Measures aim to avert 'collapse' in prices

Intervention measures mean that the EU will effectively buy up stocks of crops that would otherwise fail to find a buyer.

Russia: destination for one-third of EU fruit and vegetable exports
Russia: destination for one-third of EU fruit and vegetable exports

Fresh produce

European farmers cooperative body Copa-Cogeca has welcomed EU measures announced this week to support the European fruit and vegetable sector hit by Russia's imports ban.

"We have been calling for this to avoid prices in the sector from collapsing altogether", said Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen. "Prices have been hit hard by the crisis, falling by up to 90 per cent in some cases."

Valued at some EUR125m (£100m), the so-called intervention measures mean the EU will effectively buy up stocks of crops including tomatoes, carrots, white cabbage, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers, gherkins, mushrooms, apples, pears and berries that would otherwise fail to find a buyer.

Interventions were already confirmed in the troubled peach and nectarine sector, while details of further assistance for growers is expected to be announced this Friday (22 August).

The ban was expected to have little direct effect on the UK's growers but it could potentially have major indirect effects, industry figures had suggested.

Only two per cent of Scottish seed potato exports to non-EU countries went to Russia in 2012-13, which amounted to 1,500 tonnes, while other UK vegetable exports to Russia totalled just 480 tonnes.

But as Fresh Produce Consortium chief executive Nigel Jenney pointed out before the latest announcement: "A third of EU fruit and vegetable exports go to Russia - that's a significant volume, and there are no obvious third-party markets.

"Also, the weather has been kind throughout Europe this season and yields will be high."

He added: "The extra volume (of fresh produce on the market) equates to everyone eating one extra portion a day. This is a significant opportunity to promote that."

NFU deputy director-general Martin Haworth pointed out that during Russia's previous ban on EU fruit and vegetables during the E. coli outbreak of 2011 "the impacts were felt throughout the supply chain - retailers were tempted by low-cost EU imports, which led to pressure for UK growers to match unsustainable low prices".

Russia's ban, brought in on 7 August against nations that imposed sanctions against Moscow following the crisis in Ukraine, also covers meat, fish and dairy. The UK Government earlier described the ban as "unjustified".

A representative said: "We will continue to work closely with trade associations and industry to help them monitor the impact of this ban on their businesses."

- Effect on top-fruit market, see p48.

Russia's import ban - Global consequences

- Dutch growers launch social media campaign under "Samen Sterk" (strong together) slogan to boost consumer support.

- Poland, world's largest apple exporter and one of the biggest potential losers from the ban, asks USA to open its markets to "freedom apples".

- Israel increases exports of many crops to Russia.

- Argentinian producers consider "redirecting" top-fruit exports to Russia.

- Report by Danske Bank of Denmark forecasts the ban being lifted "within one to three months" due to "unbearable" consequences.

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