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Questions and Answers: Commission acts to safeguard global food security and support EU farmers and consumers

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 23 maart 2022.

What is the Commission doing to ensure food security in Ukraine?

The Commission has proposed an EU Emergency Support Programme of €330 million to Ukraine to help alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians caused by the Russian invasion. This support will help to secure access to basic goods and services as well as protection.

To support Ukraine's agricultural output, the Commission is working to develop and implement a short and medium term food security strategy to ensure that inputs reach Ukrainian farms where possible, and that transportation and storage facilities are maintained to enable Ukraine to feed its citizens and to eventually regain its export markets. The Commission is also working with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the ground in Western Ukraine to support small farms and secure agricultural production.

In addition, on request of the Ukrainian agricultural authorities, the Commission will seek to ensure that access to EU markets is preserved and facilitated in a flexible way both for imports to and exports from Ukrainian markets.

The Commission has mobilised the largest ever response of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to support the Ukrainian people, providing medical aid as well as food items. Furthermore, the EU has signed agreements for €93 million initial humanitarian aid, with €85 million to Ukraine and €8 million to Moldova. The funding will help people inside Ukraine and those who have fled to neighbouring countries by providing food, water, healthcare, shelter, protection and help to cover their basic needs.

What is the situation of global agricultural markets?

The Commission is closely monitoring the situation of food security worldwide as both Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers to global markets especially for cereals and vegetable oils. Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 13% of the barley market, 15% of the maize market, and is the most important player in the market for sunflower oil (over 50% of world trade). As far as Russia is concerned, these figures are respectively 24% (wheat), 14% (barley) and 23% (sunflower oil). North Africa and the Middle East import over 50% of their cereal needs from Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine is also an important supplier of (feed) maize to the European Union and China. While key customers of Ukrainian and Russian wheat reportedly have stocks for some months, price increases are already felt in some countries. For instance, Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan, and Nigeria are important importers, many of them already severely food insecure.

There is no immediate threat to food security in the EU as the EU is a big producer and a net exporter of cereals. The immediate impact rather lies in the increase of costs throughout the food supply chain, the disruption of trade flows from and to Ukraine and Russia, as well as to their impacts on global food security.

For the EU's neighbourhood in North Africa and the Middle East though, both availability and affordability are at risk in wheat, the basic food staple, but also in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, price increases will have repercussions on net food importer countries, further pushing up the already rising number of undernourished people globally.

What is the Commission doing to help third countries at risk of food security?

In international fora, the EU has called on its international partners, particularly the FAO and AMIS, to provide timely guidance as food security is a global challenge and most severe consequences are facing many food-importing developing countries.

For the period 2021 - 2024, the EU is pledging at least €2.5 billion (€1.4 billion for development and €1.1 billion for humanitarian aid) for international cooperation with a nutrition objective. The EU will fund development and humanitarian actions in nutrition-relevant sectors including food assistance, agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene, social protection, health, education, to help improve nutrition outcomes. In the 2021-27 international cooperation programmes the EU will support food systems in about 70 partner countries.

In the short term, humanitarian assistance should be stepped up for low-income food-deficit countries as well as countries affected by conflict in North Africa and the Middle East, in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Moreover, the EU will continue to strongly advocate, including in international fora, to avoid export restrictions and export bans on food. The track record shows that such restrictions are disastrous, as the 2007-8 crisis amply demonstrated in various parts of the world. WTO coordination will be essential.

In the medium term, the EU will continue to support countries in the transformation towards resilient and sustainable agricultural and aquatic food systems. This includes analytical and policy support, elaborated in the context of the follow-up to the 2021 Food Systems Summit and Nutrition for Growth Summit. In this context, the EU will step up its international cooperation on food research and innovation, including playing a leadership role in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), with particular reference to climate change adaptation and mitigation and sustainable management and protection of natural resources, applying approaches such as agro-ecology, landscape management and agro-forestry, diversification of trade flows and production systems, and reduction of food loss and waste.

To increase resilience, importing countries are encouraged to ensure better diversification of sources of food supplies, through a robust bilateral and multilateral trade policy. Moreover, well-functioning global supply chains and logistics are essential for global food security.

What can the Commission do to tackle rising consumer food prices?

The inflation on consumer food prices was already fast going up in several Member States before the Russian invasion of Ukraine owing to high energy and other inputs costs. Now, there is further pressure with the disruption of trade caused by the conflict. The trade in grain, energy and fertilisers is particularly affected, and this is noticeable in rising prices for these commodities. The Commission closely monitors these developments and the extent to which they will be transmitted to consumer food prices.

The EU is a net food exporter and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) maintains sufficient availability of food and reasonable prices for consumers. A well-functioning food supply chain, including a competition framework that takes account of the characteristics of the agricultural sector, and a fluid single market allow for the best allocation of resources between food operators in the EU, leading to the best value for money possible for EU consumers.

However the food price increase will impact low-income consumers. The first line of support for these more vulnerable groups are national social protection programmes aided by EU programmes such as the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), which supports food banks throughout the EU.

Rates of Value Added Tax (VAT) on food can also be reduced down to zero to lower food costs to consumers.

How will the €500 million be distributed to farmers?

While the market needs to gradually adjust to new circumstances, support is needed for producers in sectors where input costs are rising to unsustainable levels and where products cannot find their normal market outlet. In order to react efficiently and effectively against this threat of a market disturbance, the Commission will distribute national envelopes to Member States so they can support the producers in the EU agricultural sectors affected by market disturbance induced by the war in Ukraine.

Member States should design measures which contribute to food security or address market imbalances. The measures should target farmers who are the hardest hit by the crisis. Support under these measures should be prioritise if they engage in one or more of the following activities pursuing these goals: circular economy, nutrient management, efficient use of resources, and environmental and climate friendly production methods. Member States should also ensure that, when farmers are not the direct beneficiaries of the payments of the Union aid, the economic benefit of the Union aid is passed on to them in full.

It will be exceptionally possible to complement this EU support up to 200% with national funds.

Member States will notify the Commission not later than 30 June 2022 the measures they will take, their intended impact and the criteria for granting the aid.

Amounts available to Member States (in million euros)

 

Member State

EUR

Belgium

6 268 410

Bulgaria

10 611 143

Czechia

11 249 937

Denmark

10 389 359

Germany

60 059 869

Estonia

2 571 111

Ireland

15 754 693

Greece

26 298 105

Spain

64 490 253

France

89 330 157

Croatia

5 354 710

Italy

48 116 688

Cyprus

632 153

Latvia

4 235 161

Lithuania

7 682 787

Luxembourg

443 570

Hungary

16 939 316

Malta

69 059

Netherlands

8 097 139

Austria

8 998 887

Poland

44 844 365

Portugal

9 105 131

Romania

25 490 649

Slovenia

1 746 390

Slovakia

5 239 169

Finland

6 872 674

Sweden

9 109 115

What is the procedure for transferring funds from the crisis reserve?

In the 2022 budget, like in previous years, a reserve intended to provide additional support for the agricultural sector in the case of major crises affecting the agricultural production or distribution ("the reserve for crises in the agricultural sector") has been established by applying a reduction to direct payments with the financial discipline mechanism. It amounts to € 497.3 million.

The Commission will present to the European Parliament and the Council a proposal for a transfer from the reserve to the budget lines financing the support measures. The support measures will apply once the European Parliament and the Council agree to the transfer.

How will the private storage for pigmeat work?

From 25 March onwards, operators will have the possibility to apply for aid to cover part of the storage costs of pigmeat, provided that they keep it out of the market for minimum 2 months up to maximum 5 months. Aid levels vary depending on the cuts put in storage. Applications can be lodged until 29 April.

How can we enhance resilience by reducing dependencies on fertilisers and inputs needed for agricultural production?

The resilience of the EU agri-food sector requires diversified import sources and market outlets through an ambitious bilateral and multilateral trade policy.

The EU invests already considerably in research and innovation to substitute energy-intensive inputs, such as synthetic fertilisers, and to accelerate the transition to more sustainable, resilient, and competitive farming systems. Strategies and technologies to produce bio-based alternatives with similar or improved properties from locally sourced residues will be further scaled-up. Progress in plant breeding and precision farming can also reduce the use of inputs, while producing healthier crops and higher yields. Holistic and environmentally sustainable production systems, such as mixed-farming, agroecology, or organic farming, will optimise the nutrient cycles, strengthen the resilience of the agricultural sector and use minimal levels of chemical inputs.

Member States are urged to revise their CAP strategic plans with a view to support farmers in adopting practices reducing the use of fertilisers and optimising the efficiency in their applications. This can be done specifically through precision farming, but also organic farming, agro-ecology and more efficient use through advice and training on nutrient management plays an important role. Member States should fully exploit the possibilities of their CAP Strategic Plan in this regard, as well as optimising and reducing use of other inputs such as antibiotics and pesticides and engage in carbon farming.

How can we reduce on dependence on feed imports?

The Farm to Fork Strategy announces actions to foster EU-grown plant proteins, to support the incorporation of alternative feed materials and to facilitate a better use of European feed resources through the use of feed additives.

In addition, the ambitious targets in the Farm to Fork Strategy to avoid nutrient losses by reducing fertiliser use by at least 20% by 2030 and to reach at least 25% of EU agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, will favour the development of EU-grown protein plants, which naturally enrich the soil reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers.

The future CAP also provides several supportive instruments in this respect, for instance, sectoral operational programmes that Member States may implement in the plant protein sector, eco-schemes that would reward the integration of legumes in rotation plans and coupled income support for protein crops.

In the framework of Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe, the EU is investing in research and innovation programme that supports activities in themes such as breeding of protein plants, feeding, sustainable use of resources, alternative proteins for feed and food, and animal health and welfare.

Is the derogation on land lying fallow for crops in line with the Green Deal and the Commission's environmental ambition?

The derogation is a temporary measure for 2022 to alleviate some demand and supply disturbances in short terms for agricultural products.

As an emergency measure in claim year 2022, this derogation is allowing production on fallow land for grass and crops for food and feed to enlarge the EU's production capacity.

Introducing more biodiversity in the agricultural fields will continue to be an objective for environmental benefit but also for a better resilience and agronomic preservation of agricultural land in medium term perspectives.

How does the Commission's plan for food security and resilience fit with the Farm to Fork strategy?

The war in Ukraine combined with an ongoing commodity price surge brings to the forefront the links between geopolitics, globalisation, climate change and food security.

The Farm to Fork Strategy is an important part of our structural, medium term response. The strategy highlights the need for a resilient EU food system, something underlined by the current crisis. Striving for sustainable food systems includes reducing the input dependence of EU agriculture. In this communication, the Commission underlines the need to prioritise actions that increase yields sustainably through both technological as well as agro-ecological innovation.

The contribution to the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity Strategies should not be abandoned or weakened. Stronger environmental and climate sustainability will increase our resilience and is therefore equally important for food security as addressing disturbances in supply of certain crops is in the short term.

We were already committed to strengthening our food security framework, as a follow-up to the Commission's food security contingency plan communication. The Commission has convened on 9 March for the first time its new European Food Security Crisis preparedness & response Mechanism (EFSCM) that was put in place recently based on the Contingency plan communication, which was widely supported by the Council. The group has discussed the current situation and possible action needed to ensure food security in Europe and in the world.

Member States submitted their draft CAP Strategic Plans before Russia invaded Ukraine. Will you allow them to revise their draft plans to adapt them to the radically changed context?

The Commission acknowledges that the Ukraine crisis may have consequences on the strategic plans, including the need to modify the initial proposals.

In particular, there will be scope to reinforce elements of the plans aiming to strengthen resilience of the sector, reduce energy dependence and expand the sustainable production capacity.

After the adoption and publication of the observation letters, the Commission will work closely with Member States to improve the Plans and introduce the necessary changes.

How will the new CAP and strategic plans contribute to increasing food security and resilience?

There is a clear need to strengthen resilience, reduce energy dependence (on synthetic fertilisers and scale up the production of renewable energy) and preserve and expand sustainable production capacity. These are all core elements of sustainable agriculture and reflected in the Farm to Fork approach.

This is why the Commission will support activities such as boosting sustainable biogas production and use as well as carbon removals, improving energy efficiency, extending the use of agro ecological practices and precision agriculture, reducing dependence on input and fodder imports through sustainable livestock systems and fostering protein crop production, and spreading through the transfer of knowledge the widest possible application of best practices.

The Commission is assessing the Strategic Plans of Member States with these considerations of the sector's economic, environmental and social viability in mind.

For More Information

Communication on safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems

Annex on safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems

Press release: Commission acts for global food security and for supporting EU farmers and consumers

Factsheet on measures to safeguard food security and support EU farmers

The European food security crisis preparedness and response mechanism

The European Pigmeat Reflection Group


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