The EU Commission's move to extend support for the European fruit and vegetable sector to 2017 has been praised by Copa-Cogeca, although the group has also said that the measures do not go far enough.
In a statement, Copa-Cogeca said the move was a "positive step", but nowhere near enough to have an impact or compensate producers for their losses.
"Fruit and vegetable growers are still facing a crisis situation, after being badly affected by the Russian ban on farm exports which was the biggest outlet for our exports," warned Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen. “Prices have still not recovered and exports in March were still down on previous levels.
“We welcome as a positive step the sense of urgency the Commission has applied to this and that support has been extended from 1 July to 30 June 2017," he added. "But it's unacceptable that the Commission has cut by 70 per cent the quantities eligible for support under the new EU aid scheme and that compensation to producers for the withdrawals is so low."
The group urged the EU Commission to take a number of steps, including setting the maximum guaranteed quantities allocated to the Member States based on the amount they exported to Russia and on their fruit and vegetable production, and raising the level of compensatory aid for withdrawing produce from the market, prioritising purposes other than free distribution.
Copa-Cogeca also called on the Commission to ensure the deadline to pay farmers is shortened, and said it should raise the volume for Member States from 3,000 to 5,000 tonnes and grant them flexibility on the eligibility of products.