Posted on

Putin prolongs Western food ban

Spanish fruit and vegetable growers are among those asking the European Commission to urgently adopt new aid measures for them amid Russia’s extension of its veto on certain Western food imports.

Spanish fruit and vegetable growers are among those asking the European Commission to urgently adopt new aid measures for farmers amid Russia’s extension of its veto on certain Western food imports.

The Russian move came in retaliation to the EU decision to prolong until January sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Russia’s original ban – which applied to food products including vegetables, fruit, beef, pork, fish and dairy products from the EU, the US, Canada, Norway and Australia – was introduced last August. Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was extending it, “by one year beginning from today.”

Fepex, the Spanish federation of associations of producers and exporters of fruit, vegetables, flowers and live plants, immediately called on the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan to extend the exceptional measures used by the Commission to help EU fruit and vegetable growers affected by the existing ban.

In a letter to Hogan, Fepex said the Russian ban on the import of EU fruit and vegetables in force since last August had deprived the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector of the top non-EU export market. “There are no alternative markets that can compensate for this loss,” it said.

Fepex calculates Spanish fruit and vegetable exports to non-EU countries in the first quarter of this year were down 17% – a total of 218 million tons – on the same period in 2014. It said the extension of the veto “will worsen a major crisis in the EU summer fruit market” and called for the Commission to urgently adopt market crisis management measures.

Meanwhile, Murcia’s Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, a member of the European Parliament from Spain’s ruling Partido Popular party, in a written question in the Parliament has called for stone fruit to be covered under the earlier exceptional support measures.

He said these existing measures did not contain any exceptional support for Spanish plums, table grapes, kiwifruit, peaches, apricots or nectarines.

“Exports to alternative markets have not absorbed the 60,698 tons which were previously exported to Russia. Measures need to be taken therefore to prevent prices falling as they did between 2013 and 2014 (by 32.3% for plums, 36.7% for yellow flesh peaches and 44.9% for yellow flesh nectarines). The marketing season started in April and farmers are now extremely concerned,” he said.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin: Kremlin.ru [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted on

Tough time for Israeli citrus market, says USDA

The Israeli citrus market's export value has been negatively affected by external shocks and unfavorable weather, reports the USDA.

External shocks and adverse weather have rocked the export market for Israeli citrus, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture.

The Israeli shekel has strengthened about 10% against the Euro in the last year, making Israeli citrus exports less profitable in the EU, a market to which two-thirds of its citrus exports go.

The Russian financial crisis is also hurting Israeli citrus exports. The rapid depreciation of the ruble against the shekel has brought trade to a standstill since February. And exports to Japan have also taken a hit due to economic slowdown there.

Israel is consequently increasing its exports to long distance markets, mainly South Korea, the US, and Canada, the USDA said. “However, these markets remain small with the US and the Canadian markets capturing 3-4% of the total Israeli citrus exports.”

Meanwhile, in January, about 6,000 ha. of citrus were damaged due to hail storms and winds estimated to have caused overall damage worth NIS 70 million ($17.7 mil) to Israeli agriculture, affecting thousands of acres of avocado and citrus crops and some row crops in the south. The citrus damage would have been worse if not for the protective nets used in groves. “Despite the weather disturbances, export quantity was not affected significantly and this is mainly to a good crop and that made up for the weather,” the USDA said.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 at 10.24.39.png

Israel’s best seller in citrus is the Orri mandarin, an easy-peeler which accounted for about 40% of Israeli citrus exports (64,478 tons) in the 2014/15 marketing year and mainly goes to the EU and. “Orri is still profitable, but it’s just less profitable per unit than it could be and this is due to the weakened Euro,” the USDA said.

“Orange exports in MY 2014/15 have declined marginally compared to the previous two years because of strong domestic demand (see table).  The decrease in grapefruit exports in MY 2014/15 is mainly due to the fact that about 1,100 ha of red grapefruit (star ruby and Rio-red varieties) were uprooted in the last 3 years due to low profitability,” it said.

Source: “External Shocks and Weather Conditions Challenging Citrus Revenues” a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) 

Image: “Lemon Orchard in the Galilee by David Shankbone” by David Shankbone (attribution required) – own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
 

Posted on

Spanish concerns about EU imports of Moroccan tomatoes

Spanish tomato growers have stressed the importance of separate minimum entry prices for round and cherry tomatoes entering the EU market.

Spanish tomato growers have stressed the importance of separate minimum entry prices for round and cherry tomatoes entering the EU market.

Fepex – the Spanish federation of associations of producers and exporters of fruit, vegetables, flowers and live plants – said having just one value for all types of tomatoes makes it difficult to rigorously monitor the market and implement safeguard clauses in trade agreements when necessary. Cherry tomato prices can be up to four times that of round tomatoes.

In a press release, Fepex said that entry prices for tomatoes from Morocco will be one of the main issues on the agenda at the next meeting of the European Commission’s tomato forecast working group, to be held Thursday June 4.

It said that at the meeting it will also propose that the Commission set a market withdrawal price for cherry tomatoes separate to and higher than the current one for tomatoes in general – €18.30/100kg – because this amount is “clearly insufficient to manage market crises in this segment, which endures strong competition from Moroccan imports.” Fepex said that last year farmgate prices for Spanish tomato growers were down 14.5% on the previous year.

Commission sees no signs of market disturbances

In February, the Commission said it closely monitors quota limits for preferential access conditions for tomato imports from Morocco under the bilateral agricultural trade agreement with that country.

“Based on surveillance data from the national customs authorities, imports in October 2014 were 23.4% higher than in October 2013; whilst in November 2014 imports exceeded by 13.5% those of November 2013. Volumes imported under preferential conditions are within the thresholds set by the agreement.

“Member States have reported a positive trend for the prices of tomatoes produced in the EU since August 2014. The EU average price currently remains above the average prices of the last three years. The Commission does not have any evidence of serious market disturbances which would justify applying the safeguard measure foreseen in the Agreement,“ said Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan in reply to a written question from Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato.

Mato had asked if the Commission was considering taking action to avoid upsets to the EU market that might be caused by the increase in Moroccan tomato imports.

“This increase in imports threatens the market access of tomatoes grown in Spain, France and Italy due to the fact that, in those countries, farming is subject to much stricter social and food safety conditions than are in place in Morocco, placing farmers in those countries at a clear disadvantage,” Mato had written.

Sources:
Fepex
Parliamentary question
Graph & table

Background: Commission statement on tomato import rules

 

 

Posted on

European Commission should better protect EU banana growers, says Spanish MEP

Canary Islands politician Gabriel Mato wants the European Commission to act faster if banana imports from non-EU countries such as Peru and Colombia exceed agreed limits for a preferential customs duty.

Canary Islands politician Gabriel Mato wants the European Commission to act faster if banana imports from non-EU countries such as Peru and Colombia exceed agreed limits for a preferential customs duty.

Mato, a member of Spain’s ruling party Partido Popular, said the Commission should report to the European Parliament weekly – and not just at the end of the year – so timely action can be taken if limits are exceeded.

In a press release in Spanish, Mato said it had been noted in the Parliament’s Committee on International Trade that Peru had exceeded its limit in 2013 and 2014. He said that by the time this was reported at the end of the relevant year, it was too late to implement a safeguard clause suspending the preferential customs duty.

During a meeting of the committee in Brussels on May 6 he called for more to be done to protect EU growers. If asked, they would tell the Commission they are “in a permanent state of crisis,” he said. With the signing of an agreement with Ecuador on the horizon meaning the entry of even more bananas, action on the issue is all the more important, he said.

According to the Commission, in November 2014 it appeared that the imports into the EU of fresh bananas from Peru exceeded the relevant threshold.

However, it said, imports of fresh bananas from Peru represented only 1.9 % of the total imports of fresh bananas into the EU for January-September 2014. Also, imports of fresh bananas from other traditional importing countries, notably Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, remained largely below the thresholds defined for them in comparable stabilisation mechanisms.

It also noted that:

  • the average wholesale banana price in the EU market in October 2014 (0.98 EUR/kg) did not register notable changes compared to banana price averages for the previous months;
  • that “there is neither an indication that the stability of the Union market has been disturbed by the imports of fresh bananas from Peru in excess of the defined annual trigger import volume, nor that this had any significant impact on the situation of Union producers” and
  • “there is no threat of serious deterioration or a serious deterioration for producers in the outermost regions of the Union.”

The Commission concluded that the suspension of preferential customs duty on imports of bananas originating in Peru would not be appropriate but said it would continue to closely monitor banana imports from Peru.
 

sources:

Gabriel Mato press release: Exigimos a la CE que proteja a los productores europeos de plátano e intervenga antes cuando la entrada de banano de terceros países supere los límites fijados

COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION of 17 December 2014 determining that the temporary suspension of the preferential customs duty established under the stabilisation mechanism for bananas of the Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Colombia and Peru, of the other part, is not appropriate for imports of bananas originating in Peru for the year 2014

 

 

 

Posted on

Call for more EU help for fruit & veg sector grower organisations

The EU must do more to help fruit and vegetable farmers joining forces in so-called producer organisations to increase their competitiveness and bargaining power in the food supply chain, says the draft non-legislative resolution adopted by the Agriculture committee on Tuesday.

The EU must do more to help fruit and vegetable farmers joining forces in so-called producer organisations to increase their competitiveness and bargaining power in the food supply chain, the Euroepan Parliament’s Agriculture committee said in a draft non-legislative resolution adopted on Tuesday.

The resolution was in responce to the European Commission’s assessment of the situation in the EU’s fruit and vegetable sector since its 2007 reform.The MEPs also called on the Commission to tackle unfair trading practices and further improve the EU’s fruit and vegetable regime.

“Producer organisations must continue to be the cornerstone of the EU’s agricultural policy. The report that we adopted today stands for the encouragement of growers to organize themselves in an organisation which can enhance their bargaining power, better position them in the food chain and thus improve their incomes”, said Nuno Melo (EPP, PT), Parliament’s rapporteur.

The 2007 reform aimed to strengthen the position of fruit and vegetables farmers in the food supply chain and some progress has been achieved since then but the degree of organisation among producers remains low on average and considerably below the EU average in certain Member States, the MEPs said.

They also stressed the need for more support to producer organisations to provide stronger incentives to merge existing organisations or create new ones.

Farmers’ organisations that decide to take young members should be eligible for special benefits, the MEPs also said, noting currently only 7.5% of EU farmers are under 35 years of age but “well-functioning producer organisations could reverse this unsustainable trend.”

Read more here.

Posted on

Vote today on EU clamp down on plastic carrier bags

Draft rules requiring EU countries to cut use of the most polluting plastic bags will be put to a vote in Strasbourg today

Draft rules requiring EU countries to cut use of the most polluting plastic bags will be put to a vote in Strasbourg today.

With pollution of water bodies and aquatic ecosystems a major environmental problem, the law would require EU member states to choose between two options:

  • take measures to ensure that average yearly consumption does not exceed 90 lightweight bags per citizen by 2019 and 40 by 2025, or
  • ensure that, by 2018, these bags are not handed to shoppers free of charge.

According to the European Parliament website, in 2010, every EU citizen used an estimated 198 plastic carrier bags, some 90% of which were lightweight. Estimates suggest more than eight billion plastic carrier bags became litter in the EU the same year.

Carrefour also seeking alternatives to plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables

French retail giant Carrefour said in its recently published 2014 annual report that it stopped handing out free plastic bags in 2012 in consolidated stores in all its countries except Argentina and Brazil, where the process is underway.

“In anticipation of future European regulations, the Group is working to identify alternatives to the plastic bags currently used for loose purchases of fruits and vegetables,” it also said.

source: EU Parliament

image: By Trosmisiek (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons
 

Posted on

Plan to merge EU milk and fruit in school schemes

Screenshot 2015-04-15 at 10

More money and effort must be invested by the EU and its member states in promoting healthy eating and the consumption of local foodstuffs by children, said the European Parliament agriculture and rural development committee on Tuesday.

The agriculture committee endorsed plans to merge two schemes which are currently separate – one providing milk for schoolchildren and the other fruit – and to extend the educational measures already included in the fruit scheme to cover milk as well. According to its press release, it also approved a set of amendments to draft rules on the schemes.

Among measures sought by the committee are that:

  • member states earmark 10% – 20% of the EU funding they receive to educational activities, designed for example to promote healthy eating habits and sustainable production, and including visits to farms and the occasional distribution of local specialities such as processed fruit and vegetables (unless they contain added sugar, fat, salt or sweeteners), honey, olives or dried fruits;
  • an additional €20 million a year be allocated for the measures covering milk, bringing annual funding for milk and milk products up to €100 million, with €150 million for fruit and vegetables;
  • a fairer distribution of EU funds among member countries, by setting two core criteria for the entire scheme (the proportion of six to ten-year-old children in the population and the degree of development of the region within the member state).

As background, the committee noted consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk continues to fall across Europe. Over 20 million children are overweight and adolescents are on average consuming only 30% to 50% of the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.

The amendments endorsed by the Agriculture committee should be scrutinised by the full House during the 27 May plenary session in Brussels.

To find out more, see the press release here
Other documents are available here.
 
 
 
 
 
Posted on

Efsa: no evidence Ebola could be transmitted through food in EU

Outbreaks of Zaire Ebola virus disease have been reported in nine countries so far – Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal. All these countries can export fruits and vegetables into the EU, with the exception of potatoes.

There is no evidence the Ebola virus can be transmitted through food in the European Union, according to a report by EFSA scientists published this week.

They assessed the risk of Ebola being transmitted via consumption of raw foods such as fruit and vegetables that have been legally imported into the EU from Africa.

Not only have there been no reported human cases of Ebola infection from the consumption of these foods, neither have any of the following been reported, which the Efsa experts say would be necessary for the virus to be transmitted though food:

  • the exported food would have to be contaminated at the point of origin;
  • it would need to contain a viable virus (“capable of surviving”) on arrival in the EU;
  • the person would have to be infected following foodborne exposure. 

However, the scientists identified some knowledge and data gaps – for example for how long the virus could survive in food.

Outbreaks of Zaire Ebola virus disease have been reported in nine countries so far – Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal. All these countries can export fruits and vegetables into the EU, with the exception of potatoes. 

Read: An update on the risk of transmission of Ebola virus (EBOV) via the food chain – Part 2

Image: NIAID (Ebola Virus Particles) via Wikimedia Commons

Posted on

Recent impact of Russian ban on prices for certain EU produce

European Commission presentation on the impact of the Russian import ban on prices for certain fruits and vegetables.

There’s been an upward trend for mushroom prices and stable prices for pears, carrots, kiwis, and oranges and lemons in the EU, according to the European Commission.

But the price situation for tomatoes and peppers has been mixed and there’s been a downward trend for apples.

That’s according to a presentation on the impact of the Russian import ban on prices for certain fruits and vegetables which the Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate made at the February 17 meeting of the Committee for the Common Organisation of the Agricultural Markets.

Hightlights of the presentation include:

MARKET UPDATE

Apples
Prices decreased in the two Member States with the lowest prices (-6.8% to 20 EUR/100 kg in PL and -4% to 26.6 EUR/100 kg in DE).
Pears
Prices registered stability (current prices are 8.8% under the historical average).
Citrus

Prices over 3-year average (22.2% higher for oranges and 6.7% for lemons).
Tomatoes

Significant price reduction in IT and moderate in ES (current average for tomatoes is 9,8% above the 3- year average).

MARKET CONTEXT

Exchange rates of Dollar to both Euro and Zloty: extra-EU exports and opening new export markets more attractive, helping to restore market balance.
New export destinations: The US has lifted an old ban on imports of French apples and pears from, following a bilateral agreement on sanitary controls.
Lower supply in Southern EU due to adverse weather conditions and low temperatures: Positive impact on prices.

SUMMARY MARKET SITUATION

Positive trend:
Mushrooms (downward trend reversed last week)
Price stability:
Pears (BE price = 46.5)
Carrots (lowest prices in NL & PL)
Kiwis (prices much higher than 3-year average)
Oranges & lemons
Downward trend:
Apples (20 EUR/100 kg in PL and 26.6 in DE)
Mixed situation:
Tomatoes
Peppers
 

 

Screenshot 2015-03-10 at 18.58.08.png

Screenshot 2015-03-10 at 18.57.47.png

 

source:
Evolution of EU prices of certain F&V
European Commission DG Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate C. Single CMO, economics and analysis of agricultural markets

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Opportunities in the EU for US exporters of organic produce

Screenshot 2015-02-12 at 11

The growing market for organic products in the EU offers opportunities for US exporters affecting various kinds of produce, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture says.

The USDA said while trade is generally determined mainly by quality, price and local availability and demand, opportunities for US exporters include:

  • Sweet potatoes: the market for sweet potatoes is growing. EU demand for potato varieties is up. The US is the best year round supplier of sweet potatoes at competitive prices.

  • Fresh vegetables like onions, broccoli and lettuce: especially the UK.

  • Fresh fruit: especially in those countries with no local availability, there is demand for a great variety of fresh fruit from the US. There is seasonal (October through March) demand for apples and pears in northwestern Europe. Demand in the same region is also strong for US citrus (grapefruit and minneola). There is year round demand for fresh, dried, sweetened cranberries and demand continues to grow. Growing demand for other fruits includes grapes, strawberries and cherries.

Trade in organic products between the US and the EU

The report says that from 2011 to 2014, the largest increase in US exports of organic produce to the EU occurred in fresh grapes and reached USD 4.7 million in 2014 (2011: USD 0.8 million). In 2014, the value of US organic grape exports to the EU exceeded the export value of organic apples which used to be the most important US organic export commodity in 2012 and 2013.

Other important US organic export products to the EU after grapes and apples include strawberries, blueberries, peppers, and cauliflowers.

In 2014, most US organic exports to the EU occurred during October (grapes and apples) and November (grapes).

US exports to the EU of organic products which are covered by HS codes (introduced in 2011) reached USD 12.3 million in 2014. This compares to an increase of 77 percent from 2011 to 2014, the USDA said.

us exports organic.png

us top importers eu.png

Figure 2. Top 10 EU countries with the highest organic sales USD per person, 2013 figures

Top 10 EU countries with the highest organic sales USD per person, 20.png

 

Top 10 largest organic markets in the EU, million USD, 2013 figures

Top 10 largest organic markets in the EU, million USD, 2013 figures.png

 

Read “Plenty of opportunities for U.S. organics in the EU market”

USDA Foreign Agricultral Service (FAS) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report