COVID-19 – A double-edged sword for the European organic sector

The coronavirus is causing the biggest and most acute crisis Europe faced in the last decades, and it is also severely impacting the organic sector. The whole supply chain is dealing with major difficulties as transport across borders is restricted and important economic activities like gastronomy and catering are closed. 

Dairy and animal products are among the most negatively impacted activities, just like fruits and vegetables as seasonal workforce is not available. Bigger supermarkets and discounters, however, are reporting increased sales in several countries, resulting in a higher demand also for organic, especially for non-perishable products like pasta, rice, canned food and beans.

After issuing guidelines for border management and for the free movement of workers, the Commission has announced different measures related to the CAP. On 25 March, DG AGRI announced an extension of the deadline for submitting CAP payment application (postponed until 15 June). On 2 April, the European executive proposed to allocate higher advances of payments (both for direct payments and rural development), the possibility for Member States to use flexibility between pillars and a reduction in the number of on-the-spot checks.

Listening to the call of many Member States, European associations and Members of the European Parliaments (MEPs), several tools of the Common Market Organization (CMO), including the Private Storage Aid (PSA) and the authorisation of self-organisation market measures by operators in hard hit sectors, have been triggered by DG AGRI on 22 April. Commissioner Wojciechowski first expressed his reluctance to use these market measures due to the lack of financial resources, but finally declared that they will be useful for “providing stability to future prices and production and thus stable food supplies and food security.“

On the environmental side, some voices are pushing for postponing the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy. IFOAM EU wants a timely publication of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, as the goals and targets we expect to be set in the Farm to Fork strategy will be crucial for the ongoing CAP negotiations and the level of ambition of CAP national strategic plans. We believe that the European Green Deal must be placed at the heart of the EU’s recovery plan, like this was expressed by 13 European climate and environment ministers. 

IFOAM EU’s members receive periodical updates about Covid-19 and its impact on EU organic. If you are an IFOAM EU member who does not receive this information yet, please contact communication [at] ifoam-eu.org (communication [ at ] ifoam-eu.org).

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