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EU announces aid to growers hit by Russian embargo

18 August 2014, 17:01 CET
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EU announces aid to growers hit by Russian embargo

Photo Jasper Greek Golangco

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission on Monday announced a series of exceptional measures to help growers hit by a Russian ban on fruit and vegetable imports.

The products in question are in full harvesting season, with little hope of finding alternative markets to replace demand from Russia in time, the Commission said.

A European official said the primary recipients of the compensation will be Russian neighbours Poland and Lithuania as well as Belgium and the Netherlands.

The 125 million euros ($170 million) of measures cover tomatoes, carrots, white cabbage, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers, as well as mushrooms, apples, pears, berries, grapes and kiwis, the EU's executive arm said.

"All farmers of the concerned products -- whether in producer organisations or not -- will be eligible to take up these market support measures where they see fit," said Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in a statement.

The Russian embargo, announced earlier this month, came in retaliation against US and European sanctions over Moscow's alleged role in separatist violence in eastern Ukraine.

Set to last for a year, the Russian ban covers imports of meats, fruits and vegetables, fish, and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

The aid, effective from Monday until November, will mainly involve withdrawing products from the EU market in a bid to prop up prices.

For the move, the Commission will use a special emergency fund of 400 million euros that was already tapped into last week to intervene in the peach market.

The European Commission said it will continue to follow developments "and will not hesitate to support further sectors heavily dependent on exports to Russia or to adapt the measures already announced, if necessary".

EU ministers have been putting pressure on Brussels to compensate farmers affected by the crisis, but the commission said it would remain cautious and act only on a case-by-case basis.

The EU estimates exports to Russia normally reach about 5.2 billion euros a year.

EU officials argue that the worst effects of Moscow's embargo will be felt in Russia where about 60 percent of food needs are imported.

Speaking in Latvia on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Western sanctions against Russia "must continue".

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