ATHENS – Greek fruit destined for Russia is rotting away as European and Greek officials delayed plans to compensate them or try to convince Moscow for an exemption to the move which was a retaliation against the West for imposing sanctions over Ukraine.
European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said he would announce measures next week to help support producers of perishable fruit and vegetables, but EUagricultural officials the day earlier offered no plan after meeting in Brussels.
“I will come forward with the next market stabilization measure, targeting a number of perishable fruit and vegetable products which are now clearly in difficulty. This action will be proportionate and cost effective,” Ciolos said in a statement following a meeting of EU farm experts without offering any details.
In a broadcast, just before the statement, Commission spokesman Roger Waite said perishable fruit and vegetables were the sectors most affected by oversupply.
But he said while there would be be regular contact with member states, an “emergency” meeting won’t be held until next month, when the fruit will have rotted and the farmers in Greece and across Europe will have already suffered irretrievable losses.
Just before the ban went into place early this month, Greek officials expressed confidence that Greek farmers wouldn’t come under the prohibition because of the country’s close ties with Russia, a fellow Orthodox country, and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But it reportedly was Putin who shot down any hopes of an exemption hinted at by the Russian Embassy in Athens, leading Greek officials to be hopeful the country wouldn’t be affected although Greece had supported the sanctions which were set in place after Russian’s involvement with Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Greek farmers are furious that politics is costing them huge losses at the height of the season for delicacies such as peaches, although everything from sausages to dairy products is being affected by the food ban against the United States, Europe, Canada and their allies who backed Russian sanctions. The ban is for a year.
Dozens of refrigerated trucks, filled with thousands of tons of unsold peaches and nectarines produced in Greece, were pulled back en route to Russia. The most affected Greek regions are farming areas in Imathia and Pella. About 70 trucks, each loaded with 20 tons of fruit, returned.
Exporters from the northern Greek regions of Imathia, Pella, Kozani and Florina met with Greek officials but came away empty handed despite a government promise they would be held harmless from losses that are expected to bve between 50-200 million euros.
Since meeting with Greek farmers and their unions earlier, Greek officials have taken off for the Dormition summer holiday and long weekend and didn’t set a date to talk again.