Address by Mr Janusz Wojciechowski to the Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias Congress, Toledo

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Minister PLANAS, and Mayor TOLON,

President GARCÍA-PAGE and President VILLAFRANCA,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour to address you today.

I am sorry that I cannot join you in person, but I am happy to know the room is filled with farmers and their cooperatives, and also with suppliers, processors and agri-food companies.

The fact that you are all gathered here today gives me an opportunity to say “thank you”, for the resilience, unity and collaboration that you showed during the COVID pandemic.

Although it seemed as if the world had stopped moving, you never stopped working, and as a result, our citizens continued to have food on their tables.

 

Crisis in Ukraine

As we began to emerge from the pandemic at the beginning of this year, we could not have imagined the new crisis on the horizon.

Russia’s aggression and the horrific events in Ukraine are not only a violation of peace and human rights; they are also an attack on global stability and food security.

I know that the events in Ukraine have been felt by many of you in this room today.

To help farmers in this critical situation, the European Commission has taken a series of actions.

For example, we have adopted exceptional support measures of €500 million, to directly assist those farmers most affected.

Member States can complement this support by up to 200%, with national funds.

In addition, Member States can issue increased levels of CAP direct payments in advance, to address cash-flow difficulties faced by farmers.

The Commission has also allowed Member States to redirect their rural development funds to give an extraordinary cash-flow support to farmers and small and agri-food businesses.

We have also adopted a temporary derogation to allow for the production of crops on fallow land, we have provided storage aid for the pig meat sector, and we have put in place a Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid.

These actions not only benefit farmers; they address food security and affordability challenges for citizens.

In the short term, it is simply prudent that we support our farmers to produce more food while they can.

In the long term, we must also help our farmers to produce more sustainably.

Because in the fight against climate change, farmers are on the front line. In Spain, you have witnessed first-hand the increase in climate events, such as the recent droughts..

Events like these underline the importance of our sustainability objectives. But let me be clear: in our pursuit of greater sustainability, no farmer should be sacrificed; instead, every farmer should be supported.

Our objectives can only be achieved if they are attractive for farmers.

When we implement the Farm to Fork Strategy, we therefore cannot just lay down targets. We must recognise the need for a strong CAP budget that provides adequate support for sustainable farm business models and we must prioritise fair economic returns for farmers in the food supply chain.

 

Importance of co-operatives

Here, co-operatives can play a central role.

Many of you know this already.

There are over 3,600 cooperatives in Spain, with more than one million members. They account for over 50% of total agricultural production in Spain, with a turnover of more than €34 billion.

As many of you have been able to experience, cooperatives are driven by shared values, creating added value that is transmitted back to farmers.

They are owned and controlled by farmers, who join forces to concentrate their supply, improve the marketing of their products, and make joint investments, that they would not be able to make individually.

This is particularly beneficial for small farmers.

Cooperatives also help to when it comes to procuring technical and logistical assistance, and improving knowledge transfer.

This can help farmers to become more efficient, more in line with market demand, and more sustainable.

And cooperatives not only create added value for their members. They also benefit rural communities, providing a means to combat depopulation and to create job opportunities, thereby contributing to our Long-term Vision for Rural Areas.

For all of these reasons, the European Commission seeks strong support for co-operatives in all CAP strategic plans.

Using the experience from the fruit and vegetable sectors, the new CAP allows Member States to provide sectoral financial incentives in their national plans.

These incentives can enable farmers in any agricultural sector to work together in a producer organisation, on the basis of an operational programme.

With strong support from the CAP, I deeply believe that cooperatives can be a key driver for economic, social and environmental sustainability.

 

Conclusion

To fully address the needs of agriculture and rural areas, and to fully realise their potential, we not only need good actions, but also good interaction, with each other.

So, ladies and gentlemen, in the face of the current Russian aggression and ongoing crises, the spirit of mutual support and solidarity shown by your co-operatives provides great hope, and a strong framework for our future.

On this note, I would like to thank you for your time.

I hope that your exchanges today will inspire ideas and drive forward discussions, as we set out towards more resilient and sustainable food systems together.

Thank you.

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.