Farmer protest in Brussels in 2012 / Flickr / mourignac / CC BY-NC 2.0

During a meeting of agriculture ministers, the EU member states urged the Commission to help farmers pressured by plunging prices of pig meat and milk products. Germany recommended to reopen trade with Russia.

Despite the crisis and pressure from France to do so, the Dutch presidency of the EU did not put the topic on the official agenda for the Council’s meeting on Monday, February 15. Only a” working lunch” was held among the European agriculture ministers to discuss the situation of the markets.

But during the meeting, several ministers called the EU to help farmers struggling with low prices. The Polish delegation expressed its preoccupations on the dairy and pig meat markets and “asked for more financial resources to compensate for the impact of the Russian ban and the summer 2015 drought,” the summit conclusions stated.

Poland requested initiatives to reopen the Russian market for EU agricultural products.

Germany’s Christian Schmidt said the Commission should examine the introduction of a new financial support package and in a similar move as his Polish colleague, Schmidt said the EU should try to reopen trade talks with Russia.

“I recommend that we use the WTO negotiation with Russia about the opening of the pig meat market. And also that, step by step, we try to reach with Russia the re-opening of the market for food,” Schmidt said, adding that these are highly sensitive issues.

Spain demands support for fruits and vegetables

Other farming sectors face similar difficulties. The Spanish minister, Isabel García Tejerina, said at the meeting in Brussels that she would ask the Commission to take action to support farmers cultivating fruits and vegetables.

“In the fruit and vegetable sector, I will request that they [the Commission] revise the prices, the emergency measures. Because they have been barely used at all in Spain, in a situation where vegetables are being sold to low prices, in some cases they don’t cover the production costs,” García Tejerina said.

Asking for divine support

Meat and milk farmers have taken to the streets often lately to protest against the low prices for their products.

Thousands of farmers from all over Europe demonstrated in Brussels last September because of the dramatic difficulties faced by milk, pig meat, fruit and vegetable producers.

Since Russia decided to stop its imports from Europe, there’s been an oversupply on the market and prices have plunged so dramatically that many farmers can’t cover their production costs.

Milk price has decreased 30-40 percent, according to the European Milk Board (EMB). In some member states the price is around 25 cents per litre, far below the production costs of 40 cent.

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Good farms, good food

The EU has taken action to help farmers. A few weeks ago the ministers decided to prolong the support for storage of milk and dairy products, which was first introduced in 2014, until 30 September 2016.

The European Commission pays producers for storing their products, instead of selling them, with the aim to decrease the supply on and thus increase the price.

In September 2015, the member states also largely supported the European Commission’s proposal for a 500 million euro aid plan for dairy and pig producers.

However, farmers say this is not enough. Disappointed with the help from politicians, European milk farmers took an unusual measure earlier this month when they went to the Vatican to ask the Pope for divine support. 140 members of the EMB attended an audience with Pope Francis.

  • Author: Andreas Liljeheden, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1) Protest in Brussels for more CAP reform in 2012 / Flickr / greensefa / CC BY 2.0