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Coveney Calls for Strong Action from the EU Commission to Maintain Agri-Food Market Stability in the EU

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today called on the Commission to take prompt action to address the difficulties caused by the Russian import restrictions on agri-food products. Acknowledging the swift response to date, the Minister said “the measures put in place in the CAP reform package have equipped us with a valuable set of tools to deal with crises and emergencies. We need to keep all the available tools on the table and use them judiciously, effectively and promptly”.

The Minister said that the closure of the Russian market was a matter of significant concern for Irish producers. “Currently Ireland’s direct exports to Russia account for around 2.5% of our overall exports in the agri-food area. We had identified Russia as a major strategic market for Irish dairy produce in particular and had seen significant increases in all food and drink exports to Russia over the past four years. This action by Russia comes as a setback to our strategic plans”.

The Minister said that apart from the direct effect of the loss of the Russian market, the key issue was the displacement effect for European exports and the need to find alternative markets. “I am, of course, making strenuous efforts to source replacement markets” the Minister said, “but there is no doubt that the loss of a market as large as Russia will have knock-on effects for all EU producers and we need to monitor the situation closely and to take prompt and decisive action where appropriate. While the impact on some sectors is immediate, we must also be alert to the potential impact of a longer-term ban across all sectors including beef and pigmeat”.

Referring to the cost of these measures, the Minister said it would be reasonable to request, if not demand, that the additional expenditure needed to stabilise EU agriculture markets should be sourced from outside the EU agriculture budget. “The agri-food sector has been disproportionately affected by an EU decision based on foreign policy and security grounds. Without calling into question that policy decision, EU farmers should not be expected to bear the brunt of the consequences.”

As part of the response, the Minister called on the Commission to increase the advance payment to farmers, payable from 16th October next under the Direct Payments Scheme from the current 50%. “There are a number of other pressures on farmers in Ireland at present, including in the beef sector. The early issue of the Single Farm Payment would help to relieve some of the pressure on a number of fronts, in what has been a difficult year to date for Irish farmers.”

Referring specifically to the dairy sector, Minister Coveney welcomed the prompt introduction by the Commission of APS (Aids to Private Storage) for Skimmed Milk Powder, Butter and Cheese, and the extension of the Intervention period for butter and Skimmed Milk Powder to the end of the year: “Prompt action by the Commission can help to maintain confidence in the market place, but it is imperative that we continue to monitor market developments closely and we must be prepared to deploy the full array of market tools available under the reformed CAP as the need arises. My Department is currently working closely with the Irish dairy industry to ensure that it is well placed to avail of the available supports if required. ”

The Minister also welcomed the doubling to €60 million of the EU fund for the promotion of agricultural products and said that his Department would be inviting proposals for promotion schemes from the Irish industry in the coming weeks.

With regard to the impact of this trade ban on Ireland's fishing industry Minister Coveney said “our fisheries exports to Russia last year of mackerel, herring and horse mackerel were worth over €20m and this figure was expected to rise further this year. To lose this market is a significant blow to the Irish fishing industry. The EU Commission needs to help deal with this difficult situation. Specifically, I have asked the EU Commission to set up a Taskforce to address the situation in Fisheries and to carry out an urgent review of the current rules and amount of funding available for storage aid, with a view to the establishment of an emergency fund. I have also strongly supported calls for a temporary increase in quota flexibility rules to allow Member States hold over more fishing quota until the following year, allowing time for improvement in the market.”


View this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 128/2014 (pdf 121Kb) 

 

Date Released: 05 September 2014