European agri co-ops call for extra support for farmers hit by Ukrainian exports

The co-ops think the European Commission’s proposal to support farmers in countries bordering Ukraine is insufficient

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski presented the Commission’s proposal to support farmers in countries bordering Ukraine on 20 March.

Worth €56.3m (£49.5m), the proposal is financed by the agricultural reserve. The funding will be distributed to the three EU member states that will then distribute it to farmers. The Commission proposes to allocate €29,5m (£26m) to Poland, €16.75m (£14.75m) to Bulgaria and €10.05m (£8.85m) to Romania.

Ahead of the proposal, Copa and Cogeca, who represent farmers and agricultural co-operatives in the EU, called on the European Commission to strengthen support for farmers affected by Ukraininan exports.

In a statement published on 18 March, the apexes explained they have been supportive of Ukrainian farming communities since the launch of the war by Russia, accepting solidarity lanes and removal of tariffs on Ukrainian products. These corridors mean Ukraine can export grain and other products despite not being a member of the EU single market, and also import the goods it needs.

However, Copa and Cogeca warn that “the increasing import from Ukraine is posing serious challenges to farmers and co-operatives in the bordering regions through which commodities transit”. It also mentions other challenges faced by farmers in this region, such as the Covid-19 crisis, rising energy and key input prices and severe droughts in 2022.

The organisations believe the European Commission’s promised support “does not meet expectations and will clearly lack consistency”. In addition, “the disruptions linked to Ukrainian exports have made the situation tense in countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia,” reads the statement.

With regards to the potential figures, Copa and Cogeca say they are “dismayed by the amounts proposed, which are completely out of proportion given scale of the disruptions faced by farmers in the countries surrounding Ukraine”.

The apexes point out that not all affected countries have been considered for receiving emergency aid and the funds are only expected to be a one-off payment, released in the third quarter. This would “leave the farming communities in these regions in limbo until then,” they warned.

“This implementing regulation proposal needs to be reviewed fully to be taken seriously by the farming community. In addition, farmers not only need to be compensated for the losses already incurred, but further help will be needed in the future as the situation will not disappear anytime soon. Finally, to limit the future impact, investment in the infrastructure of solidarity lanes needs to be made while rigorous SPS controls need to be maintained,” adds the statement.

Similar concerns were raised by Romania’s Alliance for Agriculture and Co-operation (Alianta pentru Agricultura si Cooperare) which sent an open letter to the Romanian government demanding more support from the EU.

In its letter, the alliance warns that the €10m (£8m) proposed to be allocated to Romania from the EU’s crisis reserve is “ridiculously disproportionate in relation to the serious damage suffered by the Romanian agricultural sector”. The Alliance argues that “the compensations received by the farmers would be absolutely negligible and without any effect” and adds that “the required amount is at least €200m (£176m).”

According to the alliance, issues affecting Romanian farmers include tariff increases for logistics by at least five times, fewer means of transport and market decline in wheat, corn, canola, poultry and eggs, honey and milk due to additional volumes of Ukrainian cargo. Another problem relates to intermediaries mixing products from Ukraine with those from Romania and selling them without specifying the correct origin.

“Solidarity cannot be one-way and the burden of the consequences of war cannot be borne only by the states bordering the conflict zone but must be equally distributed among the Member States,” reads the letter.

“We believe that without the granting of a financial aid of at least €100(£88)/tonne of product for the agricultural goods stuck in the warehouses/silos of the farmers during this period, we will discuss the bankruptcy of Romanian farmers, in the year 2023. We estimate that for approximately every 2 thousand tonnes stuck in stocks, the financial impact on Romanian farmers is approximately €200m, in the minus. Farmers have set up agricultural crops with high production costs in 2022 and 2023, and their low selling prices lead to selling at a loss, and in the short and medium term means the bankruptcy and disappearance of most domestic farmers,” reads the letter.

The Commission’s proposal is currently being discussed with member states, which will vote on it on 30 March.