Farmers and agri-cooperative leaders from across Europe have gathered in Brussels to debate the drastic situation hitting EU agriculture markets and presented a list of measures to EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan to improve it.
In a meeting with Mr Hogan, Copa President Martin Merrild said: “Farm prices are rock-bottom, especially in the dairy, pork, fruit and vegetable, beef and cereals sectors and there are not enough tools in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to address this. We need strong, common policies that provide immediate solutions to European wide problems. Protests have been taking place across the EU. The situation is particularly bad after we lost our main export market – Russia - worth 5.1 billion euros overnight as a result of international politics. Input prices also remain very high especially fertilizer costs.”
Outlining ways to improve the situation he said: “A top priority for the EU must be to re-open the Russian market. Farmers and agri-cooperatives should not be the ones to foot the bill of international politics. The support we got from the EU didn’t even cover a fraction of our losses. Moreover, only 25% of the aid package has so far been paid out due to delays by the national authorities causing more farmers to go bankrupt. We also need export credits to promote our exports like other countries have. And we need more aggressive debt relief from the European investment Bank(EIB)We will step up pressure until Ministers next meeting in March to get our voices heard.”
Cogeca President Thomas Magnusson went on to say: “Farmers and agri-cooperatives are becoming more market orientated and competitive but it’s impossible for many producers to stay afloat when they lose a key export market overnight and when few other market opportunities exist. We welcome EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogans’ international trade missions to promote EU products and to open new markets but this takes time to develop and to have an impact. Farmers and agri-cooperatives need urgent solutions otherwise the economies of rural areas and the EU economy as a whole will be hit hard.
“We need to get a better return from the market. It is unacceptable that retailers squeeze farmers so hard by offering them prices well below their production costs, getting only 20% of the prices of a piece of steak sold in the shop for example. They have to make heavy investments to comply with European standards which are some of the highest in the world. They should get a fair return for this. We need sustainable food chains that benefit farmers and consumers alike.”