Agri co-ops apex criticises EU’s extension of Ukraine and Moldova trade measures

Copa and Cogeca warned of the continued impact of imports on its member producers

The European Parliament’s International Trade Committee has endorsed the extension of trade liberalisation measures for Ukraine and Moldova on 7 March.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impacted the country’s economy, which contracted by more than 29% in 2022 compared to 2021. The country witnessed a 29% drop in its grain production in 2022/2023.

Moldova, which imports over 90% of its seeds, fuel, and fertiliser from Ukraine and Russia, has also been impacted by the conflict.

The MEPs approved the proposal to renew the temporary suspension of import duties and quotas on Ukrainian agricultural exports to the EU for another year, from 6 June 2024 to 5 June 2025 by 26 votes, with 10 against and one abstentions.

Already approved by the European Commission, the proposal mentions the provision of an emergency brake for particularly sensitive agricultural products, namely poultry, eggs, and sugar, meaning that if imports of these products surpass the average 2022 and 2023 volumes, tariffs would be re-imposed.

A separate vote saw MEPs agree that all duties on imports from Moldova should be suspended for another year, by 28 votes, two against and six abstentions. The two initiatives aim to support Ukraine and Moldova in the face of Russia’s war.

“As we have just passed the second anniversary of the onset of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the proposal is a strong signal of the EU’s steadfast support for Ukraine and its people,” said Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LV), rapporteur for the Ukraine. “The extension of the EU’s trade measures will ensure Ukraine can continue to export its agricultural products to the EU – a crucial lifeline for the Ukrainian economy. At the same time, the proposal includes solid safeguards ensuring our farmers will not be overwhelmed by a sudden surge of imports. The Commission will be able to re-introduce tariffs or take any other necessary measures if it finds imports of specific products lead to market disturbances. It is a good balance between continuing our vital support to the Ukraine and the necessary protection of our markets.”

The move was criticised by Copa-Cogeca, the European organisations representing farmers and agricultural co-ops, who argued that “producers in the sensitive sectors of cereals, sugar, poultry, eggs, and honey, are being asked to carry the disproportionate burden of this trade liberalisation.” 

Copa and Cogeca’s stance is also that of the Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU countries (AVEC), the European Association of Sugar Manufacturers (CEFS), European Confederation of Maize Production (CEPM), the International Confederation of European Beet Growers (CIBE) and the European Union of Wholesale with Eggs, Egg Products, Poultry and Game (EUWEP).

“As we have repeatedly pointed out over the last few months, the consequences regarding the renewal of Ukraine’s ATMs are of paramount strategic significance and will have profound consequences,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

“The MEPs and political parties should not expect the farming community’s understanding that due to procedural and time aspects, their concerns and asks are being ignored. While there are certainly additional responsibilities from the European Commission’s side for publishing this proposal so late, when the calendar of this year was well known, there is no excuse for so blatantly ignoring the concerns of the farming community, as well as those expressed by MEPs in COM AGRI.

“With all eyes now on the MEPs and their actions during the next plenary in Strasbourg, it won’t be acceptable that there aren’t any final amendments to the proposal. Hence, we once again call for a real show of support and understanding, that doesn’t stop at words!”

The European Parliament will be voting on its first reading position during this week’s plenary session. If adopted by the Parliament, the proposal will then be debated in the European Council.