Roomet Sõrmus, chairman of the management board of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPKK), presented Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) with three quarters of a loaf of black bread in Brussels on Thursday, relaying Estonian farmers' request that the prime minister defend the interests of Estonia's agriculture and food production in connection with the next EU budgetary period at the European Council.
The partial loaf was symbolic of Estonian farmers' unfair competition conditions in the European Union.
"Estonian farmers are required to comply 100 percent with EU requirements, however the allowances paid for such compliance are much lower than the average," Sõrmus said. "Pursuant to a proposal by the European Commission, the level of support for Estonia's agriculture will remain lower than that for our average competitor by a quarter by the end of the next [EU] budgetary period."
Estonian farmers are standing for fair treatment alongside Latvian and Lithuanian farmers, the EPKK chairman said, adding that representatives of the latter likewise presented their heads of government with symbolic loaves of black bread this week.
"We hope that these three pieces of black bread will help our heads of state and government better explain the unfair treatment of the Baltic states," he explained.
The European Green Deal proposed by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has also increased Estonian farmers' concerns regarding their unfair treatment, as the deal involves agriculture as well.
"It has been suggested that environmental and climate-related ambitions in the common agricultural policy should be significantly boosted, which inevitably raises the question of how one is supposed to comply with increasingly strict environmental requirements in unfair competition," Sõrmus said.
The European Commission also plans to introduce a new strategy in spring 2020 called "From Farm to Fork," which will aim to render food production more sustainable by promoting organic farming and reducing the use of crop protection chemicals and chemical fertilizers.
"Achieving these goals is not realistic without financial coverage," Sõrmus said.
The EPKK, the umbrella organization of Estonian agricultural and rural economy businesses, said that by paying Estonia significantly less national transitional aid compared to the EU's average from 2014 to 2020, the EU has saved over €600 million, while producers are still required to comply fully with production requirements.
"As agricultural support levels are much lower for the Baltic states compared to other states, success during the new [budgetary] period will be much more likely achieved in cooperation between the three countries," Sõrmus said.
The chamber also organized a demonstration against insufficient levels of national transitional aid for the agricultural sector in front of the Riigikogu on Tuesday.
"We would like to thank the government coalition for the funds added to the state budget at the last minute, even though they were lower than initially promised," the chamber chairman said. "The next big shared challenge for the government and our farmers will be achieving equal competition conditions for our agricultural producers in the EU."
Editor: Aili Vahtla