Defence of agricultural funds

Creation of European banana mixed committee to put pressure on Brussels

Neither the Canary Islands nor the other eight Ultraperipheral Regions (OR's) will be alone in the struggle to convince Brussels that neither bananas nor the rest of their agricultural sectors can afford to lose even a single Euro of EU funds. Spain, France and Portugal, that is to say, the European banana producers (the production is limited to Madeira (3%), Martinique and Guadeloupe (36%) and the Canary Islands (more than 60%)) have created a mixed banana committee that will serve as a lobby to pressure Brussels in the defence of the Posei funding; a program set up by the European Union (EU) to support the primary sector in the OR's. The first objective of this new interstate alliance is to guarantee the payment of the 650 million Euro that are allocated annually through the Posei to support the agriculture and livestock farming of the OR's, with the largest share, up to 260 million, going to the Canary Islands.

After the summit held in Santa Cruz de Tenerife with their French and Portuguese counterparts, Stéphane Travert and Luís Capoulas, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Isabel García Tejerina, said that the negotiations for the distribution of the EU budget for the period 2020-2027 "will not be easy." The Brexit, that is, the exit of the EU from the United Kingdom, will leave an important hole in the budgets, and there are talks of a possible reduction of between 12,000 and 15,000 million Euro. Moreover, in addition to this loss, there will also be a need to allocate resources for what Tejerina called "new challenges," including a new immigration policy. Thus, the goal for ​​Spain, France and Portugal is to get ahead of the formal start of talks and set a common red line, making it clear that the granting of agricultural funds for the OR's is non-negotiable.

The Portuguese minister was especially clear about the position that the three Member States will convey to Brussels: on the one hand, the need for the Posei to remain outside the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), so that it continues to be a program specific to the OR's; on the other hand, that the funds allocated for the period from 2020 to 2027 are, at least, the same as those of the current seven-year period (2014-2020).

Of the 260 million Euro per year at stake for the agricultural sector of the Canary Islands, up to 141 are intended for the banana sector. That is why the sector, Tejerina herself and the autonomous Councillor for Agriculture, Narvay Quintero, made special emphasis on the importance of the creation of the Mixed Banana Committee, which takes over from what was the Amigos del Plátano association. The new body, in which the sector will be represented, will have two fundamental tasks: to monitor the markets, including the gradual reduction of tariffs for imported bananas, which is taking a toll on the production of the OR's, and to give a single voice to the three countries in their talks with EU institutions. In short, the idea is that the committee will act as a lobby in defence of the banana sector at a time when all Member States are preparing to fight in Brussels to get the best funding for their most representative productions. In other words: all EU countries are already getting ready to fight for a slice of a pie that has become smaller, and which may not be big enough to feed everyone.

Tejerina explained that at the meeting with the banana companies, they also addressed the important issue of setting the same standards for producers from third countries, for example, on the use of pesticides, as those that already apply for European producers. In fact, the sector complains that Europe is allowing the entry of fruit that does not meet the minimum requirements set for fruit produced in the EU.


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