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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.

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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
 

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Plan to merge EU milk and fruit in school schemes

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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.
 
 
 
 
 
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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

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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
 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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Opportunities in the EU for US exporters of organic produce

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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.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 
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EU competition watchdog to check if Carrefour breaching rules

The European Commission is looking into whether Carrefour’s policy of offering only “France Origin” seasonable vegetables in nearly 1,200 of its stores in France breaches competition rules.

The European Commission is looking into whether French retail giant Carrefour’s new policy of offering only ‘France Origin’ seasonable vegetables in nearly 1,200 of its stores in France may breach competition rules.

Margrethe Vestager, European commissioner for Competition, said the Commission is currently looking into the issues and liaising with the French competition authority.

“It appears from the press release issued in November that Carrefour and France’s federation of vegetable producers announced a new partnership agreement to offer only ‘France Origin’ seasonable vegetables in Carrefour’s 1,200 retail stores in France.”

“It is a priority of the Commission to protect the internal market and avoid restrictions of competition to the detriment of the consumer. It appears from the announcement in question that imported products will not be sold in Carrefour’s shops in France. In order to investigate whether the situation, and in particular this partnership, entails a breach of competition rules a number of facts would need to be ascertained.”

“The Commission is currently looking into these issues and liaising with the French competition authority,” she said.

Dutch MEP asks what what action will be taken if rules are being broken

Vestager was responding to a written question from Dutch MEP Jan Huitema (ALDE), who began by saying that the Carrefour announcement in November that in the next 10 months it would purchase fruit and vegetables only from French producers, meant imports of produce from other EU Member States would be blocked.

“Carrefour sees this as a means of supporting French farmers who have been hit by the Russian boycott, adverse weather conditions and low prices,” Huitema said, but he went on to ask, “if Carrefour is breaching EU competition rules with the measure and undermining free trade within the European Union.”

“What measures will the Commission take if it turns out that Carrefour has broken the rules and when will the Commission take action?” he also wrote.

Carrefour says “first of its kind” move aimed at helping French growers

In a November press release, Carrefour said  its agreement with France’s federation of vegetable producers to offer only France Origin seasonable vegetables was the “first of its kind” and “consistent with the group’s ongoing commitment to supporting farming and to working in close partnership with farmers. It will also apply to spring and summer vegetables.”

“Following the highly unusual weather conditions that 2014 has seen, together with the serious disruptions that have resulted from the sanctions imposed on Russia, Carrefour – in partnership with Légumes de France – has decided to support French producers of everyday vegetables and promote production in France of carrots, potatoes, onions, turnips, chicory, shallots, etc. while they are in season.”

“This commitment covers all of the group’s Carrefour hypermarkets and Carrefour Market supermarkets in France – a total of nearly 1200 stores. And so that customers know what exactly they’re buying, special signage will be used to identify all France Origin products,” Carrefour said.

Read more about the Carrefour Group on p26-27 of our latest edition, number 135.

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Call for EU to help fruit and veg farmers gain clout with retailers

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The European Commission needs to intensify its efforts to protect farmers from unfair trading practices by large retailers, according to a draft report to the European Parliament by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development rapporteur Nuno Melo.

“There seems to be little point in investing resources in strengthening and creating POs (producer organisations) – a slow and difficult process – if negotiating power in the food supply chain remains highly concentrated in retailers’ hands,” the draft report, dated January 29, says.

Because fruit and vegetables (F&V) are mostly perishable products that must be sold quickly, this leaves farmers in a structurally weak bargaining position vis-à-vis major retailers.

 

Need for improved crisis measures

And while market crises occur frequently in the F&V sector, since even small production surpluses can cause large falls in producer prices, “there seems to be a consensus that crisis prevention and management (CPM) instruments are not being sufficiently used.”

“This is a worrying a situation, given that market crises are a regular feature of F&V production, since even small increases in production, due to favourable weather conditions for instance, can cause large falls in prices.” The draft report therefore calls on the commission to consider making contributions to mutual funds eligible as CPM measures, to help farmers protect themselves against large drops in income.

 

Too much uncertainty and complexity

It also says that associations of producer organisations (AOPs) could play an important role in increasing the bargaining power of farmers and urges the commission to reinforce incentives for setting up APOs and to envisage a greater role for them in the future.

Reducing legal uncertainty and administrative burdens “should be a first step in making POs more attractive,” it says.

However, the report also stresses that the basic architecture of the EU fruit and vegetables regime should not be changed as part of the commission’s ‘simplification’ agenda and its upcoming review of the implementation of rules on producer organisations, operational funds and operational programmes in the fruit and vegetables sector since its 2007 reform.

 

Read the full draft report here.

 

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Commission admits too many fruit and vegetable producers not getting EU aid

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The European Union fruit and vegetable regime needs to be reviewed to ensure support for producer organisations, the European Commission has said in a report to the European Parliament and Council.

This is needed in order to achieve in all Member States the objectives of the EU farm policies set under the 2007 and 2020 reforms.

Since the 1996 reform, producer organisations (POs) have been the cornerstone of the EU regime for the fruit and vegetables (F&V) sector.

“The EU average of degree of European production within Producers’ Organisations has slightly improved +1,2% and reached 48,4%, but it is still far below the objectives established in 2007 of more than 70%.

Only a limited number of F&V producers are members of a PO. “Thus, most producers are excluded from the direct benefits of the EU regime for the F&V sector,” the Commission said in its report.”

“Moreover, despite progress made at the national level, in some Member States there are still significant regional imbalances in the degree of organisation of F&V producers. An example of that is Italy, where the relatively high national organisation rate (about 47%) is the result of the high organisation rate of some northern regions and the low organisation of several other regions.”

Later in the report, the commission said the “persistently low degree or lack of organisation in some MSs” is a crucial issue needing careful analysis with a view to identifying, where appropriate, additional measures to encourage not only a further rise in the degree of organisation of producers in the whole EU but also a decrease of the imbalance of F&V producers’ organisation within the EU.

“A low degree or lack of organisation also means that most F&V producers do not belong to a PO, so they do not directly benefit from specific EU aid for the sector,” it said.

“Those producers, frequently the smallest, cannot even benefit from the services that POs could provide, have very weak bargaining power within the supply chain and are more exposed to the risks linked to market globalisation and climate change.”

Increasing the rate of organisation of the F&V sector remains crucial especially in Member States where the organisation is still very low. In this respect, there is also the need to explore measures to stimulate forms of cooperation to help PO’s and non-organised producers to better deal with those challenges.

To address such shortcomings, the current EU F&V regime needs to be reviewed and the Commission could build upon the results of the report and upcoming debate to later present legislative proposals “to revise the Union aid scheme for the fruit and vegetables sector.”

Read the report here.

Follow progress here.

 

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Eurostat reports 2014 price drops for EU-grown fruit, vegetables

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The value of fresh vegetable production has fallen 6.5% and that of fruit 10.7% in the EU this year, according to estimates from Eurostat.

This was despite production volumes rising nearly 2% and 0.4% respectively in 2014 compared to 2013, it said in a news release. For potatoes, it said prices were down 24.5% but volumes up 5.5%.

Meanwhile, the value of EU28 agricultural crop production overall is down 6% on last year, “due to a significant decrease in prices (-9.5%), partly counterbalanced by an increase in volume (+3.8%),” the EU’s statistical office said.

On the inputs side, costs have decreased in real terms – by 6.4% for fertilisers and soil improvers, and almost 4% for energy and lubricants.

Farm worker incomes down 1.7%

Over 2005–2014, real agricultural income per worker in the EU climbed 34.4%, while agricultural labour input fell by 24.6%. Compared with 2005, the per worker income has risen in 19 EU states, remained almost stable in 3, and fallen in Luxembourg, Malta, Ireland, Finland, Croatia and Belgium.

However, relative to last year, real agricultural income per worker slipped 1.7% this year. The biggest drops were in Finland (-22.8%), Lithuania (-19.4%), Belgium (-15.2%), Italy (-11.0%), Estonia (-10.9%) and Denmark (-10.1%), and the highest increases in Slovenia (+13.3%), Hungary (+9.1%), the Czech Republic (+7.2%) and the UK (+6.9%). Greece, Cyprus, France and Germany (only just) were the only other states to see growth this year.

The estimates are based on data supplied by national authorities in the EU28 member states, Eurostat said.

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Read the release here.