The European Commission published the latest package of exceptional measures to further support the agricultural and food sectors most affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The exceptional measures include the temporary authorisation to self-organise market measures by operators in hard hit sectors, and flexibility in the implementation of market support programmes. On top of these market measures, the Commission proposed to allow Member States to use rural development funds to compensate farmers and small agri-food businesses with amounts of up to €5,000 and €50,000, respectively.
Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said: “We have acted swiftly to have all necessary measures available as quickly as possible to support farmers and those in need. Some agricultural and food markets have been hit hard by the crisis. However, I am now confident that the adoption of these measures will provide tangible support, send the right signal to markets, and soon provide some stability. This package and the previous support measures show that the Commission is ready and will act as the situation demands it.”
The exceptional market measures proposed on 22 April and now fully adopted and published include:
Flexibility for market support programmes: the Commission will allow flexibility in the implementation of market support programmes for wine, fruits and vegetables, table olives and olive oil, apiculture and the EU's school scheme (covering milk, fruit and vegetables). This flexibility aims to limit available supply in each sector to lead to a rebalancing of markets. In addition, it will allow the reorientation of funding priorities towards crisis management measures.
Temporary derogation from EU competition rules: Article 222 of the Common Markets Organisation Regulation (CMO) allows the Commission to adopt temporary derogations from certain EU competition rules in situations of severe market imbalances. The Commission adopted such derogations for the milk, flowers and potatoes sectors. These derogations allow operators to self-organise and implement market measures at their level to stabilise their sector and in the respect of the functioning of the internal market for a maximum period of 6 months. For example, the potatoes sector will be allowed to withdraw products from the market. Storage by private operators will also be allowed. Consumer price movements and any possible partitioning of the internal market will be monitored closely to avoid adverse effects.
In addition to the above, the Commission proposes that Member States with remaining rural development funds can use this money to provide support to farmers and small agri-food businesses in 2020. This should provide immediate relief to those most impacted by the crisis. Member States can offer support of up to €5,000 per farmer and €50,000 per small business. This comes on top of the de-minimis aid for the agricultural sector and the increased state aid ceiling previously adopted. This proposal needs to be submitted to the Council and the Parliament for approval.