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EU Ministers on the situation on agricultural markets in light of the war in Ukraine

Minister Jože Podgoršek attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. The European Commission reported on the market situation for agri-food products in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ministers adopted Council conclusions on vaccination as a complementary tool to current measures for the prevention and control of the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Numerous initiatives launched by member states were discussed as AOB items.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council focused on the discussion on agricultural markets in light of the war in Ukraine. The war has significantly disturbed global agricultural markets, putting pressure on agricultural products and commodities needed for agricultural production such as energy products and fertilisers.

The situation in Slovenia remains worrying and causes concerns to farmers, food processors and consumers. High prices of raw materials and energy products add to the cost of production and food in general. Minister Podgoršek emphasised that Slovenia is following with great concern the rising prices of input materials, in particular energy products, feed and fertilisers. “The rising costs of input materials and their limited availability can cause delays in the investment done by agricultural holdings and market operations. There is a concern about upward pressure on the price of key foodstuffs. The potential loss of the purchasing power caused by inflation will limit the possibility of producers to fully pass on the increased costs to the final price of the product. We are also seriously concerned about the lack of chemical fertilisers, the disruption in the supply of input materials and the potential disruption in the supply of wheat.” According to the minister, it is vital for Slovenia to regularly monitor the situation on agricultural markets and the functioning of the entire chain. “In light of the situation in Ukraine, we support the activities in the recently published Commission’s communication on EU-UK solidarity lanes to facilitate agricultural export, which will alleviate the problems of export and import from and to Ukraine in the current situation and enhance the connection of Ukraine with the EU in the long term. We support extending the possibility of a temporary derogation from the current rules of the green component for a couple of years.” Slovenia supports quick and effective action at the EU level in case of destabilisation of the situation, including by providing the necessary financial resources. According to the minister, it is essential to provide additional available resources at the EU level to support such action, since the resources in the framework of the crisis reserve will not be sufficient. “In addition, we support the possibility of using unused funds from the Rural Development Programme.”

The European Commission briefed the ministers on the state of play of negotiations in agriculture in light of the 12th World Trade Organization conference to be held in June in Geneva. The Romanian delegation shared information on the impact of the war in Ukraine on the implementation and completion of national rural development programmes. Slovenia will help stakeholders with two measures, namely by extending the deadline for the completion of investment and by allowing higher costs for building materials and equipment.

Ministers adopted Council conclusions on vaccination as a complementary tool to current measures for the prevention and control of the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Avian influenza poses a risk to public health and is detrimental to animal health and welfare, with serious economic consequences for the poultry sectors affected. Minister Jože Podgoršek stressed that it is necessary to promote research for the development of safe and effective vaccines, the application of which will be suitable for the type of poultry husbandry or categories of poultry and other captive birds. “It is also important that the newly developed vaccines allow a distinction between vaccinated and infected animals.”

Council also discussed some other topics, including the initiative by Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta on the keeping of exotic animal species as companion animals. Minister Podgoršek presented the amendments to the Slovenian Animal Protection Act as regards the keeping of exotic companion animals. He stressed that the EU must speak with one voice. The German delegation reported on the issue of peat use and the need to reduce the proportion of peat in substrates for growing vegetables, seedlings and ornamental plants. The Slovak delegation proposed a discussion on the future of soil protection. Soil is not only an essential part of our lives, but also a necessity. Therefore, it needs to be protected in the same way as water and air.

This was the last Council attended by Jože Podgoršek. He thanked his colleagues for the excellent cooperation during his term in office, in particular during the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council. “I would like to thank you for all the discussions and initiatives that we dealt with together. It was a great honour to work with you and chair the Council.”

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