ATHENS – Greece now says farmers will lose about 50 million euros – not 180 million euros as first said – because of a Russian embargo on food imposed on the US, EU and allies in retaliation for sanctions for Moscow’s involvement with Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Despite that, the government said it would press European Union officials in Brussels on Aug. 14 to help compensate farmers and exempt Greek payments from a law barring state subsidies that would have to be paid back.
A meeting chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas involving officials from the Foreign, Finance, Development and Rural Development ministries discussed the repercussions of Russia’s embargo on imports of food and agricultural products from EU countries affecting Greece, the Athens News Agency said.
The officials noted that the effect of the embargo on Greek exports appears limited in the sense that the majority of agricultural products have already been exported to Russia.
They calculated damages to the exporters reaching “no more than 50 million euros,” as reports of trucks loaded with unsold produce were forced to return to Greece.
“The Foreign ministry will move along the lines of offsets,” a ministry official said after the meeting, which would include “a compensatory bouquet of things.”
“Compensation will not resolve the issue, which will only be resolved if we return to the Russian market or find other markets respectively,” Kourkoulas said, adding that the farmers need to find other markets because the ban will last at least a year.
“The EC’s (European Commission) reassurance regarding compensation is good and welcome but compensation will not solve the problem,” Kourkoulas said, adding that a return to the Russian market or an opening to new markets would also be required.
Government officials were seeking ways on Monday to minimize the impact of a Russian food embargo by attempting to secure reassurances from Brussels that Greek producers will be compensated for their losses while also preparing to branch out into other export markets.
The aim is for Athens to secure the best possible deal for compensation which Greek producers of peaches and other products are already pressing for. “Decisions regarding the size and nature of the compensation will be taken there,” government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi said.
As Athens waits for Brussels to decide what action it will take, Greek regional authorities are already trying to assess the financial impact.
Regional officials will provide details about the impact the import ban will have not just on fruit and vegetable producers but also on other sectors of the economy, such as road haulage.
Greece is hoping that the Commission will approve an EU-wide program to compensate farmers and others who will lose out as a result of Russian actions.
Until any decisions are reached, the only action the government can take is to try to absorb some of the unexported fruit through the military and state hospitals.