EU farm chief delays import curbs and green reforms

The European Union’s chief agriculture official said it was premature to restrict beef imports after industry groups called for additional support measures while battling COVID-19.
calendar icon 8 April 2020
clock icon 2 minute read

According to Reuters, he also acknowledged that reforms aiming to make EU farming more sustainable and climate neutral need to be delayed further.

Thus far, the European Commission has set guidelines to keep borders open for goods and cross-border workers, including seasonal farm labour. On 6 April, it said that farmers would be given longer to apply for direct payments and that the disbursement process would be accelerated.

European farming association Copa Cogeca has said fruit and vegetable growers need exceptional measures. It also believes the Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, should look at managing existing import quotas, notably of beef, which is shipped into the EU from the Americas and Australia.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said he understood some sectors were showing signs of strain, but it was not yet the time for intervention.

"We should consider all the consequences of some limitation of import quotas because these are international trade agreements, but of course we are monitoring the situation and we are considering measures in the future, but not now, not yet," he told Reuters.

Wojciechowski said the farmers could receive up to €100,000 ($109,050) per farm as the EU relaxed its approach to state aid.

Some €17 billion in unspent rural development policy funds could be diverted to farmers, he said, adding the Commission would take a favourable view when it came to any approvals.

The Commission is also discussing a possible further delay to its Farm to Fork strategy, a vision to make the agriculture sector more sustainable. The EU executive plans to unveil it on 29 April, a month later than initially planned.

The strategy would cut the use of pesticides and antibiotics, reduce food waste, and curb the environmental impact of transport in the sector.

Wojciechowski said the Commission's Green Deal vision to fully decarbonise the EU economy by 2050 was still top priority and, if anything, the Farm to Fork strategy needed to be strengthened, not weakened.

He said the Commission had not made a decision on a further delay but would consider the matter.

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