September 7, 2015
EU farm ministers meet to tackle pork, dairy 'market crises'
By Rick Alberto
Some 2,000 farmers and members of agricultural cooperatives from across Europe were scheduled to hold a demonstration on Monday, September 7, in Brussels, Belgium, where the EU farm ministers were to meet to tackle the "difficulties in the milk and pork sectors" due mainly to the import bans on EU agricultural products imposed by Russia.
Copa-Cogeca, the Brussels-based group representing farmers' unions and co-operatives, in calling for the protest rally, described the situation of the EU pigmeat, dairy, beef and other agricultural products as "extremely difficult" "mainly as a result of the Russian export restrictions which shot the EU's main export market overnight".
Saying that producers "are victims of international politics", Copa-Cogeca claimed that prices were below production costs in many countries and that farm incomes were low, forcing some out of business.
As early as June, Copa-Cogeca also warned of the "serious difficult market situation faced by EU milk producers and called for action. Copa-Cogeca Milk Working Party chairman Mansel Raymond then told an EU Milk Market Observatory meeting that 750,000 European milk producers were struggling with their margins and facing major cash flow problems. "The situation is becoming unbearable in the short-term without the European Commission's support," he said.
The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) has thrown its support for the farmers' September 7 protest rally launched by the Copa-Cogeca, which aims at easing market pressure on livestock producers.
The UECBV also strongly urged the EU farm ministers to focus on the key factors that would allow the EU livestock sector to boost its competitiveness in the global markets. "This is particularly valid for the pork sector, as the EU market will deteriorate further in the coming months", it averred.
Minimising effects of Russian embargo
It said the specially convened Agriculture Council meeting "provides an opportunity for clear political direction to be given by Ministers to the European Commission to urgently engage efficient actions that will increase market access for the EU pork. This will be crucial to minimise the effects of the factors that are weakening the pork market, such as the Russian political embargo and the Greek economic crisis".
Some EU pork products do not fall under the scope of the political embargo, such as pork fat and offal, but these have been blocked from the Russian market since January 2014 as a result of limited African Swine Fever outbreaks in some Eastern European member states.
The UECBV urged the EU to intensify technical negotiations with Russia to remove the
sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions so that this would enable EU to resume export to Russia for these products. It noted that Canada and the US are already allowed to export such products to Russia.
The UECBV said that before the sanitary embargo, EU exported around 350,000 tonnes of pork fat and offal to Russia. "The resumption of the trade for these products will have a significant positive impact on the EU pork market and on the prices paid to the farmers", it added.
The UECBV also batted for a strong promotional and informational campaign to help the EU products to gain market shares on the international market.
It said that in the absence of some market recovery, "the priority for the moment and the most sustainable long-term solution is progress in removing these technical barriers facing pork exports to Russia and other destinations".