Young EU farmers struggle as Russian sanctions bite

Mon Sep 29, 2014 11:26am EDT
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By Chris Arsenault

CAMPOSANTO Italy (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The neat rows of manicured trees seem a world away from the barricades of eastern Ukraine, but political tensions between the European Union and Russia are reverberating in Fabio Lambertini's pear farm in the tranquil Italian countryside.

"There is a lot of fear," said Lambertini, 25, at his family's farmhouse sitting on the breezy, open plains of Modena. "We are seeing a decrease in prices."

In August, Russia declared a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the European Union, the United States and other Western nations in retaliation for economic sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Before anger over Russia's support for rebels in Ukraine erupted into a trade war, the future looked bright for Lambertini. Rising demand from emerging markets, and investments in buildings, solar panels and an irrigation system meant sales were expected to rise.

Across the continent, figures are not yet available on how much money EU farmers have lost since Aug. 7 when Moscow imposed the ban.. Russia's move followed EU sanctions on key Russian energy and defence firms.

EU farm exports to Russia had been worth about 11 billion euros a year, roughly 10 percent of all EU agricultural sales. The tit-for-tat sanctions could cost farmers dearly.

"These political decisions have nothing to do with simple citizens," Lambertini told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview at his farm north of Rome. "We farmers are the ones paying for this situation."

Italian farmers like Lambertini sold about 706 million euros worth of food and drink to Russia last year, trailing other EU members including Poland, Germany, France and the Netherlands.   Continued...