Spain and Portugal combine request for drought help from the EU

Spain and Portugal will ask jointly in Brussels for the adoption of measures to alleviate the effects of the drought on European agriculture. Among them, the urgent activation of the crisis reserve fund of the Common Agrarian Policy (CAP) and the increase in advance payments up to the maximum legally allowed, so that farmers and ranchers have more resources to mitigate the consequences of lack of water on their farms.

This was agreed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, and his Portuguese counterpart, Maria do Céu Antunes, at the bilateral meeting they held in Lisbon. Both have agreed to express this need with one voice, given the ravages that the intense drought is causing in the Iberian Peninsula, at the next Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union (EU).

The two countries, together with the support of France and Italy, will express to the European Commission (EC) at the next Council meeting on May 30, the need to activate all the necessary measures in the face of a European problem, such as drought.

Luis Planas has highlighted the “magnificent relations” between Spain and Portugal, which are key, because “both share the same territory, have to face similar problems and, together, they will defend before the European Commission the activation of urgent measures to help farmers and ranchers.

Minister Antunes appreciated the minister’s visit, with a view to the next presidency of the Council of the EU, and to collaborate in the search for common solutions to face climate change, especially due to the effects of drought. This type of encounter between “two countries so close are very important, cooperation acquires a strategic nature for Spain and Portugal, united by much more than just a border”, she has highlighted.

Food security in the face of the current climate change scenario and monitoring the situation of agricultural and livestock markets due to the war in Ukraine were the priorities recently set by the Ministers of Agriculture of Spain, Belgium and Hungary at the meeting they held to prepare a common program as a trio of the next presidencies of the Council of the EU between next July 1 and December 31, 2024.

The current climatic conditions have caused serious damage to agriculture and livestock in the Iberian Peninsula and also in other EU countries. Climate change has resulted in a sharp cut in rainfall, high temperatures -with records in the month of April- and torrential rains and episodes of hail that have also affected outdoor and pasture productions. In Spain and Portugal, the evolution of rainfed campaigns and extensive livestock farming have been the most affected by these circumstances, to which must be added the restrictions on water supplies for irrigated agriculture due to the low volume dammed.

In the last Advisory Council on Agricultural Policy, the minister detailed to the regional officials in the field the requests that Spain proposes to the EC to make the CAP more flexible and support producers in the face of drought, as well as to request their collaboration in the distribution of direct aid adopted by the Government, which has a budget of 636 million euro.

Spain has already requested the activation of the crisis reserve and to be able to resort to rural development funds (EAFRD) to try to alleviate the situation of farmers, in a similar way to what was enabled in the past to alleviate the effects of war in Ukraine in the price of raw materials and agricultural and livestock inputs.

Another of the requests is that maximum attention be paid to the administrative measures around the CAP 2023-2027, with exceptions and flexibilities for the operational programs of producer organizations, the wine support program and the authorization regime for vineyard plantations.

Spain and Portugal are also committed to the fact that the advances corresponding to the single application for CAP 2023 aid can be paid before the on-the-spot checks have been completed and that the EC studies the possibility of making the requirements more flexible in certain practices of reinforced conditionality, the eco-regimes and the associated aid included in the current European agricultural policy.

Planas has transmitted to his Portuguese counterpart the agenda and priorities in agricultural and fisheries matters of the Government of Spain during his presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of this year.

The legislative drive for the application of new genomic techniques (NGT) to plant production, the revision of animal welfare regulations and the proposal for a regulation on geographical indications are the files in which Spain has the greatest interest in developing during that period.

In fishing, the priority interest of Spain will be to promote the decarbonisation of the fleet, as well as the work of the Spanish delegation to try to apply total allowable catches (TAC) and multi-annual quotas to provide greater stability to the business activity of the fishing fleet. He has also emphasised the importance of fish, a key protein, in human nutrition and has highlighted its importance in guaranteeing food safety.