EU officials seek to limit impact of Russia's food import ban
European Union regulators on Monday began analyzing product-by-product the impact of a Russian ban on EU food imports and agreed emergency measures to support peach and nectarine growers in what they described as a "signal of intent".
European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos interrupted the traditional European Commission August break to return to Brussels at the weekend, together with other senior staff, and on Monday they set up a task force.
The aim is to work out alternative markets and to analyze the fallout from Russia's one-year ban on imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway.
With some member states piling on the pressure for redress, they could also agree to award compensation from a special 400 million euro ($535 million) fund signed into law at the end of 2013, as part of agricultural reforms. To date, the fund has never been used.
The European Commission decided to support the peach and nectarine sectors by increasing to 10 percent, from 5 percent, the share of production that can be withdrawn from the market and distributed for free. Producers are compensated for such fruit withdrawn from the market.
In addition, extra funds will be provided for marketing. The Commission did not specify how much money would be paid out, or if it would come from the 400 million euro fund.
"This first measure today is a signal of intent," Ciolos said. "We are monitoring markets closely and I will not hesitate to do likewise to assist other sectors dependent on exports to Russia, should it be necessary," he added.
Agricultural experts from the European Union's 28 member states will meet in Brussels on Thursday to plan a coordinated strategy.
"REARRANGING DECK CHAIRS"
Moscow initially said it would not stoop to a tit-for-tat response, but last week it took aim at Western food imports, a move many analysts say could hurt Russian consumers more than it affects Western exporters.
Analysts said as Russia turned to alternative suppliers in regions such as South America it could drive up prices in those markets and open up new opportunities for the EU and United States - whose prices would become more competitive.
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