When Sanctions Don’t Fit the “Fruits” of the EU Laborers


A farm worker harvests apples at the Verger d'Epinoy near Cambrai, France.A farm worker harvests apples at the
Verger d’Epinoy near Cambrai, France.
Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

 Politicians and the public poo-pooed off the sanctions as they posed with apples at hand, on Twitter. “Eat apples to annoy Putin” campaign became a social media hit. When Russia banned imports of Polish apples in July everyone from the head of the national security bureau to TV presenters posted gleeful photos. They just might be eating these pictures now. All the narcissism imbuing over these photos might be rethought. One thing that is failed to be seen on this account is the number of apple trees all over Russia. A decrease in supply of imported apples will force a renewed interest in domestic ones. For more see here.

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The whole sanction ordeal then was extended to cover not just apples but all other European produce, from cauliflower from Lithuania to Greek peaches. In the beginning it caused a slight increase in consumption, but it’s back to normal now, quoted Jolanta Kazimierska, head of the Polish Fruit Union. Both the European Union and Russia are suffering from its effects. The eating apples as a “political statement” has truly worn thin. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate the situation. In fact Dostoyevsky said, “Humanity will be cured and saved by the apple orchard. See more here.

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I’m not really sure who hurt from eating a Polish Apple?

Last year 1m tonnes of golden delicious, gala, champion and others went to Russia, Poland also sold €840m (£670m) of produce as well, including a quarter of all its apples. Today many of the trees are laden with unsold fruit, leaving some growers on the verge of bankruptcy, according to Kazimierska. “Everyone is praying that this situation improves because if it doesn’t, we are facing real disaster.” It seems that the EU believes that Poland has grossly over-claimed it’s losses. See more here.

Prices have fallen to 0.9 zlotys (17p) per kilo, meaning the farmer barely recoup the cost of production, she said. But the full extent of the damage will only become clear at the end of the month when growers harvest all the apples grown for the Russian market. Maybe like in Spain they should give the excess to those in need?

St Petersburg food store with meat

Europe’s Fruit and vegetable farmers have been the hardest hit because of Russia’s tit-for-tat sanctions. Nearly a third of Europe’s fruit and vegetables were sold to Russia. The ban has also included which has meant prices paid to some growers have fallen by 80%. Russia is stranger to food shortages, those who remember soviet times and the beginning of perestroika will attest to the difficulties during this time. It seems that the Russian market has picked up the slack and is currently covering about 90% of Russia’s needs in this department. See here.

In theory, European growers should be able to fill the gaps in world markets: if Russia for example buys more apples from South Africa, leaving Chinese buyers short, Poland can jump in. This idea has lots of holes in it, global markets don’t grow over night. They take years to develop. Referring back to soviet times it must be understood the resilience of the Russian people. The government understanding this issued plots of land to the people to promote a degree of self-sufficiency. To understand this better see here.

Greek trucks

Guards at the Russian border were told that all trucks carrying European fruits and vegetables would not be allowed in. This left several million kilos of Greek peaches and strawberries rotting in lorries along with others looking to gain access high and dry. Even as the leaves turned gold, the sanctions left fruits decaying in orchards all over Europe.

One of the hardest hit countries by the Russian bans said 900 hectares (2220 acres) of Dutch orchards were likely to go unpicked, because harvesting would prove unprofitable. It is becoming evidently clear the sanctions are disrupting commerce everywhere in the EU.

dutch pears

The situation is especially tough for Dutch pear growers, with prices 50% lower than last year. Klaassen says the price of vegetables has recovered after a first drop, but he fears tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines will plummet in value when a new batch is harvested from Dutch greenhouses early next year. Leaving it to the EU authorities in Brussels they came up with a €125m fund to pay farmers to cut supply, either by turning their crop into compost, letting it rot, or donating fruit to schools and hospitals. They initially allocated more than €82m for apples and pears alone. But the European commission suspended the scheme, after being flooded with what officials deemed as dubious claims for compensation. Hopefully they won’t let the farmers take the full brunt of the sanctions.

The commission has decided that no country can claim more than the value of produce they previously exported to Russia (sounds reasonable if they follow through) . But demands for further compensation are building. Spain has pleaded that the scheme to be opened to citrus fruits and Romania lobbying for onions, the commission is also battling member states who want to raid the non-farm part of the EU budget – worth €84bn in 2014 – for emergency funds. All in all it looks like the sanctions are hurting the EU more than Russia.

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Now comes the backpedaling of the commission, civil service and political leaders, opposes the move. A spokesperson said: “member states wanted the 2014 – 2020 EU budget radically cut. They got that, therefore there are limits to what the EU budget can do.” He noted there were also calls for extra funds to help Ukrainian civilians, Iraqi and Syrian refugees, tackle Ebola, as well as aid EU farmers. It looks like the politicians have caused more grief in this matter then needs be. What the true costs of the sanctions will not be known immediately but by looking at the numbers sure speaks a lot.

Luckily British fruit growers haven’t been effected by the problem as much as the others, they export very little fruit to Russia, but they could suffer if the market is flooded by inexpensive Polish apples and Dutch pears.

Prices on wholesale markets – where street traders and small shops source their apples – have already fallen, but the big supermarkets, which sell 85% of the nation’s apples and pears, have long-term contracts that cannot be switched quickly.

Adrian Barlow, chief executive of the trade body English Apples and Pears, thinks supermarkets will not risk a consumer backlash by buying up cheap apples from the continent, just as native varieties, such as Cox and royal gala, are arriving on the shelves.

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Depressed prices could undermine UK growers in the long run. Sales of English apples have risen, after a long period when local fruit fell out of favor and consumers got a taste for France’s Golden Delicious and New Zealand’s Pink Lady varieties. What the isles do suffer from is a bit different. It seems proper that Britain looks at it’s laborers problems despite it’s not being affected like the others. See here for more details.

Sources:

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