A new set of measures to help EU farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, announced Wednesday by the EU Commission, aims to stabilise markets and provide stability to future prices and production.
While the EU agri-food sector has shown resilience in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, some markets have been hit hard by its consequences, says the Commission.
"Today we are announcing a new and exceptional package of measures to support the most affected agri-food sectors by addressing already observed disturbances as well as future risks," said the Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski: "I am confident that these measures will relieve markets, and show concrete results rapidly."
The new package includes measures for private storage aid (PSA) in the dairy and meat sectors, the authorisation of self-organisation market measures by operators in hard hit sectors and flexibility in fruits and vegetables, wine and some other market support programmes.
Exceptional measures announced as a further response to the Coronavirus crisis include:
- Private storage aid: the Commission proposes to grant private storage aid for dairy (skimmed milk powder, butter, cheese) and meat (beef, sheep and goat meat) products. This scheme will allow the temporary withdrawal of products from the market for a minimum of 2 to 3 months, and a maximum period of 5 to 6 months. This measure will lead to a decrease of available supply on the market and rebalance the market on the long-term.
- Flexibility for market support programmes: the Commission will introduce flexibility in the implementation of market support programmes for wine, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, apiculture and the EU's school scheme (milk, fruits and vegetables). This will allow the reorientation of funding priorities towards crisis management measures for all the sectors.
- Exceptional derogation from EU competition rules: applicable to the milk, flowers and potatoes sectors, the Commission will authorise the derogation from certain competition rules under Article 222 of the Common Markets Organisation Regulation, that allows operators to adopt self-organisation market measures. Concretely, these sectors will be allowed to collectively take measures to stabilise the market. For example, the milk sector will be allowed to collectively plan milk production and the flower and potatoes sector will be allowed to withdraw products from the market. Storage by private operators will also be allowed. Such agreements and decisions would only be valid for a period of maximum six months. Consumer price movements will be monitored closely to avoid adverse effects.
The Commission says it is aiming to have these measures adopted by the end of April. Beforehand EU Member States will need to be consulted, and vote on these measures. They are therefore subject to change. Full details will be unveiled at the time of final adoption.
The package just announced follows a comprehensive package of other measures adopted early on by the EU to support the agri-food sector in the current crisis, such as increased amounts for state aid, higher advanced payments, and extended deadlines to submit payment requests. The increased flexibility regarding Common Agricultural Policy rules aims to alleviate the administrative burden on farmers and national administrations.