The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., urged the European Commission to deploy the full range of supports available in order to ensure that the agri-food and fisheries sectors can best serve the needs of society during the COVID-19 crisis with the minimum possible economic impact.
Speaking after a special Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers on the matter, which was held by video conference, Minister Creed stated, “The agri-food and fisheries sectors have a central role to play in protecting the health and wellbeing of citizens in the context of COVID-19. In order to keep food supplies moving, and to support this vital aspect of our rural and coastal economies, significant supports will be needed at an early stage.”
While welcoming recent initiatives at EU level, Minister Creed said that there is nevertheless a need for specific and targeted supports for the agri-food and fisheries sectors. He said “I urged the Commission today to be ready to introduce a range of measures, as required, including:
- the full range of market support measures provided for in the Common Market Organisation Regulation (Regulation 1308 of 2013), including specific sectoral supports and exceptional measures;
- flexibility for Member States in the implementation of some CAP measures, for example in relation to on-the-spot controls, advance payments and the application of force majeure, or exceptional circumstances, provisions; and
- for the fisheries sector, the making of the necessary legal changes to allow the introduction of Storage Aid without previous quantity restrictions, as well as the provision of additional financial support for the temporary cessation of fishing activity. I have also sought flexibility for Member States to fast track delivery of these financial supports.”
The Minister also stressed the need for the integrity of the Single Market to be maintained throughout the response to the COVID-19 crisis, for example by ensuring that border checks do not unnecessarily disrupt the free movement of goods or labour across the EU. This is particularly important in ensuring the continued effective functioning of agri-food supply chains.
Concluding, Minister Creed stated, “The key priority for all of us is to take the necessary steps to ensure that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively, that supply lines can be kept open, that we continue to feed people, and that the economic impact on the agri-food and fisheries sectors can be minimised. In this way, we can ensure that these sectors can not only survive, but also make a huge contribution to dealing with, the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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