Commissioner ‘foresees’ Aids to Private Storage (APS) for market disruption

Aids to Private Storage (APS) is among a number of measures that will be considered by the European Commission in the event of “serious market disruption” arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking last week at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski outlined a range of measures that may be implemented “at a latter stage”.

His comments come as industry and political pressure mounts for the opening of APS. Dairy Industry Ireland (DII), along with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, made the request earlier this month.

The commissioner said: “Our toolbox of instruments foresees even further measures.

In the event of serious market disruption, market support measures such as public intervention, APS, withdrawals, etc, and exceptional market measures are available under the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy].

However, Commissioner Wojciechowski indicated that such measures would have a significant impact on the EU’s finances for agriculture.

“I will not hide from you that if such measures prove necessary, they will have budgetary implications. This has to be looked at and assessed when necessary,” he said.

Dairy

Speaking specifically about the dairy sector, Commissioner Wojciechowski said that it was “too early” to say how the dairy market would develop over the course of the coming months.

He commented: “EU dairy commodity prices have been slightly decreasing for a few weeks. The Global Dairy Trade [GDT] Price Index has also decreased three times in a row. There is a lot of uncertainty about the extent of the consequences of the virus.

“So far, we are not aware of problems in European factories but we will remain vigilant, especially at a moment when Europe is about to reach its peak production. Export business is limited due to the lack of containers. This affects European exports to all destinations, not just China,” the commissioner added.

Meat

Commissioner Wojciechowski highlighted to the EU’s agriculture ministers that, while demand for meat products from the retail sector is up (with households buying more food), demand from the restaurant and food services sector has “collapsed”.

He added that “a strong decline [in demand] may be expected in the coming weeks”, depending on other factors, including movement restrictions.

‘Whatever it takes’

Commissioner Wojciechowski said he would listen to the requests of the agriculture ministers and that he was “ready to take action whatever it takes”.

Responsiveness and flexibility is what is needed now and in weeks to come. It is imperative to protect our farming sector, the food chain and rural businesses. I will do everything in my powers to do so.

He highlighted that the commission is co-operating with the EU’s trade partners to ensure “that no barriers affect international trade flows”.

He explained that the Directorate-General for Trade (the department of the commission overseen by Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan) is requesting that trading partners put in place trade-facilitating measures for EU exports of animals, plants and their products – where certification is hampered due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The EU is temporarily facilitating certification already for imports and we request trading partners to do the same for EU exports,” Commissioner Wojciechowski outlined.

I am in constant exchange with my colleagues responsible for transport, internal market, home affairs, etc, to strengthen our cooperation and to ensure that agricultural markets, including food and feed and other agricultural raw materials or inputs, remain fully open and fluid.

Concluding his remarks, the commissioner said: “The bottom line is that the commission stands ready to help European agriculture. We all have a common duty here to identify and implement the most appropriate actions to support our agri-food sector.”

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