New legislation comes into force today (June 1) which helps to strengthen European fruit and vegetable producer organisations, simplify bureaucracy and boost financial support for farmers in times of crisis.
Reducing the administrative burden and making European producer organisations more attractive to non-members, as well as improving how the market management scheme works, are among the changes that have now begun.
According to the European Commission, fresh produce worth €47 billion (£41 billion) is produced every year across 3.4 million holdings in member states, amounting to approximately one quarter of all EU farms. Meanwhile there are around 1,500 producer organisations (POs) covering around half of EU fruit and vegetable production.
The EU has supported fruit and vegetable growers to the tune of €442 million (£385 million) since the Russian ban on European agri-food imports first came into force in August 2014. In addition, it has provided funding for POs of about €700 (£611 million) million every year.
What do the new rules mean?
Under the new rules, the fruit and vegetable sector will receive more support when products have to be removed from the market during times of emergency, crisis and any other unforeseen market developments, such as the Russian embargo.
Specifically withdrawal prices will go up from 30% to 40% of the average EU market price over the last five years for free distribution including charity withdrawals. This is when products are withdrawn from the market and donated to food banks and so on.
Withdrawal prices for other purposes, like when products are used for compost, animal feed and distillation, will increase from 20% to 30%.
“The new rules are also designed to make POs in the fruit and vegetable sector more attractive to producers that are currently not members, by making it clearer which actions by producer organisations can be eligible for EU funding support (for example, investments in technology or quality improvement),” says a statement.
“Although PO members are encouraged to deliver their whole production to the organisation to market on their behalf, many also have a tradition of direct selling to consumers, and the Commission is keen to ensure that this tradition of direct supply to local markets continued.”
European farmers are encouraged by the EU to set up POs to strengthen their position on the market, improve their bargaining capabilities with retailers and work together towards innovation, preventing crisis and a whole host of other measures.