EU welcomed the draft rule by the USDA as a necessary step in the process to facilitate the export of apples and pears from the European Union to the United States.
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"It is a welcome reflection of the increased level of engagement by the Commission with the US administration. It will be of significant benefit to European farmers, many of whom lost their main export markets overnight as a result of Russian sanctions imposed in 2014," said EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Andriukaitis, Trade Commissioner Malmström and Agriculture Commissioner Hogan.
"The eventual opening of the US market will not offset the full impact of the sanctions, but it will certainly help the farming community by at least providing another commercial outlet for their produce.
"Following this initiative, we are looking forward to the rapid completion of the remaining legal and administrative steps in order to deliver further tangible benefits for the EU fruit producers. Opening the market for the 2016 harvest i.e. by September 2016 could be feasible, if all parties continue their efforts."
This request to simplify market access to the US is pending since 2007. It covers eight Member States (BE, DE, ES, FR, IT, NL, PL, PT).
The application recently became even more relevant, as EU fruit growers were hit hard by the Russian sanctions imposed in 2014 in response to the Ukraine situation. Poland and Belgium, for example, lost 50% of their exports overnight.
The Commission has been increasing levels of engagement with the US administration at highest level to solve this problem – an engagement which is now showing concrete results.
On a technical, phytosanitary level the EU and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed a specific protocol of measures to be taken by growers and competent authorities in the EU Member States. The draft rule, which will be published for public consultation, represents the next step.
An effective approval should be possible before the next season starting September 2016. But it will require full engagement and commitment by all parties.
Projected commercial value of exports is modest at around €10 Mio (which would represent a 0.5% market share). However, it provides a welcome relief to a sector under severe strain and it opens opportunities to react to fluctuations in supply.
US apples and pears have access to the EU market in-line with applicable EU rules. ■