Commodity watch by senior policy officer Patricia Erwin
On 26 July 2023, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its conclusions on the assessment of the impact of glyphosate on the health of humans, animals, and the environment, which did not identify any critical areas of concern. The conclusions identified several ‘data gaps’ – issues that could not be finalised or outstanding issues, which are standard and the case for all substances including biologicals and low-risk solutions.
The Commission has stated that in the case of glyphosate, the data gaps can be addressed through risk mitigation measures and conditions in the renewal approval. The Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG) is confident that all of these can be addressed at the member states level and with ongoing studies.
As the next step, the European Commission will put forward a renewal report and a draft regulation to the Member States proposing a renewal or non-renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate, based on EFSA’s Conclusions and the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) produced by the Assessment Group (AGG), the rapporteur member states.
The representatives of the EU Member States will then vote on the draft regulation in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF). The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) continue to monitor the situation.
Black Sea Grain
Russia has suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an UN-backed agreement which facilitated the safe passage of 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea over the past year. Since then, Russia has damaged and partially destroyed 26 port infrastructure facilities and five civilian vessels in a series of airstrikes. It is reported that pressure is mounting on the EU to find ways to move even more grain, oilseeds and other agriculture products from Ukraine via other routes.
Following the collapse of the Black Sea Grain initiative reported last week, five Member States (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia) have called on the Commission to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports onto their markets beyond 15 September to avoid major market disruptions. The ban was first introduced in May and prohibits the marketing of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds in the five countries, while allowing transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.
The UFU continue to monitor the situation across Europe with the arable crop harvest 2023 forecasts being turned on their head by poor weather conditions. The overall EU production for oilseeds and protein crops despite dramatic situations in Spain and Italy remain correct. However, it is reported for cereals the situation is extremely worrying with an expected production of 256 million tonnes, possibly the worst harvest since 2007 and 10% below the last five-year average. It is feared that many farmers will not be able to cover their production costs. Copa and Cogeca are launching an urgent call to action to face this difficult situation in 2023 and its consequences for 2024.
Weather conditions continue to challenge across the board, for cereals its harvest, for vegetables its planting. The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs gave strong signals that a bright future for horticulture was on the horizon. The UFU vegetable committee look forward to learning and are ready to help co-design new structures to enhance the horticulture output ambition for the sector.
The UFU vegetable committee are actively keeping a watching brief on Republic of Ireland (ROI) developments and are currently reviewing the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine National Strategy for Horticulture 2023 – 2027. The Armagh Bramley apple growers are progressing plans for a visit to ROI later this year.
Call for evidence – MAC seasonal agricultural workers visa inquiry now open
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have informed the Home Office that they will be undertaking a review of the Seasonal Worker Visa. The call for evidence for this review opened at the end of last week. The UFU is progressing plans to meet MAC representatives soon. Within the consultation the MAC are asking that any interested individuals or businesses respond to the call. This is not only restricted to users of the visa route; they are keen to get the views of businesses that are eligible to use the route but have chosen not too. The UFU welcome all input from members.
The UFU potato committee are currently monitoring the volume of potato imports.