Among other proposals, member states are going to be given more “flexibility” in defining what active farming entails.

Spanish farmers are also worried about the ongoing TTIP negotiations between the EU and the United States. Hogan added his voice to a growing list of Commission officials that recognise that the deal is not going to be concluded before Barack Obama leaves the White House.

“I don’t see the a final agreement being made before the end of this year or even next year. We are going to keep going with the negotiations, but the serious stuff is going to start when the new negotiating team is set up,” he added.

Hogan said that the text “guarantees” the EU’s valuable scheme of protected designations of origin, which has been one of the major stumbling blocks of the talks so far, as many critics are unsure how they will fit into the final deal.

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Hogan explained that the European Commission is preparing a “pilot study” to analyse how small farmers can be aided in entering new markets, which the agricultural Commissioner admitted can be an expensive prospect.

The Irishman also tried to reassure the bloc’s citrus fruit producers that the EU’s new deal with South Africa, which allows the country to export fruit at a reduced tariff, will not have a negative impact on them, as there is a “safeguard mechanism” in place, which will be triggered if imports become too high.

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