At an extraordinary meeting of the council of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce that took place in Mäo on Wednesday, participants voiced disappointment over the government's plan to cut agricultural support in a situation where Estonia already has one of the lowest benefits in the EU. Farmers are planning to take their concerns to the government and the Riigikogu in person.
In addition to transitional support, farmers have a lot of other reasons for uncertainty, from land tax to the future of fiscally marked diesel fuel.
"Managing the currently unstable market is the biggest challenge for agricultural producers – prices of cereals, milk and other agricultural products are fluctuating. Production costs have grown faster than sales revenue and support. The government's austerity plan is creating additional uncertainty for farmers," said Olav Kreen, chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce.
Kreen went on to say that it has already been forgotten the sector is still recovering from the dairy market crisis and cultivation problems caused by changeable weather in the past three years.
"Agricultural producers compete with other sectors for labor. Labor costs have grown by 25 percent over the past four years in the sector, while they still fall 20 percent short of the national average. Cutting transitional support only stands to make the situation even more difficult," said Tõnu Post, deputy head of the chamber.
Post said that in the EU and other regions, agricultural support has been introduced first and foremost with the interests of consumers in mind – support helps keep prices down and compensate for new environmental and animal welfare requirements. The Estonian agricultural sector's financial results suggest that production would not be profitable without subsidies.
The council formed a delegation for meetings with the government and Riigikogu groups. Their aim is to better understand the new situation and explain the situation of the agricultural and food sector. Further action will be decided based on the results of these meetings.
The government communicated last Tuesday that despite earlier pledges, transitional support for farmers will be lowered from €15.3 million to €5 million for 2020.
Editor: Marcus Turovski