Estonian, Baltic farmers call for fair direct support in Brussels ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Herd of sheep.
Herd of sheep. Source: Birgit Vaarandi/minupilt.err.ee

Organisations representing the farmers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have sent a public appeal to the heads of EU institutions calling for the fair distribution of direct support allocated in the union's framework of common agricultural policy. A demonstration seeking fair competitive conditions on the European common market is also to take place in Brussels on Thursday.

"The initial historical reference levels, which serve as basis for calculating direct support for Estonia, do not adequately reflect the current situation of our producers and production costs," Roomet Sõrmus, chairman of the board of the Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce (EPKK), told BNS. "Our farmers are proud to be citizens of the EU, which is why a common European market based on fair conditions is so important to them."

Sõrmus added that it is incomprehensible how Estonian and other Baltic farmers are expected to be competitive and manage production costs, which exceed those in most other member states, when direct support to the Baltics' farmers is much lower.

"Our farmers must comply with the exact same environmental requirements, animal welfare rules and fire safety standards as producers in other EU states, even though the compensation paid for it is considerably lower," he noted.

Heads of EU member states and governments are to discuss at the 13 December European Council the EU multiannual budget for 2021-2027. Negotations on the draft budget will have a direct impact on the future of the union's common agricultural policy beyond 2020.

In the appeal addressed to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz, representing the current Austrian presidency of the EU, it is noted that Baltic farmers have consistently been granted less support compared to other member states since their accession to the EU in 2004.

This is primarily due to the fact that the direct support allocated was based on a reference period during which agriculture in the Baltics was at its absolute lowest while transitioning from the former socialist system to the free market economy. Despite constant political efforts to overcome this historical anomaly, the level of direct support for farmers of the Baltic states remains the lowest in the EU.

This support has likewise not been increased despite the fact that average production costs in all three Baltic states are higher than the EU average. The support received by the Baltics amounts to 54-60% of the EU average, while production costs are 129%, 113% and 112% of the EU average in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, respectively.

Objectives not likely to be met next period

During the current common agricultural policy period, the objective set at the European Council meeting on 7-8 February 2013 aimed at raising the minimum direct payment level across the EU to approximately €196 per hectare will not be met. Moreover, based on the proposal by the Commission for 2021-207, the objective of levelling out the imbalances in payment levels will not be attained during the next budgetary period either.

Based on the European Commission proposal made this June, support for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will only reach 77% of the EU average by 2027. Baltic farmers are calling on the EU institutions to ensure fair conditions.

Participants in Thursday's demonstration in Brussels are to include heads of the EPKK and the Central Union of Estonian Farmers (EPK).

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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