The recent positive trade figures news that EU agri-food exports picked up in November last year, must not be confused with farmers’ incomes, the Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has said.

The Commissioner was speaking to agri-journalists in Brussels earlier this week.

“After a slight decrease in October 2015, EU agri-food exports in November 2015 picked up again and reached €10.9 billion, thus exceeding the value of previous years for the same month by about €500m.

“However, we must not confuse positive trade figures with farmers’ incomes – my continued priority is a fair return for producers for their product – we must continue to pay top priority to this in 2016.”

CAP Simplification

Earlier this month, the Commissioner announced CAP simplification measures, which included a yellow card system for CAP fines

“Simplifying the CAP for Europe’s hard-working farmers has been an absolute priority for me since my first day in this job.

“Farm families across the EU often feel they are being “caught out” by authorities when it comes to applications for direct support.

“Forms are filled out at kitchen tables late at night, or increasingly at the home computer as more Member States move to online services.”

Hogan then said that a couple of months later, an inspector appears, and if any errors are found in the application, the farmer can be penalised, and direct payments cut.

This can lead to a feeling of incomprehension and victimisation – a climate of fear is created, as “repeat offenders” face even harsher penalties, he said.

“Farmers apply for their entitlements in good faith. For many of them, it is a vital part of their income.

“Thus, to treat an honest mistake as an “offence” is not in the spirit of fair play.”

Market Access

Access to new markets is a top priority for Hogan and he confirmed that he will be leading business delegations to Colombia and Mexico, China and Japan as well as Vietnam and Indonesia this year.

This is to take advantage of new trade opportunities and the Commission is also pursuing new trade agreements with Japan, Mexico and Vietnam, he said.

The EU agriculture sector is no longer shielded from global developments in the food supply chain.

“The participation of the European agri-food sector in global markets has created important trading opportunities, but also exposed it to greater market instability and increased price volatility.

A new expert group, the “Agricultural Markets Task Force“, was established by the Commissioner.

It’s mandate is to discuss relevant issues, such as market transparency, access for farmers to financial instruments and futures markets to hedge price risks, options for arranging contractual relations within the chain and legal possibilities for organising farmers’ collective actions, he said.

“All of this with a view to improving the position of farmers in the food chain.”