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More European Commission help for states most harmed by Russian veto

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Amid tumbling prices, the European Commission has promised further aid for member states most affected by the Russian ban blocking imports of certain EU products.

Its additional emergency measures for perishable fruit and vegetables will run until the end of next June. However, its total spending under existing such measure and the new scheme will remain below the €165 million it initially set as the maximum expenditure.

Based on historic export volumes to Russia in the last three years, it says it will now set new eligible volumes for the withdrawn from the market of certain fruit and vegetables for 12 member states.

EU agricultural commissioner Phil Hogan acknowledged that while the current exceptional support programme – which expire on December 31 – eased pressure on fruit and vegetable growers following the Russian ban, “a downward pressure on prices persists for some products in some regions of the EU.”

In a press release, the commission said the new scheme will apply to the 12 member states “which exported most fruit and vegetables to Russia on average during the January-May period (April to May for certain fruit where the January to March period was already covered by the previous measure) during the last three years.”

Before the ban, Spain’s fruit and vegetable sector alone sold “goods worth approximately EUR 225 million to Russia,” according to Spanish member of the European Parliament Esteban González Pons (PPE).

For more information on the EU measures:  Market support for perishable fruit & vegetable to continue in 2015”


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Organic vegetables in the EU


European Commission preparing action plan to stimulate organic agriculture

Unprecedented growth has taken place in the EU organic market in the last decade and it now attracts annual turnover of about €20 billion. (DE: 6.6; FR: 3.8; UK: 1.9; IT: 1.7).

Nevertheless, vegetables represent a small part only – just 1.2% – of the EU’s organic crop area, with 110,955 ha out of a total 9.6 million ha in 2011.

Italy is the Member State with by far the largest area of organic vegetables (23,405 ha), followed by Germany with more than 18,000 ha, then France with 14,529 ha. The United Kingdom boasts 13,618 ha and Spain 11,483 ha.



13.6% of organic citrus crops in Italy, just 1.8% in Spain

Organic fruit crops cover 264,000 ha and account for just over a fifth of the main permanent organic crops with the biggest ones being olives and grapes.

The organic citrus sector has seen dynamic growth in the last 15 years in the EU though it is concentrated around just a few Member States: Italy, Greece, Spain and Cyprus.

The biggest citrus areas are in Italy (more than 21,900 ha) and Spain (around 5,856 ha in 2011 but increasing). Organic citrus represented 5.3% of the total citrus area in 2011 for the above-mentioned countries. In 2011, 13.6% of the total citrus area in Italy was organic compared to just 1.8 in Spain, the EU’s biggest citrus grower.



Market has quadrupled but control inadequate

Although the market has quadrupled in the last decade, EU production has not kept pace and the extra demand is met by imports.

There are also societal and consumer concerns not yet fully addressed, such as the sustainable use of energy and management of environmental impacts, animal welfare and pesticide residues.

Other issues include the myriad logos and shortcomings in the control system, such as with insufficient import inspection. Also, the production rules have been watered down and the risk of loss of consumer confidence is high.

New EU plan

As a result, the European Commission has now set three priorities:

– to increase competitiveness;

– to maintain and increase consumer confidence;

– to reinforce the external dimension of EU organic farming.

It allocated nearly €85 million for organic production under the 2014-2020 CAP budget.

Needed: centralised database, frauds made public

A centralised database for import certificates should be created. Documentary evidence could be a solution and exchange between the control actors should be increased. Fraudulent certificates should be published, a practice the U.S. Department of Agriculture already follows. Transparency could also be increased by using the name of the control body on labels instead of a code number and requiring accreditors to be trained at EU level.

More money is needed for promotion funds to attract consumers not currently buying organic products. The organic sector has done well so far but from now on the whole chain, from producer to retailer, needs to go a step further. More companies have to get involved and particularly big ones that can invest in research and development.




Read full report available free here on page 38 of issue 33 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine

Photo of ecologically grown vegetables by Elina Mark (via Wikimedia Commons)