In a letter to the European Commission on 4 February, Freshfel Europe summed up its concerns on the mulitples consequences for fresh produce of the Belarus embargo. The Association urged the EU authorities to take steps to support the sector in this new trade restriction The sector is one more time the bargaining chips of geopolitical dispute. The Belarus embargo is affecting close to half a million T of EU export adding up on the impact of other not yet recovered embargoes. These trade restrictions represent annually disruptive market worth 3 billion €.
With the start of the Belarus embargo on January 1st, around 400 to 500.000 T of export are newly challenged: 300.000 T from Poland, 60.000 T from Spain, 35.000 T from Belgium, 30.000 T from the Netherlands, 15.000 T for Greece and 10.000 T from Italy. Belarus ranked as the second destination for EU fresh produce export, representing more than 10% of EU export. Philippe Binard stated: The embargo challenges a business value worth 250 Mio €. This embargo is added on the not yet recovered Russian embargo, representing lost businesses worth 2,5 billion €, while the Algerian embargo represents a business prejudice of 200 Mio €.” Philippe Binard added: The fruit and vegetable sector is frustrated to be the bystander and the bargaining chips in geopolitical dispute. Altogether, 3 billion € of fresh produce business needs to be repositioned annually”.
Market diversification is not straightforward and is usually a long process. Fruit orchards are long term investments and business channels cannot be easily shifted. Adjusting production to new markets, addressing SPS barriers and introducing new long term marketing strategies and promotion activities are part of the challenges. The Belarus embargo leads to both direct and indirect consequences for European growers and operators. Long-standing businesses with Belarus importers are suspended and market instability for specific products and varieties are impacting both the EU exports and the EU internal markets.
Consequently, Freshfel Europe is calling on the European Commission to consider a diversity of measures to address the ban, supporting all directly or indirectly affected stakeholders. Philippe Binard commented: “We have identified and submitted to the European Commission five different areas of activities and a total of 12 measures where mechanisms need to be introduced. Those covers assistance for the EU market stability, renewed efforts to open new markets, specific aspects relating to the Belarus and Russian embargoes as well as specific issues relating to customs procedure for re-export and transit”. On behalf of the European fruit and vegetables sector, Freshfel Europe and its members will closely monitor the situation and work constructively with the European Commission to cope with this new market access challenge for the sector.