The measures were announced by EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan, following a day of deliberations at the EU Council of Ministers (agriculture) on November 16. They include cuts of 80% in on-the-spot inspections, a 20% increase in available EU aid and a significant package which will cut red tape for farmers with almost immediate effect.
But speaking about one of the major causes of the current problems for EU pig farmers, the Agriculture Council’s current president, and Luxembourg agriculture, wine and consumer protection minister Fernand Etgen, said: “The European Commission told us... that they will work with Russian authorities to re-open exports of pig products which are only under sanitary embargo,” as opposed to the political ban that covers pig meat such as pork and ham.
If successful, this could mean that exports of pig meat products not covered by the Russian embargo – live pigs, fat, lard and offal – could resume soon.
However, Etgen warned: “There is a risk that agriculture will become a bargaining chip.” The Russian ban was imposed following EU sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.
As for Hogan’s simplification of EU aid application procedures, measures include:
• Allowing member states 35 days to find and correct mistakes in farmers’ applications without penalties for the farmer;
• Targeting on-the-spot checks only where they will have the most impact;
• Simplification of the rules governing subsidies from the EU’s ‘Young Farmers Scheme’; and
• Slashing the number of EU Common Market Organisation regulations from 200 to 40.
Announcing a 20% increase in enhanced aid, Hogan added that this would in future include lard. In addition, pig meat that has been in storage for two months could in future be eligible for inclusion in export quotas.
He said the measures would come into effect in early January.
Hogan said: “Farmers have suffered enormously over the course of the past year. The Russian ban has contributed enormously to the losses that they have been accruing.”
He added: “These measures will make life simpler for national administrations and will reduce the penalties for farmers.”
Regarding on-the-spot checks, Hogan said this would reduce the burden on farmers and that, if properly targeted, “one check should do”.
The announcements were made as part of continuing plans to simplify the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Pig meat price
According to figures released by farmers’ lobby Copa-Cogeca, the average EU price for pig meat has been falling for eight consecutive weeks by 6% to 10% before 16 November.
Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen welcomed the announcements, especially the cuts in on-the-spot checks and red tape, but said: “We need to see further measures introduced along this vein.”
He added: “We are nevertheless calling for pig meat private storage to be introduced already in December rather than January. We urge the Commission and member states to act on this. It was the only measure for pig meat included in the aid package. Without timely action, many producers will be forced out of business.”