EU to give 500 million euros to farmers hit by Russia sanctions

7 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aid for farmers hit by Russia sanctions.

Tractors are seen in central Brussels as farmers and dairy farmers from all over Europe take part in a demonstration outside a European Union farm ministers’ emergency meeting at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. BRUSSELS (AP) — Thousands of farmers protested outside European Union headquarters on Monday to demand more aid and higher prices for their milk and pig meat.BRUSSELS: Belgian police on Monday (Sep 7) fired tear gas and water cannon at European farmers who lobbed hay and fireworks as they demanded EU intervention against plunging food prices partly blamed on a Russian embargo.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Police fired water cannon and blocked roads to stop nearly 5,000 farmers, with more than 1,000 tractors, marching on European Union buildings in Brussels to demand support for a sector badly hit by a Russian ban on EU food imports. The European Commission said it would release €500 million (US$557 million) in emergency funds to help ease the pressure on farmers, as agriculture ministers held crisis talks on the situation. An estimated 4,000 farmers, including some from Britain, gathered in Belgium’s capital on Monday as European farming ministers hold an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in the agriculture industry. More than 6,000 farmers and 2,000 tractors have converged on Brussels, industry groups said, with protesters marching toward Place Schuman in front of EU headquarters. In a tense standoff, farmers from across the 28-nation EU pelted police with eggs and sprayed them with hay before they were drenched in return by a water cannon.

We have 20 euro cents per litre and the Europe average is about 30 cents.” “I just remind you what Commissioner Hogan said in the press conference that he held almost two weeks ago about that issue. Plunging prices for milk, meat, fruit and vegetables have spurred losses for farmers across Europe, according to Brussels-based farm lobby Copa-Cogeca.

In a building close by, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen announced the support plan, which seeks to immediately ease the debt load of farmers, many of whom are selling milk below production prices. The market has become oversupplied since a system of quotas was reformed this year and some markets were closed off. “The milk price is under or around 28 cents (per liter, about 0.2 gallons). The National Farmers Union (NFU) has said dairy farmers face a “state of emergency” after a 25% fall in the wholesale price of milk in the past year. And this is not enough even to cover the costs,” said Heinz Thorwarth, who had come to Brussels from Fuchsstadt, in southern Germany. “Prices have gone down 30-40 percent for most farmers and our farms are really going bankrupt like this,” added Sieta van Keimpema, vice president of the European Milk Board farmers group. The commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed that aid be targeted at the bloc’s member nations most affected by the crisis and said countries can pay farmers as much as 50 percent of their regular direct subsidies in mid-October instead of in December.

Katainen called the European Commission’s measures “a robust and decisive response.” He said direct payments to farmers from EU nations could be sped up to ease the cash crunch. The head of the EU farming federation Copa-Cogeca, Pekka Pesonen, said that “an aid package of 500 million euros is nowhere enough to compensate farmers for the loss” of the Russian export market, which is closed off because of a ban. Most of the protesters were from Belgium, France and Germany, but there were others from Britain, Ireland and other EU countries including Italy, Portugal and Lithuania. “There have been hundreds of suicides as a result of disastrous agricultural policies,” said Remy Hulin, a retired farmer from the Calvados region of northern France carrying an effigy in farmer’s overalls hanging from a gallows.

European farmers have suffered a sharp decline in demand for their products as Russia blocks western imports of food and China tries to bolster domestic production rather than buying milk from Europe. Farmers have historically been protected against volatility in market prices by EU policies that sought to guarantee them a fair living in return for steadfast and plentiful production. Farmers are facing mounting debt and many can no longer pay their bills, said Audrey Le Bivic, a dairy farmer from Brittany in France, who came to Brussels to protest. EU farmers are paying the price for international politics,” he said. “We are now in early September, bills have not been paid for the summer and a lot of milk producers will not be able to see their way through the winter unless cash is put on the table immediately,” Mansel Raymond, dairy chairman at Copa said. She has pledged to push for the creation of a new futures and insurance market in dairy products so that farmers can insure themselves against price fluctuations.

In France, the agriculture minister previously estimated that around 10 per cent of farms – approximately 22,000 sites – are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros. Raymond wants long-term contracts between farmers and supermarkets to be introduced and for the government to force retailers to improve the labelling of their products so shoppers can see where food has been sourced. British farmers raided supermarkets, emptying shelves of milk, and their French counterparts blockaded parts of Paris last week with tractors. “Margins are tight anyway, but this year in particular has been really difficult,” Tanya Robbins, a sheep farmer in Gloucestershire, England, said Sunday by phone as she was planning to join the march in Brussels. “The bottom line is we all need our businesses to be profitable.” Much of the funds come from larger-than-expected receipts from a dairy super-levy imposed on those who exceed their quotas under a system which was abolished earlier this year. The associations say the EU agri-food sector accounts for 40 million jobs and exports more than €120 billion (US$134 billion) worth of produce every year.

Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl have increased the amount they pay, and Tesco has agreed to use only British milk in its own-brand yogurts instead of importing from Germany, as it had done previously. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

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