In an open communication, Freshfel Europe urged the European Parliament to not forget the strong and ongoing impact of the now seven-year Russian embargo on the fresh fruits and vegetable sector.
The letter addressed to the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the Agriculture and the International Trade Committees asked for the continued support of fruit and vegetable operators in their efforts to diversify exports to other markets and to increase consumption in the EU market.
Formerly the main outlet for EU fresh fruit and vegetable exports, Russia’s embargo in 2014 deeply impacted the industry’s exporters.
The Russian sanctions are worth approximately €7.5 billion for all countries affected, out of which €5 billion impacted EU agriculture, with €2.5 billion impacting the fruit and vegetable sector.
“In order to counter the storm, the European Commission swiftly responded with exceptional market measures to support the sector, which lasted until the season 2017/2018”, Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe General Delegate said.
“However, the total amount of compensation for 2014-2018 was €510 million covering 1,7 Mio T (million tons) out of a total lost market of 10 Mio T worth close to €8 billion. In addition, repositioning fruit, such as apples and pears, is not an easy task considering the long-term investment in the orchards and the different requirements in various markets.”
The sector’s efforts to promote new markets to diversify exports have also proven difficult in light of multiple barriers to trade, notably sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues.
Regarding internal consumption, unfortunately, the fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by European citizens remains low at 363g per capita per day, below the WHO recommended 400g and despite the sector’s ongoing efforts to promote consumption.
With the re-set of EU-Russia relations becoming increasingly uncertain, “the sector is urging the European Parliament to support the fruit and vegetable sector in promoting EU consumption in the context of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Beating Cancer Plan and the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, all of which highlight the importance of healthy, plant-based diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables”, noted Natalia Santos, Freshfel Europe Trade & Market Access Director.
Moreover, the sector needs the Parliament to make the ratification of new free trade agreements conditional to the existence of a strong chapter on SPS issues with sufficient binding guarantees from the partner country.
“We are urging MEPs to prioritise the ratification of the modernized EU-Mexico Trade Agreement, in which the EU negotiators successfully incorporated crucial SPS provisions”, Ms. Santos said.