The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) has concerns over the slow rollout of compensation aid for fish farmers suffering losses because of the war in Ukraine and rising production costs
FEAP points out that production costs in fish farming have massively increased since mid-2021 as the aftermath of the pandemic and the war caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have sent input costs skyrocketing.
‘Market sale prices have also increased but to a much lesser degree, and fish consumption has seen a decline in most Member States,’ a representative of FEAP stated.
‘The critical cost situation of fish farming is in principle similar to other economic activities, however, a key difference is that fish farms cannot stop their activity and wait for the storm to pass. Fish stocks need to be continuously fed and cared for, so the higher costs have to be coped with in any case. Large and small European fish farming undertakings risk their survival in the coming months. Specific public aid for the aquaculture sector has still today not reached its theoretical beneficiaries.’
The common impacts are over-the-scale prices of feed for farmed fish, the unavailability of some feed raw materials such as organic varieties, spiralling energy prices, overpriced liquid oxygen, transport costs, and inflation rates that affect packaging materials, maintenance, and labour.
According to FEAP, higher costs have driven higher first sale prices of the fish, and higher final consumer sale prices, but this has happened in an asymmetric way.
‘Sale price increases have been proportionally less than the surge in production cost. Nevertheless, consumers have difficulties in affording those fish sale price increases and consumption of aquatic products has already declined in the majority of Member States,’ FEAP’s representative commented.
‘Cheaper animal protein other than fish is favoured in crisis time even if of lesser quality. This is an undesirable trend also from a food security perspective as it is low-income families who decrease more their consumption of this nutritious and healthy food.’
The European Commission was quick to propose compensation schemes at the beginning of the crisis and these were immediately adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Council. On March 2022 a Temporary Crisis Framework was approved to support the economy.
In March the Commission also activated new crisis measures to support the fishery and aquaculture sectors in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It arrived through the crisis mechanism of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) aiming to bring immediate relief to operators through financial compensation for their economic losses and additional costs.
This would enable Member States to grant financial compensation to operators for income foregone due to market disruption, as well as storage aid to producer organisations. Finally, in April the Commission brought forward a second package of crisis measures through a legislative amendment to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) allowing for additional crisis measures to support the EU fishery and aquaculture sectors.
‘However, FEAP highlights that seven months into the Ukraine war crisis none of the supposedly urgent compensation money has yet reached any fish farmer in the European Union,’ the organisation states.
‘The reasons for this can be traced down to the complexities of managing this aid at national and regional levels, besides an overcautious approach of the managing authorities to delivering the compensation.’
FEAP points out that the current critical situation among European Union fish farmers in the midst of this crisis is harsher than should be because of the unfavourable legal framework for this activity that hinders entrepreneurship and investment.
‘This situation makes them less resilient and more vulnerable to this type of shock. Efforts to make fish farming profitable again have failed because of the overcautious implementation of European environmental laws at national and regional levels,’ FEAP states.