Impacts of Russian trade ban

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The ongoing Russian trade ban dominated discussions this week and whilst initial steps have been taken towards the lifting of certain restrictions, the commission urged member states to show “solidarity” in response to the ban and to refrain from arranging their own talks in order to get around their ban for their own products.

Although Commissioner Hogan did admit that EU law did not prevent member states from establishing bilateral trade agreements with any country, he argued that a common EU approach would be more beneficial than one-off deals. Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis was stronger in his condemnation, saying that any bilateral agreements were “unacceptable” particularly as the commission continues to pursue a legal challenge against the Russian ban.

The Baltic member states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, received support from Poland, the UK and Slovenia, in calling for unity and solidarity. Whilst member states largely agreed with the Commission’s call for solidarity, several delegations argued that the current provision of measures was “insufficient” in dealing with a ban which has cost EU agriculture €5.1billion.

Agriculture ministers from Italy, France, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Ireland, Estonia, Belgium and Finland all pushed for further market measures – whilst the Mediterranean member states voiced concerns about ‘short-termism’, raising fears that the market would be vulnerable when the measures expired in June.

However, such negativity was shot down by the commissioner who urged delegations to look to trade data, which presented a largely optimistic picture. According to commission figures, apple and pears had already found an alternative market in Egypt while 77% of pigmeat originally exported to Russia was now being sold elsewhere.

Commissioner wants farmers’ views on CAP simplification

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has written to all European agriculture ministers inviting them to provide ideas on how best to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy.

In the letter, he argued that reducing red tape would be important in increasing competitiveness and enhancing the job creation potential of the agri-food sector. Mr Hogan ‘encourages’ each minister to engage with farmers to produce a joint response, adding that priority should be given to those areas where farmers are most concerned, and where they would most benefit from a reduction in administrative burden.

He says however that the political decisions taken during the CAP reform should stay intact to ensure stability for beneficiaries. The commissioner has requested responses from the member states before the end of February and notes that this issue will be discussed in detail amongst ministers at the Agriculture Council in March.

Dairy debate

Mansel Raymond, chairman of the milk working party of the European farmer’s organisation Copa, last week spoke on behalf of the sector at a debate in the European Parliament on the current dairy situation.

The debate was aimed at informing MEPs about the current situation facing dairy farmers and possible actions that could be taken at an EU level.

Mr Raymond called on the European Commission to review the public intervention price in order for it to be closer to the cost of production. Mr Raymond also stressed the importance of having the right tools in place and also for them to be used to assist farmers in times of extreme market volatility.

Thierry Roquefeuil, chairman of the National Federation of Milk Producers in France spoke about how producer organisations have an important role to play in the future of the dairy industry.