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Europe's farmers look for help

Posted by Nick Prag at 22 October 2015, 22:10 CET |
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There was no great outpouring of support for European farmers last month, when around 5,000 of them spent a day in Brussels protesting about falling dairy and meat prices.

Europe's farmers look for help

Farmers protest - Photo EU Council

Nevertheless, few can argue they are having a tough time at the moment, particularly in the dairy and pork sectors. They have been hit from a number of sides such as the Russian ban on EU food imports imposed in August last year, lower demand from China, and over-supply on the domestic market.

A EUR 500m package to support dairy farmers announced by the European Commission, which combines targeted aid and market support measures, has been welcomed as a step in the right direction. But it might be not enough to get farmers struggling with the falling prices back on their feet.

Euro-MPs have urged that crisis management instruments be improved, and the position of farmers in the food supply chain strengthened. Some are also asking the Commission to immediately increase intervention prices to tackle the immediate crisis.

Support for farmers to find new foreign outlets is welcome, but further measures are needed.

However, some insisted on structural reforms that would simplify the Common Agricultural Policy and boost the competitiveness of EU farmers on the world market.

In the short-term, the EU must do what it can to help farmers to earn a fair return from the food supply chain, introduce better tools for dealing with market disturbances and help farmers to find new outlets for produce shut out of the Russian market.

However, it is difficult to argue against the fact that instability is here to stay, however the EU deals with the immediate crisis.

A hearing by the conservatives in the European Parliament this week looked at the long-term future of the dairy industry - how it can handle and adapt to the volatility in prices, what safety nets are in place, and how the industry can move itself up the value chain, and diversify its trading partners – away from Russia in particular.

It is always the supermarkets that come in for the main criticism in this debate. But there are also issues around the supply chain, around EU intervention, and around what the farmers can do themselves.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.