• The commission reimburses firms 100% if food is given to schools and hospitals (Photo: Kup, Kup)

Tomatoes in line for EU aid on Russia food ban

14.08.14 @ 19:12

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - EU producers of cauliflowers, cucumbers, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes are likely to be next in line for European Commission help in response to the Russia food ban.

A commission spokesman, Roger Waite, told EUobserver on Thursday (14 August) that “quite a lot of member states” raised concerns over the five products at a meeting of agricultural sector officials in Brussels.

He said the EU executive will “early next week” announce a new “market stabilisation measure” to see that excess produce does not cause a steep fall in prices for the worst-affected commodities.

The new intervention comes after the EU last week helped buy unwanted peaches and nectarines worth between €20 million and €30 million.

The EU can tap a €420 million fund to reimburse farmers 50 percent for items which are diverted from food markets to be used as fertiliser or 100 percent if they are given to schools and hospitals.

The commission on Thursday also decided to hold follow-up meetings every week to assess ongoing needs.

The data is to build a picture of the “real impact” of the Russia food embargo ahead of an extraordinary meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 5 September which may decide additional measures, such as increasing the €420 million reserve.

Waite noted that while EU food and drink exports to Russia were worth €11.3 billion last year, the list of items banned by Russia covers €5.3 billion of the total.

“This [Russia] is one market that we’ve lost, albeit a very big and important one, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find other new markets”, he said.

“We think the actual value of these sanctions will be massively below €5 billion. But where we end up remains to be seen and how much money we [the EU commission] needs to spend remains to be seen”.

The EU’s agriculture commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, added in a statement: “I am prepared to propose EU-wide measures as and when needed. Producers from across the EU can be reassured … market confidence through European solidarity is the overriding objective”.

Russia imposed the ban on 6 August in retaliation for EU sanctions on its banks, oil and defence sectors over the Ukraine crisis.

Russian president Vladimir Putin at speech in Yalta, Crimea - a part of Ukraine which he annexed in March - also on Thursday claimed it will help Russian consumers.

“We will develop our own production and will restrict low quality Western goods”, he noted. “It’s not just retaliation, primarily it is a measure to support domestic manufacturers, as well as opening our markets to producers from countries that want, and are ready to co-operate with Russia”.

For their part, EU foreign ministers will discuss the Ukraine conflict at a meeting in the EU capital on Friday.

The talks come amid concerns that a large Russian convoy of “humanitarian aid” heading from Moscow to east Ukraine will aggravate the situation because Ukraine said it has no permission to enter the country.

Putin’s Yalta speech also contained a mixture of threats and reassurances.

"We must calmly, with dignity and effectively, build up our country, not fence it off from the outside world”, he said.

"Russia, like any other large, powerful sovereign state, has various ways and means of ensuring its national interests, and these include armed forces. But this is not a panacea and we do not intend, like some people, to dash around the world with a razor blade and wave that blade around. But everyone should understand that we also have such things in our arsenal”.