EU may let farmers plant grain in fallow land as supply wanes

The Ukraine-Russia crisis has sent grain prices soaring
calendar icon 3 March 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

The European Union will consider letting farmers use fallow land, notably to grow protein crops for livestock feed, to counter disruption to supply from Ukraine following Russia's invasion, officials said on Wednesday.

Russia's week-old invasion of Ukraine has sent European wheat prices to record highs. Ukraine and Russia are two of the world's largest grain exporters, reported Reuters.

Trading firms have been seeking EU grain, wheat and corn to replace Ukrainian supplies for export, but the EU is also reliant on imports of corn and sunflower seed for livestock feed.

"A number of member states suggested that we could perhaps use set-aside land for growing protein crops," French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said after a meeting with EU counterparts to discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine.

The European Commission is to study how to apply such a move, which would modify EU farm policy rules on preserving soils and biodiversity, and make proposals at a next ministers' meeting on 21 March, he told reporters.

French cooperative group InVivo, one of Europe's largest agricultural firms, earlier on Wednesday said a waiving of set-aside rules under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy could increase cultivated area by 10-15% and boost EU wheat output.

InVivo, whose activities include distribution of farm supplies and fertiliser production, also wanted the EU to give farmers aid to help with soaring fertiliser costs, Chief Executive Thierry Blandinieres told reporters.

The EU is considering measures on fertilisers in relation to its wider response to the impact of soaring energy costs, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told reporters.

The EU will also study relief measures for the pig and poultry sectors, and will discuss with international organisations humanitarian aid for Ukraine and the needs of countries that usually rely on Ukraine for food commodities, he added.

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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