Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

EU to reveal how it intends to protect farmers in future EU trade deals

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois

Sarah Collins

Brussels is ready to reveal how it intends to protect farmers in future EU trade deals, and to prevent them being squeezed by large retailers.

Two long-awaited reports - one on the impact of EU trade deals on agriculture and the other on improving farmers' positions in the food supply chain - are due to be published by the European Commission next week, after repeated delays.

While the reports themselves are unlikely to suggest major rule changes, they will force the Commission to show its hand.

They come at a sensitive time, after the last-minute signature of a controversial trade deal with Canada, and as deals with the US and the Mercosur bloc of countries are on the skids.

Separately, calls are growing to protect farmers from big players in global food supply chains, mainly large supermarket groups that MEPs and others accuse of driving down prices.

The European Parliament's agriculture committee is set to recommend more income support for struggling farmers in a vote on Tuesday.

The report, by French MEP Angélique Delahaye, suggests better terms for farmers in their contracts with producers and retailers, access to new mutual insurance funds to manage market risk, subsidised entirely by the EU budget, and special price observatories.

The EU has emergency measures to support farm incomes, on top of direct payments, but most are co-financed by governments and kick in only after a crisis hits.

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The Parliament's report is not binding, but is a bid to mould the bloc's CAP post-2020.

Meanwhile, the EU is still set on diversifying its markets, with EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan on a 10-day trade mission to Asia.

While there he has managed to lift a long-standing trade barrier with Hong Kong over EU meat exports, which are worth around €4bn a year to the bloc.

Hong Kong, the EU's seventh most important export destination, had restricted EU meat imports to animals that were born, raised and slaughtered in the same EU country.

It has now removed that restriction, and will accept meat imports from animals born, raised and slaughtered in different EU member states.

"We remain committed to Hong Kong as an important trade and investment partner for the EU and are interested in cooperating more closely with Hong Kong as a hub for China mainland's market," Mr Hogan said.

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