Informal Agri-Fisheries Council: MAINTAIN THE FOOD SUPPLY & LABOUR FORCE
Although the Council of March 23 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agriculture ministers of the 27 nevertheless met for a video conference on March 25, 2020. In the presence of the President of the Council Marija Vučković as well as the Commissioners for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski and the Commissioner for Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius, the ministers discussed existing and planned measures in the Member States and at Community level to find solutions to the impacts caused by the pandemic on the agriculture and fisheries sectors.
During the “informal” debate, delegations reiterated that the supply of high-quality food will continue uninterrupted during the crisis. Guided by Croatia’s Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković, delegations held an exchange of views on the measures already taken, as well as those planned at national & European level to counteract the impact of the virus on their respective sectors.
Many delegations (IE, FR, PT, CY, LT, RO, PL, IT, NL, CZ, AT, SE) called for European action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the agri-food & fisheries sectors. For the time being, the Commission has confined itself to passing the responsibility for responses to the MS in the form of state aid, and to ensuring the movement of food products within the Union. It has also hid behind the monitoring of future market developments so as not to take a position in the sitting on the request for exceptional measures.
Following the debate, underpinned by a Presidency overview of the situation, the Council chairwoman said “in order to ensure normal functioning of the food supply chain, it is crucial to identify critical obstacles caused by COVID-19,” citing some of the points raised from the floor such as restrictions in the movement of goods, changes in consumption patterns & in the operation of agri-food production systems. She also highlighted the lack of labour “due to border closures, social distance requirements, mandatory isolation or quarantine.”
“The Ministers today called upon the Commission to closely monitor and defend the integrity of the single market and to propose appropriate action where problems in the supply chain are identified. We need a few days to summarise the outcome of this meeting, and together with the European Commission, we will evaluate and decide on further steps to be taken” added Marija Vučković.
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