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EU defends its fruit marketing and trading rules

Brazil to reopen borders to Argentina’s apples and pears

European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan has defended EU fruit marketing and trading standards amid concerns they are having undesirable effects.

Czech MEP Stanislav Polčák (PPE) says the ‘standardisation’ applied to fruit unnecessarily deprives consumers of quality fresh apples. In a written question in the European Parliament he asked if the Commission would consider abolishing the policy.

“According to estimates, 70% of this year’s (2015) apple harvest in the Czech Republic will undergo further processing to be turned into apple juice and other apple products, as it is not suitable for direct consumption. The reason for this is standardisation: apples and other types of fruit and vegetables are subject to European standards. One of the standardisation parameters is the size of fruit. Due to this summer’s drought in the Czech Republic much of this year’s apple crop is below the desired size and is thus excluded from sale. For various reasons, I find this exclusion to be highly unreasonable,” Polčák wrote.

In his response, Hogan said the Commission had not been aware of the estimates quoted by Polčák concerning the Czech apple crop.

“For apples there exists indeed a specific EU marketing standard. To be marketed apples must have a minimum diameter of six cm, or five cm if a certain degree of maturity is guaranteed (sugar content of 10.5° Brix). This is in line with the provisions of the international standards for apples, developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and by Codex Alimentarius.

“Such marketing and trading rules are made in the interest of producers and traders to enable a smooth functioning of the internal market but also in the interest of consumers to receive adequate and transparent product information.

“Some exceptions to this apple marketing standard do exist. Smaller apples can always be directly sold by producers to consumers on the farm. In addition, Member States may provide exception from this marketing standard for sales on local markets. Finally, Member States can allow these products to be sold in retail shops on their territory, provided the apples are labelled as “intended for processing” or any equivalent wording. This enables small apples to find their way to consumers.

“A substantial reform and simplification of all marketing standards for fruit and vegetables was introduced in 2008,” Hogan concluded.

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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: [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons