Warning from Europe’s farm co-ops of ‘unprecedented crisis’

European agricultural co-operatives have warned about the potential impact of opening the market to imports from Latin America trade block Mercosur which would increase competition for EU farmers who are...

European agricultural co-operatives have warned about the potential impact of opening the market to imports from Latin America trade block Mercosur which would increase competition for EU farmers who are already struggling to cope with the Russian ban on EU farm exports.

Copa-Cogeca, a body which represents European farmers and agri-co-ops, said imports to the EU should meet high environmental and quality standards and urged the EU Commission to be prudent in free trade talks between the EU and the USA (TTIP).

The fall in milk prices determined by over-production at global level has led many EU farmers to switch from dairy to beef production, resulting in extra supplies coming on the market. Beef producers fear prices will go down.

Immediate solutions from the EU must be found to tackle this unprecedented crisis, which has been hitting farmers and agri-co-ops for years

Copa president Martin Merrild said the situation was “not sustainable” and called on the EU to “step up action to find new markets and boost promotion measures” for produce. “There’s something definitely wrong when the price of milk is lower than the price of water,” he said.

Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson said the European Investment Bank needed to develop the right financial instruments to help farmers invest in their businesses and improve competitiveness.

“Agri-co-ops can help farmers get a better price for their produce and can assist them in new innovative techniques, but they need the support to ensure this,” he said. “Immediate solutions from the EU must be found to tackle this unprecedented crisis, which has been hitting farmers and agri-co-ops for years. They are vital not only to solve hunger and malnutrition but also to maintain attractive rural areas and biodiversity.”

Copa-Cogeca has also sent a letter to the European Commission calling for it to clarify the legal status of new breeding techniques.

Copa-Cogeca secretary general, Pekka Pesonen, said: “New Breeding Techniques (NBTs) are consequently very important tools to support innovation in the plant breeding sector and in livestock genetic enhancement as a whole. European farmers and their co-operatives need access to these technological advancements in order to meet the upcoming challenges and to remain competitive. But for investments to be made and for NBTs to be developed further, breeders need legal certainty and a well-functioning EU single market.”

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