Der Vorstand der FEAP hat nach einer Telephonkonferenz und diversen mails folgenden Text an den Kommissar Sinkevicius der DG Mare verfasst:
Subject: Dramatic consequences of COVID-19 on European aquaculture
Dear Commissioner Sinkevicius,
The European fish farming sector, represented by the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), is experiencing a severe and unexpected fall into crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. The situation is extremely serious due to the sudden adoption of sanitary and protectionist measures by most governments of the European Union, and in other parts of the world, trying to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The negative effects of this situation are devastating for the European aquaculture industry and already visible just a few weeks after the crisis began, with impediments to carrying out normal production activity, with a drastic reduction in demand from the markets, with difficulties in receiving supplies and for distributing finalised products. At the same time, the duration of this situation is unpredictable now.
Although it is the entire European society and the overall European industry that are affected, the aquaculture sector has a series of specificities that make it more vulnerable to the current situation. They are as follows:
- Aquaculture companies work with live animals that are in captivity and under their responsibility. For this reason, they are obliged to continue feeding and caring for their fish. This means that aquaculture companies cannot temporarily close their doors and simply stop operating, at least in the core part of their activity, even though they are seeing sales decrease or even drop to zero. Fish farms have little space for driving down their operating expenses, especially the costly supply of feed.
- The logistics to transport perishable products to the markets (such as fresh fish) is complex and, as a result of recent events, an almost impossible mission for companies distant from their markets. These complications of logistics are so much in terms of contracting means of transport (increasingly scarce), as well as their prices, which have skyrocketed due to the reduction in flights and road transportation.
- The aquaculture business does not just put slaughtered fish on the market. Many European aquaculture companies base their business on the production and sale of live specimens, whether they are live eggs (for example, rainbow trout) or live fish (for example, eels or carps). International transportation of these products is encountering additional barriers.
- The crisis affects not only fish-producing companies but also those that make up their value chain, specifically upstream. Here we must refer to the manufacturers of fish feed (feed), being necessary to be able to produce it and transport it to aquaculture companies. But it also affects suppliers of equipment and technologies for aquaculture and veterinary products. This ancillary industry is essential for the production activity and its viability must also be sustained if the aquaculture industry wants to recover at some point after the crisis.
- Finally, at this moment in time it is difficult to predict all the impacts that might occur: these may be the future behaviour of the market, limitations on some raw materials essential in the processes (vitamin premixes in feed, imported equipment, etc.) or many others. The European aquaculture industry must recover soon to be able to face them when they arrive.
In this critical situation, from FEAP we ask you as Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries to adopt urgent, powerful and extraordinary measures to mitigate the economic and labour consequences of this crisis. Some of the measures depend directly on your decisions and others will have to be negotiated but we consider that all of them fall within your capabilities.
FEAP has had the opportunity to read the general measures proposed by the European Commission, but specifically for aquaculture we urge you to consider the following measures:
- The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is an instrument that right now appears to be the most appropriate one to mitigate the situation. Specifically, because of the underspending of this fund in most Member states that will lead to returning it to the European Commission. It is a direct and immediate way of supporting the sector that can be made accessible through changes in Regulation (EU) 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council. For example:
- Changing the financing process for receiving the aid. From the current reimbursement procedure (post-expenses) we should go for pre-financing, which means receiving the money in advance.
- The mere modification of article 57 of the EMFF Regulation is absolutely insufficient. This article is scarcely used in any Member State and most Operational Programs have marginal references to it and very low budgets.
- Reprogramming between measures should be facilitated to Member States, as well as quick and effective mechanisms for their approval, depending on the needs. The ceilings established in the Regulation must also be relaxed.
- Helping Member State’s competent authorities to process more swiftly pending EMFF requests so that they can be settled as soon as possible. This action will undoubtedly help to increase the liquidity of fish farming companies.
- Supporting collective actions promoted by Producer Organizations and Interbranch Organisations in their Production and Marketing Plans. These organisations should be able to eligible to 100% pre-financing of their planned expenses and with aid intensity covering 100% of them.
- The list of EMFF beneficiary entities should be expanded to auxiliary companies that are direct suppliers to the aquaculture sector, especially upstream.
- Searching with the Member States for additional sources of financing beyond the EMFF, including the freezing of the payment of instalments to tax offices, social security institutions and banks loans, for several months.
The FEAP and the European fish farming industry are doing everything possible to overcome the situation, but the magnitude of the debacle can be of such dimension that the intense intervention of the authorities and public aid aimed specifically to this sector become essential.
All the best,
Javier Ojeda Bernhard Feneis
Interim General Secretary Vicepresident
Tel: +32 4 338 2995 – Fax: +32 4 337 9846
Tel: +34 659 094894