An over-reliance on imported feed, fertiliser and gas represents a “clear area” of vulnerability in the EU’s food security strategy, an official of the European Commission’s agri-food section has told MEPs.
This dependence on imported farm inputs has been described as a weakness of the EU food system that is both “critical” and “structural” by the deputy director general of DG Agriculture Michael Scannell on Monday.
Scannell explained that food security was not only threatened by the reliance on imports for agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers, but “perhaps more importantly” on the gas stocks comprising the primary input for the domestic fertiliser industry on which EU farming depends.
Two weeks ago, a leaked communication on the energy situation facing the EU had suggested that the Commission is planning measures that will reduce member states' reliance on imported gas stocks.
The Commission official told MEPs that the Brussels was now “orientated” towards addressing these weaknesses, but he also acknowledged that the EU had a “hugely resilient and powerful agri-food industry supported by CAP”.
Assessing the impacts
The Commission has been actively engaging with stakeholders to assess the practical impacts of the “surge” in feed and fertiliser prices witnessed across Europe since Russian forces launched an offensive into Ukraine last week, said Scannell.
He stated that the impact of a "freeze” on the transport of goods through the Black Sea was a development that the Commission is following closely, as most of Ukraine’s grain exports pass through the region.
Some 30 groups representing the stakeholders responsible for the whole of the agri-food supply chain – from farm to table – have been selected to take part in an expert group on food security, alongside experts from each member state.
According to Scannell, this group’s first meeting has been scheduled for later this month.
This week in Brussels
A communication on the EU’s feed and fertiliser crises had been due for publication this Wednesday.
However, the Commissioner for Agriculture has said the publication will now be delayed until next Tuesday, owing to the Commission’s need to update the communication to reflect the changes in the energy and food situation since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It is expected that the communication will give fertiliser importers clarity on any movement by Brussels on anti-dumping duties and import tariffs.
Wednesday will also be the day on which the ministers for agriculture from each EU member state are set to come together for an extraordinary meeting to discuss developments in the agri-food sphere since the invasion of Ukraine.