The annual ‘PrognosFruit’ congress was held in Bilzen, Belgium on Thursday, 8 August. Here, the European apple and pear harvest estimates were presented.
In this context, the Belgian Farmers Union, the Boerenbond, and the Dutch Fruit Growers Association, the NFO, called for a different EU policy. The current policy is counterproductive for the fruit growing sector. It is partly to blame for recent years' inadequate prices.
Climate change is an important challenge for the top fruit sector. Extreme weather conditions lead to damage and financial losses for fruit growers. These growers are, therefore, forced to make additional investments to minimize their risks.
For example, they take out insurance or put up protective nets over the fruit. These measures, however, require substantial investments. This, in turn, requires an EU policy that contributes to a profitable sector.
The Boerenbond and the NFO believe Europe has left its fruit growers in the lurch. These farmers are struggling for profitable cultivation now and in the future. In 2014, Belgian and Dutch growers fell victim to a Russian boycott. The ban was against European agricultural products. This boycott happened in the wake of Russia annexing the Crimea.
As a result, fruit farmers were cut off, without any input, from their primary Conference pear market. This pear was the Belgian and Dutch top fruit sector's flagship product. Before 2014, 40% Belgian and 20% Dutch Conference pears went to Russia. Five years on, and the sector is finding it difficult to recover from this blow. This, despite an intense search for new sales markets.
European support measures for the sector remain largely insufficient. Substantial European resources are still being poured into Eastern Europe too. These funds are being used to expand European fruit production further. This promotes an oversupply, which then negatively affect prices. This is at the cost of fruit growers in Belgium and the Netherlands. These farmers have to meet stricter, more expensive production requirements.
Boerenbond and the NFO suggest two points of European policy be adjusted. Firstly, the EU must review its economic sanctions against Russia. Russia returned to the 'European Council' in 2019. This step could signify a reconciliation. This step calls for the reassessment of the desirability and usefulness of economic sanctions.
Should trade relations with Russia, however, not change, the European Union must offer support for those who were hardest hit by this political conflict.
Secondly, the two agricultural organizations want an end to the European financial support of the top fruit sector's production capacity expansion. This support is, in particular, for Eastern European countries. It is not only an inefficient use of public funds; it also undermines the further expansion of a sustainable, profitable top fruit sector.
Both the Boerenbond and NFO believe the top fruit acreage needs to be reduced. They also think Europe has the tools required to do this. A European grubbing up scheme with clear rules would, for example, be a step in the right direction - a healthy top fruit sector.
For more Information:
Gerard van den Anker
6 Louis Pasteurlaan
2719 EE Zoetermeer, NL
Tel: +31 (0) 793 681 300
Mob: +31 (0) 651 012 063
3000 Leuven, BE
Tel: +32 (0) 162 86 000
Mob: +32 (0) 495 774 613