7 April 2020 News

CORONAVIRUS: the EU is adopting measures to support the agri-food sector

Amid the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, the European Union’s agri-food sector is showing its resilience and continues to provide Europeans with high quality and safe food, despite increasing difficulties and pressure faced by producers.

In order to help the agri-food sector through this unprecedented crisis, the European Commission has announced a set of measures to ensure food security and an effective food supply chain across the continent.

On 1 April 2020, the Coronavirus response investment initiative (CRII) entered into force, assuring flexibility on the use of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) to address the crisis. In particular, the deadline for CAP payment applications has been extended to 15 June 2020, instead of 15 May, allowing more flexibility for farmers to fill in their applications in these difficult and unparalleled times.

Secondly, state aid has been increased and, under the newly adopted Temporary Framework, farmers can now benefit from a maximum aid of €100,000 per farm and food processing and marketing companies can benefit from a maximum of €800,000.

Thirdly, rural development funds can be used to invest in medical facilities and small-scale infrastructure in rural areas, such as the adaptation of health centres to treat growing numbers of patients or the set-up of mobile health facilities to carry out tests and provide treatments to farmers and rural inhabitants.

In addition, the Commission is coordinating closely with Member States to ensure a continuous flow of food products across the EU by creating “Green Lanes”, that is designated key border crossing-points with border crossing checks that will not exceed 15 minutes.

Furthermore, on 2 April 2020 the Commission presented the Coronavirus response investment initiative plus (CRII+). This second initiative, currently discussed by the co-legislators, should reinforce the support for farmers and rural areas with a new set of measures.

In particular, the Commission is proposing to increase flexibility in the use of financial instruments, to increase advances for direct payments (from 50% to 70%) and rural development payments (from 75% to 85%), and to offer additional flexibility for on-the-spot checks to minimise the need for physical contact and reduce administrative burden.

Finally, the CRII+ will also help Member States in addressing the practical difficulties they are facing in the implementation of their Rural Development Programmes, for example by granting the possibility to reallocate money left unused under their Rural Development Programmes (RDP), rather than sending it back into the EU budget; giving more time to national/regional authorities for the submission of annual reports on the implementation of their RDPs; and simplifying the administrative procedures concerning RDP amendment.

For more information you will find below a comprehensive list of all EC press releases and factsheets pointing out the measures taken at EU level to cope with Covid-19 crisis: