Lithuania and Latvia request additional EC aid for struggling dairy farmers
Lithuanian Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevičius, and Latvian Prime Minister, Laimdota Straujuma, met Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, on August 24 to discuss the impact of the Russian embargo on dairy farmers in the countries.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev introduced a one-year ban on the import of beef, pork, poultry, fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy products from the European Union (EU), United States, Australia, Canada and Norway on August 7 2014.
Late last year, the EC provided a €40m support package for dairy farmers in Finland (€10.7m), Lithuania (€14.1m), Latvia (€7.7m) and Estonia (€6.9m) – markets “particularly adversely affected” by the Russian embargo.
In June, Russia extended its ban on Western food imports until August 5 2016.
In a press conference ahead of talks with Hogan on Monday, Butkevičius said Lithuania was seeking an additional €50m in targeted aid for its dairy farmers.
"Due to the continued decline of global prices [and] the Russian embargo, the dairy sector in Lithuania is going through a difficult period," he said. "I would like to inform you that in the first half of this year, exports of milk and dairy products decreased by 34% and I would like to underline that the situation in this sector is critical."
"Today, we ask the European Commission to provide the Lithuanian dairy producers exceptional target aid of €50m in 2015. The situation in the Lithuanian dairy sector is an exceptional one demanding extraordinary attention from the European Commission."
Latvia, which has similarly experienced a 40% decrease in dairy product exports, "did not make such a precise request," a Commission source told DairyReporter.
Speaking alongside the Latvian Prime Minister on Monday, Hogan said the EC would review the situation at a Council of Agriculture Ministers Meeting on September 7.
"Both Latvia and Lithuania made very strong cases on the impact of the Russian embargo on their dairy sectors," the Commission source continued.
"Commissioner Hogan listened very carefully and will be in a position to provide a comprehensive response to their request and requests of other Member States on September 7."
The source added that while Finland and the Baltics - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - would be the main focus, the EC is "not excluding other Member States."
"Everything is on the table at the moment," the source said. "The Commissioner said no country will be excluded from the support."