EU experts to debate Russia’s ban on European food

Emergency meeting next week will discuss impact and right to respond

Ten per cent of EU agricultural exports go to Russia annually and their total value is around €11 billion. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Ten per cent of EU agricultural exports go to Russia annually and their total value is around €11 billion. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 15:00

Senior agricultural experts from all 28 European Union countries will hold an emergency meeting next Thursday to analyse the impact of a Russian ban on EU food imports, the European Commission said today.

Moscow banned most food imports from the EU and the United States yesterday in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The Commission, the EU executive, has already said it reserves the right to respond and will set up a task force on Monday to assess the situation.

“In the current context, the most important is to react in a proportionate and rapid way should the situation arise,” European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in an emailed statement.

“I am confident that our resilient farm sector will reorient rapidly towards new markets and opportunities.”

Roughly 10 per cent of EU agricultural exports go to Russia annually and their total value is around €11 billion , Commission figures show.

To ensure a smooth transition to other markets, the Commission says the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy provides options for financial support, including a crisis reserve to compensate farmers if necessary.

Mr Ciolos said he had already spoken to farm ministers from across Europe, including Italy’s. Rome now holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year.

A spokesman for the Italian presidency said there were no plans for now to summon an emergency meeting of agricultural ministers. Next Thursday’s emergency meeting will be attended by national experts as well as Commission officials, he said.

Poland said today it would file a complaint to the World Trade Organization over the Russian embargo and the Commission has also gone to the WTO over a ban by Moscow on EU pork.

However, when asked about wider WTO action, the Commission said only that it was assessing the situation.

EU lawyers in Brussels said the EU executive was likely to act cautiously because its concern now was to de-escalate the crisis when further WTO action could have the opposite effect.

Russia is a major buyer of European fruit and vegetables but ranks 23rd among buyers of food from the United States, accounting for less than 1 per cent of America’s farm exports.

The White House said the ban would backfire, hurting Russian citizens by pushing up inflation.

Reuters