Opinion

The EU must support food sectors affected by Russian trade ban

Let’s be clear about this: the European Union helped cause the current outbreak of ‘trade embargo’ related hostilities between Russia and the ‘West’, given its enthusiasm to sign a trade deal with the former administration in Ukraine 12 months ago. And if the EU is part of the problem, then it must be part of the solution.

One way for Brussels to make good in this regard would be for the European Commission to commit to a Private Storage Aids scheme, which would allow it buy up the equivalent food tonnages that would have been exported to Russia over the next twelve months, had it not been for this week’s import ban announcement in Moscow.

And it would not take a European Summit meeting to make this happen. Private Storage Aids have been used regularly by the European authorities in the past to support the EU’s agri food sector during periods of challenging market conditions. Moreover, the use of these measures – plus intervention – has been identified by Brussels as an ongoing safety net mechanism, which can be used at the discretion of the EU to safeguard the integrity of Europe’s farming and food industries, when required. I would argue strongly that we have now reached this point.

Food procured courtesy of the envisaged Private Storage Aids’ scheme will help take the pressure off internal EU markets. In addition, the EU should commit to buying this food at pro rata Russian trade prices.

The reality is that Irish food companies and – by extension – local farmers did not cause the problems which have led to the current impasse involving Russia, the European Union and the US. So why should they carry the can for it? This is a point which the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney might wish to communicate with Brussels in the clearest possible terms over the coming days.

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