EU gives more aid to farmers hurt by Russia sanctions

The European Union introduced a new aid package on Tuesday worth 165 million euros to help farmers hit by Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, but tightened up on dubious compensation claims.

The funding, on top of 125 million euros ($158 million) approved in August, aims to support fruit and vegetable prices which have fallen sharply since Russia closed many of its markets to EU farmers in retaliation for Western sanctions.

The August package, however, was suspended earlier this month after the full budget application was allocated amid suspicions that some of the claims were “questionable.”

The European Commission, the European Union`s executive arm, then promised it would introduce a more clearly targeted package in due course.

Last week, the Commission had to halt sanctions aid to cheese producers after a dairy farmers package attracted what sources said were many suspect claims for compensation.

“In order to be better targeted, the new scheme” sets specific volumes for each product covered, it said in a statement Tuesday.

These figures are based on an average of the last three years` production and also take into account amounts claimed under the first aid package, it said.

The new scheme also includes oranges, mandarins and clementines, as sought by major producers Spain, Italy and Greece.

“This program will be more targeted than the initial scheme, although there is still some flexibility,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said in the statement.

“These market support measures will provide short-term relief,” he added.

The Russian curbs, set to last a year, cover imports of meat, fruit and vegetables, fish, and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway. [AFP]

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