September 8, 2015

 

EU farmers hit by Russian embargo to get 500-million-euro aid

 

By Rick Alberto

 

 

The EU announced Monday a 500-million-euro (US$559.12-million) aid to European farmers who have complained about falling meat and milk prices which, they said, were due mainly to the import bans on EU agricultural products imposed by Russia.

 

The announcement was made as thousands of farmers held a protest rally in Brussels, Belgium, that coincided with a meeting of EU farm ministers at the EU headquarters to tackle the concerns of the milk and pork sectors.

 

"The (European) Commission is announcing today (Monday) a comprehensive support package of 500 million euros," EC Vice President Jyrki Katainen said in a statement, adding, "This is a robust and decisive response".

 

The Brussels-based farmers' unions and co-operatives umbrella Copa-Cogeca, however, warned that the aid package, which the EC said would be released immediately, was "far from sufficient to have any noticeable impact".


"It is clear that an aid package of 500 million euros is nowhere enough to compensate farmers for the loss of their main export market Russia worth 5.5 billion euros annually", said Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen.

 

"There are a few positive elements in the package but it falls short of our expectations", he added.

 

Copa-Cogeca said the demonstrators--including pork, beef, dairy and other food producers--numbered over 6,000. They brought with them 2,000 tractors to dramatize their plight and call on the EU for action.

 

A report by the news wire agency Agence France-Presse said the demonstrating farmers lobbed hay at the policemen, using a machine, as well as threw eggs at them and set fire to planks of wood and tyres. In response, the police fired water cannon at the protesters.

 

Earlier in July, the EU also extended a multimillion-euro aid package to European farmers hit by the Russian food embargo.

 

According to the president of the union of European agri-cooperatives Cogeca, Christian Pees, the EU agri-food sector accounts for 40 million jobs, mostly in EU rural areas, and exports more than 120 billion euros ($134.19 billion) worth of produce every year.

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