Co-ops attend Congress of European Farmers to discuss CAP and the Ukraine crisis

‘Agri co-ops are more important than ever as they help farmers face current challenges, reducing production costs and creating more added value in their products’

The 10th Congress of European Farmers brought together producers, representatives from agri co-ops and national and European officials to discuss challenges facing the sector.

Organised by Copa-Cogeca, the apex for European farmers and their co-ops, with the support of the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK), the event took place on 12-14 October in Šibenik.

It featured over 350 participants and 40 speakers, who highlighted key issues affecting the sector, such as Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and climate change.

MEP Norbert Lins said agriculture had proven resilient during crises, but warned: “It cannot and should never be taken for granted”.

Czech agriculture minister Zdeněk Nekula suggested the sector propose concrete solutions to climate change  and biodiversity loss, via initiatives such as carbon farming and new genomic techniques.

Similar concerns were expressed by the Alliance for Agriculture and Cooperation (Alianta pentru Agricultura si Cooperare) of Romania, which said that farmers and their co-ops needed more support to continue their activity. Failure to do so could force farmers out of agriculture and into unemployment.

To address this, the apex called for flexibility within the Common Agricultural Policy to allow co-financing risk management tools adapted to the needs of each state. Since May 2022, the EU has been facilitating grain exports from Ukraine via solidarity lanes. AAC warned that importing grains grown at a lower cost under different rules and restrictions from the EU is destabilising the local market, affecting the competitiveness of Romanian farmers.

Delegates also heard from Mykola Solskyi, minister of agrarian policy, and Maria Didukh, director of the Ukrainian National Agrarian Forum, who provided an overview of the war’s impact on their country’s agricultural sector, which has seen production fall by 40% for the 2023 harvest.

Commissioner for agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski joined online to address concerns around the lack of fertilisers, saying the European Commission would put forward a communication on the matter as part of its efforts to tackle the disruption from the conflict.

Christiane Lambert, president of the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations (Copa), said: “In our vast exchanges over the past two days of the Congress, we could feel how complicated the situation is on the ground and how many short and long-term uncertainties there are. It should not be exacerbated by the various proposals from the European Commission, which are currently on the table or announced. We need a reality check to consider the new elements that are impacting the sector and to focus on solutions that could bring clarity and answers to farmers.”

Ramon Armengol, president of the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives (Cogeca), said: “With the weaponising of food and energy supplies by Russia, we need a common and united European response. Agri co-operatives are more important than ever as they help farmers face the current challenges, reducing production costs and creating more added value in their products.”