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Covid-19 update #5: EU policies, EU measures and sector developments

Dear EKOVIN members Dear members of the IFOAM EU interest groups and expert groups,    It has been roughly two months since the outbreak of Covid-19 has been greatly affecting  our personal lives and the agri-food sector. As promised in our first update, IFOAM EU’s staff is doing everything they can to ensure our work continues and that EU organic movement’s voice keeps being heard in political developments as a result of the current crisis.

New organic regulation

Initiated by IFOAM EU President Jan Plagge, the call to delay the implementation of the new Organic Regulation for one year keeps gaining momentum. After Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, former EP rapporteur on the organic regulation review), also Norbert Lins, the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) officially expressed this request to the European Commission. In the Committees view “it is crucial to ensure that the rules that will shape the future of this important sector are adopted with proper consultation”, to “make this already strong policy even stronger and further contribute to the common goal of sustainable food production”. Backed also by the vast majority of Member States in the Committee on Organic Production (monthly meetings of the Commission’s organic unit with the national experts on organic), I am quite positive that our request will be fulfilled.  

Farm to Fork Strategy 

In our last updates we pointed out the importance of not postponing the publication of the Farm to Fork strategy. We were glad to hear that Commissions Vice-President shares our views, as he reconfirmed the strategy’s publication for 20 May. In a recent meeting with COMAGRI he reminded critical MEPs that “the other looming existential crisis is still there” and that the impact of climate change through floods, pests, and droughts is likely to be even more severe. He sees the current pandemic as a result of our disbalance with nature, so there is no time to wait for becoming more sustainable. Timmermans also said this transition should be seen as an opportunity to reshape our current system and ensure food security also in the long-term. Once the strategy is published, IFOAM EU will send out a press release that you will also receive. 

Biodiversity Strategy 

The publication of the new EU Biodiversity strategy is scheduled on the same day as the Farm to Fork strategy. According to a leaked draft, it will even exceed our previous call for a target of 20% organic land in the EU by 2030, by aiming for 25%. This ambitious goal rightfully acknowledges the potential organic agriculture has in guiding Europe onto a more sustainable and resilient path.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 

Earlier, at the end of April, COMAGRI was also meeting the Commissioner on Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski, urging him to use the crisis reserve and channel more funds outside of the CAP. The Commissioner acknowledged that the current package is probably not fully satisfactory at the moment, but highlighted that it will never be from an outside perspective. He said that he will do everything he can to find more money, but it depends on the political will of the Member States. The same is true for the crisis reserve, of which he reminded everyone that it has never been used before. Commissioner Wojciechowski said that due to its limited budget, the Commission chose to help only those sectors that are impacted the most; seemingly those dependent on import and distant markets to sell their products.

Impact on markets 

According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), world food commodity prices fell by 3.4% in April 2020 due to the corona crisis – their lowest since the beginning of the year. In its Food Price Index, it states the following for the different product categories: 

  • Compared to other products, the impact on cereal was limited and pushed the price down only slightly from a month earlier; 
  • For dairy, world prices were down 3.6% from March; 
  • Meat prices fell by 2.7%; 
  • Sugar was hit the strongest with a fall of 14.6% to the previous month. 

In terms of EU exports to third countries, the impact of Covid-19 will result in a fall by 9.2%, according to a report by the Commission’s DG TRADE. The EU and 23 other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), accounting for 63% of global exports and 55% of global imports, signed a joint statement to ensure open and predictable trade in agricultural and food products. 


In view of developments on the global and EU market, and the latest market measures published by the Commission (see update #4), the European Milk Board (EMB) organised campaigning events across Europe on 7 May. They protested against the Commissions approach to the milk market, calling for voluntary reduction of production instead of private storage aid (PSA).


The wine sector criticised applied measures of the Commission, pointing out the total absence of funding, especially for carrying out the needed crisis distillation. This call has been heard by COMAGRI Chair Norbert Lins, who again urged Commissioner Wojciechowski for more assistance through further regulatory flexibilities and yield reduction via partial green harvesting and blending rules. 

Fruit and vegetables 

For the fruit and vegetable sector, COMAGRI is asking the Commissioner for increased co-financing rates and an extension of the list of eligible measures and expenses.  According to Freshfel Europe, more coordination between the Member States is required. In its recently published COVID-19 Impact Assessment, the European Fresh Produce Association calls for an European approach to manage exit strategies of lockdowns, to enable businesses to plan ahead. Furthermore, they support a postponement of the new Organic Regulation. 

Flower and live plant 

Contrary to the Commission’s view, around fifty MEPs see the flower sector hit the hardest by the pandemic and therefore eligible for more support which should go far beyond the national support of Member states. In a letter to the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, they demand funds from outside the CAP budget. 


For more specific updates about the EU institutions and the national situation, we have prepared a draft document on our extranet under Hot Topics. It is work in progress and you are more than welcome to add details from your respective countries.  

We have also dedicated a news item to useful webinars that update you on Covie-19 and other important and useful matters. Please note that a lot of them are also being recorded, which means you can also watch past webinars. 

Feel free to contact communication@ifoam-eu_org if you are experiencing login issues. Please do reach out to us should you have any further questions, suggestions or concerns. 

Organic regards and be safe, 
Eduardo Cuoco 

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